After breaking ground on the project less than a year ago, the Kansas State University Bulk Solids Innovation Center will celebrate its grand opening with a purple ribbon-cutting ceremony at 2 p.m. Thursday, May 14, in the 600 block of North Front Street in Salina. The public is welcome to attend.
The two-story, 13,000-square-foot facility is the only one of its kind in North America and will be used to study the science and understanding of bulk solids materials handling — loose, dry commodities like sugar, minerals, pigments and recycled plastics that account for more than 80 percent of items transported around the world. The innovation center houses six laboratories for university and industry-sponsored research; training and education, conference and lecture rooms; a material properties test lab; and a full-scale bulk solids test bay. After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, all of these features will be available for viewing during walking tours of the space.
Kansas State University is the key tenant in the center, while two local companies, Coperion K-Tron Salina and Vortex Valves, supplement the facility by serving as anchor occupants. University-level courses associated with bulk solids as well as professional development courses for industry professionals will be taught onsite, and students will assist with research projects as outside companies partner with the center to conduct product testing. In addition, it complements the College of Agriculture’s Bulk Solids and Particle Technology Lab and program housed on the Manhattan campus.
“Bulk solids research is a somewhat underrepresented field, so having a facility of this magnitude in our backyard specifically for our students’ benefit is invaluable,” said Kurt Barnhart, associate dean of research and engagement at K-State Salina.
Ground was broken on the facility in July 2014 and since then, manufacturers from across the globe have supplied more than $2.5 million in equipment donations. The innovation center is a project of Kansas State University with partners the Salina Area Chamber of Commerce, Salina Economic Development Corporation, U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration, the state of Kansas and the city of Salina.
“We are certainly proud and excited to have the new Kansas State University Bulk Solids Innovation Center in Salina,” said Don Weiser, Salina Area Chamber of Commerce president and CEO. “The center is a great example of collaboration between government, university and industry. It shows what can be accomplished when everyone works together. And as the only one of its kind in North America, the facility will not only enhance our local economy, it also will add to Salina’s worldwide recognition.”
The ribbon-cutting ceremony will include comments from Weiser; Frank Hampton, Salina Area Chamber of Commerce board chair; Jon Blanchard, mayor of Salina; Todd Smith, general manager of Coperion K-Tron Salina; Verna Fitzsimmons, CEO and dean of K-State Salina; Jeff Thompson, president of Vortex Valves; and Kurt Barnhart, K-State Salina’s associate dean of research and engagement. Also attending are Doug McKinney, executive director of North Central Regional Planning Commission in Beloit; Jeff Gillam, president of Jones Gillam Renz Architects; Trey Mowery, Salina Economic Development Corporation; Tim Bruce from Ron Fowles Construction; and Monte Shadwick, chairman of the Saline County Commission.
The Kansas State University Bulk Solids Innovation Center will also host a corporate open house on June 24 for industry partners and companies interested in collaborating with the facility and sponsoring research.
Story by Julee Cobb / KSU Salina