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MCROC project: U of M approves twenty-year lease with City of Willmar

Lease is one of the last steps required for a $1.25 million grant from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development

December 10, 2010

The University of Minnesota Board of Regents today approved a twenty-year lease with the City of Willmar to occupy a building located on the MinnWest Technology Campus.

This is one of the last steps required for a $1.25 million grant from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development to renovate an 18,000- square-foot building on the former state hospital grounds in Willmar for the University of Minnesota Mid-Central Research and Outreach Center (MCROC). Grant funds will be matched by a contribution from the MinnWest Technology Campus to build out and equip a laboratory for biotechnology research.

“The University is grateful to the State, the City of Willmar, and MinnWest Technology Campus for making this new center possible. We look forward to serving the community and the region,” said university President Robert Bruininks.

The MCROC will emphasize collaboration with business and industry, local government and civic organizations, and other higher education partners including St. Cloud State University. “By creating public/private partnerships and sharing ideas, resources and expertise the university can better meet the needs of the state and serve as a model for research and land-grant universities in the twenty-first century” said Senior Vice President Robert Jones, who is responsible for the MCROC and other statewide university programs and centers.

When the renovation is completed in May 2011, one of the first initiatives will be the establishment of the Center for Avian Gut Health, an interdisciplinary research collaborative headed by nationally-renowned turkey disease expert Dr. Carol Cardona. The center will benefit the entire regional turkey industry. University of Minnesota Extension will offer workshops and other services, and the Morris and Twin Cities campuses will coordinate undergraduate and graduate-level internships and post-graduate training; student research opportunities; continuing education training seminars for working professionals; renewable energy initiatives; and K-12 college preparation programs.

“This is a very good day for the City,” said Willmar City Administrator Michael Schmit. “Willmar is quickly becoming a central hub for business development and job growth. We are grateful to have MinnWest Technology Campus and the new businesses it attracts. The addition of a new program of the University of Minnesota will greatly benefit this community and enhance the good work already underway by the University in western Minnesota.”

Jim Sieben, President of MinnWest Technology Campus and General Manager of Nova-Tech Engineering said, “Almost five years ago we had a vision to develop a center for engineering, bioscience, and renewable energy research, development, and commercialization. We have grown to more than 250 employees and 20 companies on the campus. We consider this collaboration with the University of Minnesota to be a capstone in our vision. Minnesota needs well-paying technology jobs and I believe we are providing that on this campus. We look forward to working with the University of Minnesota toward our common goals for this region.”

A community open house for the completed MCROC will be held in summer 2011. Questions about the new facility or the existing internship programs can be directed to Tim Miller, (320) 222-3066.

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