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University system proposes $86m bio-tech expansion

New Hampshire Union Leader

June 22. 2018 12:49AM
 (KIMBERLEY HAAS/Correspondent)

CONCORD — University of New Hampshire officials are asking the state for $35 million over the next six years for a new biological and life sciences building that would train workers for the emerging industry of regenerative medicine in cooperation with inventor Dean Kamen’s ARMI initiative in Manchester.

“This is the biggest project the university system has ever undertaken,” said Catherine Provencher, University System of New Hampshire treasurer and vice chancellor for financial affairs, in describing the Biological Sciences Initiative.

The university system is asking for $10 million in upcoming fiscal year 2020-21, as part of the $35 million request. The total cost is estimated at $86 million, with the balance coming from USNH and private-public partnerships.

Gov. Chris Sununu says his office worked closely with the university in developing the proposal.

“I’m behind it 100 percent,” he said. “We have something that is viable, something that the Legislature can hopefully get behind and hopefully we can get it done.”

The university system — comprised of UNH, Plymouth State University, Keene State College and Granite State College — was the first state agency to present its request in a daylong session of capital budget hearings on Thursday.

Sununu said he expects to submit a capital budget of approximately $120 million to lawmakers when they reconvene in 2019. That’s about equal to what was approved in the current capital budget.

Joining Provencher in pitching the Biological Sciences Initiative to the Capital Budget Committee was USNH Chancellor Todd Leach and Vice President of Finance and Administration Chris Clement.

“We are seeing regenerative medicine and biological sciences emerging as something New Hampshire can be a leader in,” said Leach. “As the primary provider of the state’s educated workforce, we’ve got to be a part of that.”

Growing industry

The Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute based in the Manchester Millyard has in a short time attracted about $294 million in government and private investment, in the hope of commercially producing tissue — and perhaps, one day, organs — to implant into sick and injured people.

“USNH would not only match state dollars, but would virtually triple the state dollar investment,” according to the written proposal submitted by the university system.

“Most importantly, the partnership would strengthen and solidify our state’s overall competitive advantage in this growing industry, while simultaneously supporting existing New Hampshire companies that are struggling to meet their workforce needs.”

Companies like BAE, Medtronics and Lonza were also cited as beneficiaries of the proposal as they search for new workers.

The plan is to build a 49,000-square-foot addition onto the existing Spaulding Hall at UNH in Durham, followed by renovations to the original structure.

“We’ve had 60 years with the existing building and will have another 60 years after it’s been renovated,” said Clement.

The expansion would include 11 new labs outfitted with modern equipment, enabling the university to accommodate 850 additional students for laboratory-based instruction.

It will also increase the number of UNH graduates in science, technology, engineering or math by 250 students a year, according to university officials.

Need for graduates

The ability of the university to churn out more graduates in life sciences is critical to the success of the ARMI program, Clement said.

“Dean Kamen needs these students to feed his program, tissue engineering. We are not keeping up with that demand today and won’t keep up when it ramps up at the Millyard,” he said.

The estimated economic impact of the $86 million investment is significant, according to university officials. They estimate that in the first five years after completion the expansion will generate $47.3 million in new wages, 522 new jobs, 27 new companies and $3.7 million in new annual tax revenue for the state.

Commissioner of Administrative Services Charlie Arlinghaus asked what would happen if the money was appropriated for the first phase of the project, but not available in the following years.

“We would do the addition first, and after that chunk it up in smaller pieces depending on the revenue. It would just cost more, sort of the UNH version of the I-93 widening project,” said Clement, former commissioner of the Department of Transportation.

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