U to operate new center in Willmar, Minn.

The University of Minnesota will operate a new $2.5 million biotechnology research and business development center at the MinnWest Technology Campus in Willmar, Minn. Plans for the Mid-Central Biosciences Center were announced Monday by the University and its partners on the project, MinnWest Technology Campus, the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system and the city of Willmar. The $2.5 million will cover the development and renovation of the center as well as laboratory and research equipment. The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development provided a $1.25 million grant which was matched by funds from MinnWest. The renovation is set to begin immediately and is expected to be completed by next fall. St. Cloud State University will be the lead for the MNSCU, but other schools like Ridgewater College , which is located in Willmar, will also be involved. Bruce Jacobson , the director for bioscience outreach at St. Cloud State University, has been in contact with MinnWest Technology Campus for two years. Jacobson said he realized there was an overlap in missions between St. Cloud State and the campus. He said MinnWestâÄôs goal is to provide high-tech jobs to people in Willmar, and St. Cloud StateâÄôs goal was to educate and prepare people for these high-tech jobs. Jacobson said the University will handle the discovery aspect of the research, while St. Cloud State will focus on the applied aspect. Tim Miller, the project coordinator contracted by MinnWest, said this is the first time the campus has worked with a university on a project. He said the focus of the collaboration is to take products and ideas from concepts to commercialization. He said in the current biotechnology landscape it has been difficult to keep jobs in state. âÄúOne of the problems thatâÄôs happening right now in the bio-business, especially in the state of Minnesota, is there just arenâÄôt the facilities or the capabilities to keep the business in-state,âÄù Miller said. He said one of the goals of this research center is to be able to keep biotechnology jobs in state and to attract new or existing companies to MinnWest. Miller said the research center will provide internship opportunities for students, which could lead to full-time jobs. Kathy Yaeger , a University spokeswoman, said the UniversityâÄôs expertise in areas relating to the poultry industry is the reason the University was chosen to operate the center. âÄúThe University is one of the very few universities in the country that does research in veterinary medicine, agriculture, biology, biotechnology, bio-business, all of which are combined in this area,âÄù Yaeger said. The University will be charged with operating the facility once it opens, but when companies come to the campus to use the resources, they will compensate the University. Compensation details are not yet known.