Capital request funds future for Minnesota

For nearly 150 years, the citizens of Minnesota have invested in the University of Minnesota, creating a world renowned institution of higher learning. In return, the University has given the public educated citizens, advances in science and medicine and greatly enhanced our quality of life through the advancement of knowledge. The University of Minnesota has been and must continue to be a key player in keeping Minnesota educationally and economically competitive into the 21st century.
That is why in October 1997, I was pleased to announce the largest bonding initiative for the University of Minnesota in history. The $252 million package includes funding for both the Minneapolis and St. Paul campuses as well as Morris, Duluth and Crookston, agriculture research stations, system-wide health and safety and planning funds for the University of Minnesota’s future. This package is recognition of how the University of Minnesota affects Minnesotans’ lives. It also serves as a further commitment to education, technology and research.
Part of our proposal includes $180 million for the Twin Cities campus alone. Three key highlights include $70 million for the Institute for Molecular and Cellular Biology, more than $53 million for renovation of Walter Library and creation of a Digital Technology Center, and nearly $20 million for the St. Paul Campus and Agriculture Outreach Stations across the state.
We have proposed $70 million for the Institute for Molecular and Cellular Biology because we understand that biological research at the molecular and cellular level is critical to scientific discovery. Cell and molecule development has been responsible for major breakthroughs in developmental biology, genetics, microbiology, molecular medicine, neuroscience and plant sciences.
Medical and biological research conducted at the University has had a major impact on the development of successful industries in this state. One need only look at the effect that the medical device industry has on Minnesota’s economy. Employment in the medical device industry has grown by 50 percent in the last 10 years — three times the state’s rate of growth in general manufacturing. Currently 17,000 Minnesotans work at nearly 500 companies. Annual sales now total more than $3.5 billion. This new institute will position the University to strengthen undergraduate and graduate education in the biological sciences, improve agricultural production and environmental protection, continue to improve our quality of life and ease human suffering through new scientific discoveries and medical treatments.
Agriculture has also been a foundation to Minnesota’s economy, by generating more than 20 percent of the jobs in our state. The School of Agriculture at the University of Minnesota — arguably among the top five agriculture schools in the nation — helps Minnesota retain its place among the country’s top agriculture producers. Because we recognize the importance of agriculture in our state, we have proposed a substantial funding increase for the St. Paul campus and its greater Minnesota partners — the agriculture research stations at Waseca, Morris, Cloquet and Grand Rapids. This will not only help us maintain success in the agriculture field, but will also increase partnerships with neighboring agricultural states.
As we have seen in the area of medicine and agriculture, research can define a learning institution. The University of Minnesota is now ranked 34th in research institutes in this country. President Mark Yudof has set an auspicious goal of raising the University’s ranking to bring it among the top five research institutions in this country. Such a goal cannot be accomplished without an investment from the citizens of Minnesota.
While we aim to continue our successes in medical and agricultural innovation, we are also striving to reclaim our leadership in digital technology. In the 1960s and 1970s, Minnesota computing giants such as IBM, Control Data and Univac served as the birthplace for the nation’s mainframe computer industry. But, with the emergence of personal computers, software development became the driving force in the industry, and Minnesota lost its edge in that growing industry.
Our proposed appropriation would not only renovate and maintain the historic exterior of Walter Library, it would also revamp its interior to include a new Digital Technology Center. The center will house several University programs such as the Minnesota Supercomputer Institute, advanced networking and telecommunications laboratory and the Laboratory for Computational Science and Engineering, along with additional work space that would allow for University and community-wide collaborations among digital technology experts. The center will also integrate teaching, research and outreach in telecommunications, multimedia and many other digital technologies.
The new Digital Technology Center aims to once again place Minnesota at the nation’s forefront in digital technology.
Such weighty investments in the University of Minnesota are warranted because of the impact that the University has had, and will continue to have, on Minnesota. Imagine where we would be without the University of Minnesota, and then envision where we can be with further investment.
There is a significant connection between the University of Minnesota and the state of Minnesota; how each one performs and succeeds directly affects the other. It is vital that all Minnesotans recognize that connection and take pride in our investment of a University that clearly defines this state.
Arne H. Carlson is the governor of Minnesota.