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Session successes position University of Minnesota to advance research and education missions while restoring infrastructure

May 11, 2012

Minnesota policymakers have approved $64.1 million in bonding and other support this session that will allow the University of Minnesota to advance its mission while taking the first steps to update critical but aging infrastructure across the U of M system statewide.

“I’d like to thank the policymakers who recognize the importance of the University of Minnesota to the state’s economy and quality of life,” said university President Eric Kaler. “Their investments will allow the U to take significant steps toward further discovery, job creation, educational excellence and smarter use of the operating resources and facilities that are critical to achieving the university’s mission.

“Despite securing these capital investment resources this legislative session, our work is far from done,” Kaler said. “We will continue to be diligent to find and implement opportunities for operational excellence while building the public’s trust. We will continue to reach out to policymakers and other stakeholders to communicate the high value the university delivers to every corner of the state. And we hope faculty, staff, students and friends of the university will do the same. Together, we can address the significant challenges that lie ahead — from our aging infrastructure and need to provide access to Minnesota students to living out our mission as the state’s only research, land grant university.”

Protecting and Investing in Critical Infrastructure

This week, the Legislature passed and today the Governor signed the $496 million bonding bill, which ultimately increased project funding for the university. The university received an additional $10 million compared to earlier House and Senate proposals for Higher Education Asset Prevention and Replacement (HEAPR) funding, as well as bonding allocations necessary to proceed with the first phase of the Combined Heat and Power Plant on the university’s Minneapolis campus.

The $64.1 million in state bonding for the university includes:

  • HEAPR ($50 million) — Almost 100 building systems, utility infrastructure, energy efficiency and health, safety and accessibility projects will be addressed across the U’s five campuses. This provides an important start toward protecting more than 28 million square feet of U of M space across the state. About 25 percent of Twin Cities campus buildings alone are more than 70 years old. 
  • Itasca Biological Station ($4.1 million) — A new 12,000-square-foot, year-round campus center with laboratories, classrooms, offices and an auditorium will be built at this valuable and much-used field station at the headwaters of the Mississippi River. The project will upgrade technology and consolidate functions from three deteriorating World War II-era facilities. The Campus Center will support undergraduate and graduate biology education with experiential learning opportunities. It will also help facilitate research such as evaluating the human impact on the ecosystem of the Mississippi River watershed, and monitoring the effects of climate change on Minnesota ecosystems, plants and animals. Finally, the new facility also will help retain and recruit top researchers, quadruple the number of full-time employees and reduce operations and energy costs. 
  • Combined Heat and Power Plant ($10 million) — The project replaces World War II coal furnaces with modern day equipment. Initial work will begin soon on planning and engineering necessary to renovate Old Main (built in 1912) into a multi-utility power plant and provide a second source of steam to meet growing utility demands on the Minneapolis campus. It will provide a reliable power source to protect research and other learning, reduce the campus’ carbon footprint by 10 percent and reduce university utility costs. Construction, estimated to cost an additional $70 million, will be paid for with bonds issued at a later date by the university. 

Advancing Research that Benefits Minnesotans

Policymakers also invested in the university’s leading research enterprise in the following ways:

  • Aquatic Invasive Species ($3.8 million) — The funding will support the startup of a new aquatic invasive species research center at the university. The center, led by fisheries, wildlife and conservation professor Peter Sorensen, will focus on keeping Asian carp and other invasive species from spreading further, as well as developing new techniques for detecting, slowing and arresting the spread of other invasives including common carp, zebra mussels and Eurasian milfoil. The carp and other non-native, invasive species have posed an increasing threat to the ecological integrity and health of Minnesota’s lakes and rivers. 
  • Hormel Institute ($13.5 million) — The Hormel Institute, a U of M research facility in Austin, Minn., will utilize bonding allocations awarded through the Austin Port Authority to begin expansion of the world-renowned cancer research center and create approximately 120 high-quality jobs over five years. The Hormel Institute is part of the BioScience Triangle — a partnership among the university, Mayo Clinic-Rochester and The Hormel Institute. 

Investing in Athletics and Fans

Governor Dayton recently signed legislation that will allow alcoholic beverages to be sold at TCF Bank Stadium, both in the premium suites as well as in a separate, controlled but convenient area for general ticketholders. The legislation also will allow alcohol sales in the premium seats of Mariucci and Williams arenas. Ultimately, the university’s Board of Regents will determine how the new law will be implemented. The Board is expected to take action at its June meeting. Alcohol sales are estimated to provide an additional $1.5 - $2 million per year in revenue to the university.

For more information about the University of Minnesota’s legislative agenda and results, go to

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