In a packed room at the 's Bioscience Complex Thursday, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed into law Senate Bill 1242, kick-starting the development of a research and technology park to be located on the north end of UConn's campus that Malloy hopes will become the vertex of an innovation triangle in Connecticut that also includes the UConn Medical Center in Farmington and the Yale Science Park in New Haven.
Malloy approved the use of $170 million in state money to build and maintain the park, which State Senate President Donald Williams Jr. said will be completed within the next four years. The project's first installment, $18 million to design and develop a 125,000 square foot facility, will be voted on by the State Bond Commission at their Friday meeting.
The committee, which is controlled by Democrats, is expected to approve the proposal.
The law also includes for $2.5 million to hire new faculty from around the world, adding experienced personnel who will bring experience and prestige to the new park.
The building will include laboratories outfitted with specialized research equipment, space for business incubators and office space for existing companies.
Calls to State Rep. Sean Williams and State Sen. Andrew Roraback, two Republican members of the bond commission, were not returned.
Up to 1.4 million square feet of space will be available for the development of research facilities and academic buildings after the completion of a 4,000 foot-long two lane road on the north end of UConn's campus, part of a separate project funded by federal and UConn 2000 dollars, according to a press release on Donald William's Web site.
Democrats say the tech park will boost the state's construction industry – currently languishing with unemployment numbers near 25 percent – create sustainable, high-paying technology jobs and set Connecticut up as an affordable alternative to Cambridge, MA and New York for innovative companies to do business.
By building the Tech Park, the Malloy administration hopes to make UConn's existing human resources, including students, professors and researchers, available to private companies as an incentive to bring technology and research businesses to the state and provide resources for fledgling ventures to get their start at the university.
In early 2011, Shizzlr, a social planning Web site founded by UConn alumni Keith Bessette and Nick Jaensch, moved into an office at Yale's Science Park with assistance from CTech Incubator, a project housed under Connecticut Innovations, a quasi-public company that was founded to support young Connecticut businesses.
According to State Rep. Gregg Haddad, who represents Mansfield and Chaplin, UConn's capacity to conduct valuable research in a range of fields has dramatically increased during the last ten years. The university attracts more than $200 million in federal research grants annually, up from about $95 million 10 years ago.
Haddad said that the relationship between UConn and Mansfield has improved since the Tech Park project was first conceived 20 years ago, and that Mansfield – with the 200,000 square foot Storrs Center, a mixed-use mall that will house retail outlets and restaurants located near the southern edge of UConn's campus nearing completion – is poised to support new residents and employees attracted by the tech park.
State Sen. Gary LeBeau, chairman of the commerce committee, recounted a recent visit to UConn.
“Yesterday I spoke to a professor who brings in $1.5 million a year in research money, and he's got a product tat he's ready to bring to market. He said 'we need a place to do our initial production',” LeBeau said. “This [tech park] is meeting a need.”
In June, Malloy signed a law allocating $864 million to renovate and expand UConn's medical and dental schools and add valuable researchers.