A ceremonial groundbreaking was held on Monday for a 200,000-square-foot biopharmaceutical research center on the University of Delaware STAR Campus on the south end of Newark.
UD President Dennis Assanis told those attending the event the total investment at the site could total a half a billion dollars.
The six-story structure will come with a price tag of $156 million, with the UD financing the project. The buildng is on a fast track, with completion slated for early 2020.
Construction boom on campus
Regional contractor Whiting-Turner will serve as construction manager. Work is already underway at the site, which is also near a high rise that will house classrooms and other space on the Campus.
The STAR Campus is also seeing work on a new Newark train station, a multi-year project.
A portion of the six-story building would house the national headquarters of the National Institute of Biopharmaceutical Research, the 11th institute of the the Manufacturing USA network.
The network was set up with federal support as a way to help manufacturing remain competitive in a world economy where governments take an active role.
The institute will be financed with a combination of private and public sources that include a $70 million federal grant. Work at the institute will include coming up with manufacturing innovations and breakthroughs.
In addition to the federal funding, the new institute is supported by a private investment of $129 million from a consortium of 150 companies, educational institutions, research centers and Manufacturing Extension Partnerships nationwide.
Assanis said the project could transform UD and Delaware into a center for pharmaceutical research and manufacturing in the region.
He also mentioned the involvement of UD and the state in a research partnership at the DuPont Experimental Station near Wilmington.
Assanis said the effort took on greater importance with news that DuPont would cut 1,700 jobs, many in research.
He remembered a phone call from then Gov. Jack Markell who told the incoming UD President “It’s on you buddy.”
Markell praised by speakers
Markell who was in attendance was praised by speakers for his steadfast support of the STAR Campus and the biopharmaceutical institute. The STAR Campus is at the site of the Chrysler Newark assembly plant.
Markell’s successor, Gov. John Carney was on a day-long tour related to housing and did not attend.
Directing the institute will be Kelvin Lee who formerly headed the Delaware Biotechnology Institute and spearheaded the successful effort to secure the project.
Lee praised UD Trustees and Chair John Cochran for their decision to go forward with an ambitious project, rather than simply construct a 60,000 square foot structure in the Delaware Technology Park to house the institute.
Continued funding not a sure thing: Coons
All three members of the state’s congressional delegation were on hand for the event. U.S. Sen. Chris Coons cautioned that federal funding for the institute was secure for this year and probably the next, thanks to bipartisan support, but added that the battle will continue with those in Congress with other priorities.
Coons has worked on a bipartisan basis in efforts to keep manufacturing competitive in the U.S. and noted that the nation has work to do in that area.
Senior U.S. Sen. Tom Carper said the groundbreaking marked a sharp contrast to the days in late 2008 and 2009 when the Chrysler and GM plants closed.
Carper looks back at dark day
Carper had been a frequent visitor to Detroit in long-running efforts to keep a plant open in an East Coast location away from suppliers.
U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, a UD-grad, said she was excited about the center’s possibilities, especially in the world of manufacturing and increasing concern about the future of work as many jobs fall victim to automation.
On a lighter note, Rochester noted that the sometimes somber Coons is enthusiastic about the project to the point of being “geeked out.”
Coons, one of the Senate’s most polished speakers showed some of that enthusiasm in praising the institute and the STAR Campus as a project that was “bending the arc in history.” He also used the less lofty term “big deal.”