Board of Regents
James B. Milliken
A report from the March 2012 meeting of the University of Nebraska Board of Regents.
Regents learn about powerful economic impact of Building a Healthier Nebraska
The University of Nebraska’s proposal to expand its capacity in nursing and allied health education, cancer care and research, and veterinary diagnostics has the potential to create thousands of jobs and generate hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of economic activity for the state, the Board of Regents learned at its March 2 meeting.
An economic impact analysis conducted by the Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Nebraska at Omaha has found that the proposal – called Building a Healthier Nebraska – would create 6,000 jobs from construction alone. The construction phase would also create $729 million in economic activity.
On an ongoing basis, Building a Healthier Nebraska would support more than 4,700 jobs.
The projects would also improve health care in Nebraska, meet critical workforce needs and allow more students to pursue the career of their choice.
Those are key reasons why Building a Healthier Nebraska enjoys such broad support from individuals and groups across the state, including the Nebraska, Omaha, Kearney and Lincoln chambers of commerce, the Nebraska Bankers Association, leaders in agriculture and others. A number of newspaper editorials also have endorsed the proposal.
“These are four projects that address critical needs and interests of the state of Nebraska, and that’s not lost on people across the state,” said NU President James B. Milliken. “This is a set of very compelling projects that a public university ought to be providing for the state and I think that’s well-recognized. The impact of this will be tremendous for the state of Nebraska.”
For instance, Milliken noted that he recently spent a day in Grand Island, Hastings and York to talk to the Grand Island Rotary Club and the news media about Building a Healthier Nebraska and other university updates. He said the reaction was uniformly positive.
Included in Building a Healthier Nebraska are a new University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Nursing division in Lincoln; a building expansion at the University of Nebraska at Kearney for an expanded nursing division and a new UNK-based UNMC School of Allied Health Professions; a cancer research tower at UNMC, part of a larger cancer center project; and a new Veterinary Diagnostic Center at the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
In the weeks since the Board meeting, the Legislature has approved a budget package for the state that includes significant support for the cancer center, Kearney health project and veterinary diagnostic center. The package is being considered by the Governor.
In all, the four Building a Healthier Nebraska projects would cost more than $450 million. But more than 70 percent of that – about $320 million – would be privately funded, making the initiative an excellent private-public partnership for the benefit of the state. Milliken noted that state support will be critical in leveraging private funds.
David Lechner, NU vice president for business and finance, pointed out that if the tax incentive formulas used by the state’s Department of Economic Development were applied to the cancer center project alone, the overall $370 million investment for the project would be eligible for $82 million in state sales tax credits over the next decade. In other words, the university’s $50 million request to the state for the cancer center represents only 60 percent of the state tax credits that a private-sector business would receive for a project of the same scale.
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln and University of Nebraska Medical Center are significantly exceeding their Board-established research metrics, regents learned. Each campus’ metric is to grow federally funded research awards by 20 percent more than the weighted three-year rolling average of growth among federal agencies that award research dollars to the respective campus.
UNL Professor Dennis Molfese
UNL’s federally funded research awards have grown an average of 14.3 percent over the past three years, exceeding its metric by nearly 10 percent. UNMC’s federally funded research awards have grown an average of 23.5 percent over the past three years, exceeding its metric by almost 20 percent.
The research metrics were established with a goal for UNL and UNMC to gain market share, NU President James B. Milliken said, and the campuses are clearly making progress.
Recent successes for UNL research include a $25 million USDA-funded consortium focused on E. coli in which UNL is taking a lead role; the opening of the new Voelte-Keegan Nanoscience Metrology Facility; and the discovery of 3,000 previously unknown documents in Walt Whitman’s handwriting. Looking forward, major research initiatives for UNL include the Nebraska Center for Energy Sciences Research, the new Center for Brain, Biology & Behavior and the NU-wide Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute, Vice Chancellor for Research and Economic Development Prem Paul told the Board. The campus’ goal is to grow research expenditures to $300 million by 2017.
UNMC’s research goals include growing funded research, developing globally recognized programs, and improving the health of Nebraskans. Strategic areas of focus will include cancer, neuroscience, infectious diseases, alcohol- and smoking-related diseases, rural and other health disparities and others, Vice Chancellor for Research Jennifer Larsen told the Board.
University of Nebraska taking a leading role in workforce development
Job growth in Nebraska is projected to be strong through the rest of the decade and the University of Nebraska is working to address current and future workforce needs for the state – including in business, engineering, health services and other areas.
During a presentation on workforce development, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs Susan Fritz told the Board of Regents that job growth in Nebraska is expected to exceed 10 percent through the year 2018. That growth will be spread across the state and will include 123,000 new jobs.
The university will play a critical role in producing graduates qualified to fill these new jobs. According to a study from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, five Midwestern states – including Nebraska – will exceed the national average in the proportion of jobs that require postsecondary education by 2018. Nationally, 63 percent of all jobs will require education beyond high school in 2018; in Nebraska, that figure is 66 percent, ranking the state seventh in the country for postsecondary demand.
NU also plans to launch a new Rural Futures Institute later this year that will focus on building the innovation economy in rural Nebraska and beyond. Institute for Agriculture and Natural Resources Vice Chancellor Ronnie Green told regents that the Rural Futures Institute’s areas of focus will include innovation, entrepreneurship and leadership; community planning; health and nutrition; agri/eco-tourism; and others.
A Rural Futures Conference is planned for May 8-10 in Lincoln.
NU campuses improving fire safety
The University of Nebraska made significant progress in fire safety in 2011 and plans to have sprinkler systems installed in nearly all housing units by 2015, according to an annual report presented to the Board of Regents.
The University of Nebraska at Omaha and University of Nebraska Medical Center have finished installing sprinklers, said Rebecca Koller, assistant vice president for business and finance and director of facilities planning and management. The University of Nebraska at Kearney and Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture plan to finish installing sprinklers in all living units by 2014. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln is scheduled to finish installing sprinklers in most living units by 2015; five remaining Greek houses are still finalizing their plans for sprinklers.
The university in 2008 set a goal to have sprinkler systems installed in all student living units by 2017.
During its March meeting, the Board of Regents approved: