$1B capital budget is boon for South Sound colleges

University of Washington Tacoma officials this morning applauded Governor Chris Gregoire for signing a supplemental capital budget that will fund science labs designed to drive economic development in the South Sound by supporting the new Urban Clean Water Innovation Partnership Zone (IPZ).

The budget, which Gregoire signed Monday during a ceremony at Tacoma Community College, provides UW Tacoma with $2 million for a new “Clean Water Innovation Development and Technology Transfer Laboratory,” to be located in remodeled space on campus, along with $800,000 for specialized lab equipment to support commercial development of clean water technologies at the Center for Urban Waters. In addition, the Washington State University Puyallup Research and Extension Center, which partners with UW Tacoma on the IPZ and other applied science initiatives, receives $800,000 to modify its Salmon Toxicology Lab into a multi-use Aquatic Toxicology Lab.

Both the UW and WSU projects expand labs in ways that allow private sector scientists and engineers to collaborate with university researchers and government experts on research and development projects, UW Tacoma officials announced in a statement released today, thereby increasing the likelihood that new knowledge and inventions will make their way into new products and services. The result of this process, known as technology transfer, builds companies and creates jobs, according to economic development leaders. Technology transfer is a primary focus of the IPZ program, and a priority area for the UW under President Michael Young’s leadership.

The labs are part of a $13.5 million package the legislature funded through the Department of Commerce to provide innovation partnership zones with enhanced facilities and infrastructure. The Department of Commerce approved an application to establish an Urban Clean Water Technology IPZ in October 2011. The application was submitted by a coalition that included the City of Tacoma, Port of Tacoma, Economic Development Board of Tacoma-Pierce County, Tacoma Community College, Parametrix and several businesses and non-profits, along with UW Tacoma and WSU Puyallup.

“These labs will build upon considerable local investments in clean water technologies and will reinforce the state’s commitment to make Tacoma the regional center of excellence for water sciences and engineering,” says UW Tacoma Chancellor Debra Friedman. “This investment enhances our science programs and will foster opportunities for faculty and students to engage with businesses and entrepreneurs in ways that lead to research-based ideas and inventions and their potential commercialization.”

Bruce Kendall, president of the Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County, says building a clean water technology cluster has been a major priority. “We only established the IPZ in October and already we have $3.6 million in funds flowing in to boost our efforts to establish the South Sound as a world leader in this sector,” said Kendall. “This industry cluster will be good for the economy and even better for the environment.”

Joel Baker, UW Tacoma professor and science director for the Center for Urban Waters, will be using the labs in his work along with other UW Tacoma faculty and students.

“The South Sound is building an impressive array of science labs to support high-level environmental research,” said Baker. “The new labs will be particularly useful because they will allow engineers and scientists from the private sector to work side by side with university faculty, which brings new ideas and energy into our collaborations. This investment comes at a critical time, enabling UWT to grow our current strengths in environmental science while building innovative programs in environmental engineering.”

The supplemental capital budget will also help Tacoma Community College by allocating $39 million to the campus for construction of a new Health Career Center. The new 70,000 square-foot facility will accommodate the growing demand of health care industry professionals needed in the state.

Overall, the supplemental capital budget invests more than $1 billion in family wage construction jobs across the state and provides critical improvements to Washington’s educational facilities and transportation infrastructure. “Jobs are the way out of this recession,” Gregoire said. “I’m proud to sign a package that makes our state stronger, and invests in Washington’s future.” The budget also directs money to economic development, housing and weatherization enhancements; sustainable energy improvements; natural resource preservation; and local government infrastructure enhancements. Budget highlights include $78 million for energy efficiency grants for higher education, K-12 schools and local governments to generate savings that can in turn be re-invested in the classroom; $153 million for the public works assistance for loans to local governments for sewer collection system improvements, water pollution control and storm water management; and $216 million for natural resource improvements such as Puget Sound cleanup to ensure a clean environment that benefits citizens and businesses.

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Tacoma now boasts Innovation Partnership Zone (10/13/11) — http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=2051872&more=0

Center for Urban Waters, Innovation Partnership Zone top Tacoma City Council study session agenda (08/15/11) — http://www.tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=2021744&more=0

TCC receives its largest private gift (10/06/10) — http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1852014&more=0

Move-in begins at $22M Center for Urban Waters (03/29/10) — http://www.tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1741767&more=0