The U.S. Department of Agriculture released a short list of three sites still in the running for the relocation of two USDA research agencies, and Baton Rouge, which made the middle list, did not survive the second round of cuts.
The top three relocation sites include the Greater Kansas City Region, the Research Triangle of North Carolina and multiple locations in Indiana, according to the USDA. Two other sites—St. Louis, Missouri, and Madison, Wisconsin—are also still under consideration if the first three sites do not work out.
Baton Rouge was one of 136 sites from 35 states that submitted bids for the relocation of the two USDA offices—the Economic Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture—out of Washington, D.C., which was announced last August.
Louisiana’s Capital City survived the first round of cuts announced in March, when the USDA culled the list down to 67 potential sites in 28 states.
Baton Rouge’s application was submitted through the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, in partnership with Louisiana Economic Development, Baton Rouge Area Foundation, Louisiana Department of Agriculture & Forestry, LSU and Southern University.
The USDA narrowed the final list based on criteria such as quality of life, diversity, housing costs, health care access, workforce population and growth, the unemployment rate, logistics and IT infrastructure, such as proximity to customers and airport accessibility.
Despite receiving no official reason why Baton Rouge was cut from the running, BRAC expects it may be because of population size and air travel accessibility.
“While we haven’t received formal rationale on the culling, our initial internal review points to the three selected markets having a larger MSA population and a perception of easier access to air service,” says BRAC spokeswoman Kelly Bienn. “Outside of those two points, we feel that Baton Rouge has similar asset strengths to the selected markets.”
The ERS and NIFA relocations, which are part of a broader USDA reorganization, will involve relocating most federal workers at those agencies to the new locations.