Missouri’s legislative leaders and MU officials hope that a $190.4 million bond plan will create jobs in Missouri and strengthen scientific research.
The bond proposal, outlined on Monday by MU chancellor Richard Wallace, is for the construction and renovation of six health sciences and engineering facilities at all four University of Missouri System campuses. For every dollar the state invests in life sciences projects, the university expects to raise $5 in federal and private funds. Wallace said that over the span of 10 years, the initiative could generate about $1 billion.
“Missouri has an opportunity to become competitive nationally in the life sciences through an investment in facilities, equipment and people,” Wallace said at a mid-day news conference at the MU School of Medicine. “In return, life sciences research will improve the lives of Missourians by creating jobs and capitalizing on innovations in the health, agricultural and environmental fields.”
MU wants to use $75 million in bonds for a new health sciences research center adjacent to the existing health and science complex to provide new opportunities for research in cancer, diabetes, infectious diseases and neurosciences. The center would be in addition to the new Life Sciences Center and would feature clinical areas and reseach laboratories.
William Crist, dean of the School of Medicine, said the building would be bigger than the Life Sciences Center and would tower about 13 stories high. He said the new research center would be built on the east side of the Health Sciences Center and that additional funds, such as gifts, would be required for its construction.
MU would also use $20.9 million to renovate the engineering building — one of the oldest buildings on Francis Quadrangle — to support civil and chemical engineering programs.
Missouri House Speaker Catherine Hanaway and Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder, both Republicans, joined Wallace in promoting the plan a week after Gov. Bob Holden, a Democrat, outlined his own plan to create jobs by issuing bonds for public infrastructure projects. Holden wants to reform several tax credit programs and use that money to issue bonds for transportation, public buildings, research centers and job training.
The Republican lawmakers emphasized that the economic benefits would begin immediately on the bond proposal involving life sciences while the $11.6 million annual debt service on the bonds would not begin until fiscal year 2008.
“This proposal is a smart investment in life sciences economic stimulus that will benefit all Missourians,” Hanaway said. “You’re going to see lots of new construction jobs.”
The expanded facilities could also help MU bring in 40 new endowed chair professors using state, private and university funds, Hanaway and Kinder said.
Holden’s budget director, Linda Luebbering, said on Monday that she hadn’t seen any details on the proposal. “The governor would do something broader than just education,” she said. “The governor said he wants to work with them and will try to come to an agreement,” she added. Luebbering said the longer a debt service is postponed, the more expensive it becomes.
Mayor Darwin Hindman supports the bond plan. “This will attract very smart people to MU who attract funding themselves,” he said.
MU professors and elected officials stressed one major problem in Missouri they want to tackle with the bonds — brain drain. When students get out of school, “these bright people cannot find a job here,” Provost Brady Deaton said.