Regents approve Innovation Campus master plan

Dec 3rd, 2009 | By | Category: Campus News, December 3, 2009, Issue

Consultants: Campus’ annual impact on jobs could be $267 million

After six months of nearly round-the-clock work by consultants and campus planners, Nebraska Innovation Campus’s final business development strategy and campus master plans were presented and approved Nov. 20 by the University of Nebraska Board of Regents.

The board heard and approved the final recommendation from consultants Mary Jukuri of SmithGroup/JJR and Jay Noddle of Noddle Cos. on the vision, competitive position, best practices, commercialization, project costs, economic impact, financing structure and marketing opportunities for the private-public research and development project planned for the former Nebraska State Fair Park. The regents completed an hour-long tour of the site prior to discussion.

The plan is required by LB1116 (passed April 2008) to be delivered to the Nebraska Legislature Dec. 1. UNL takes possession of the 250-acre site Jan. 1.

Among the report’s findings is the economic impact of the proposed Innovation Campus, which according to the consultants’ estimates could bring an annual new payroll to the local and state economy of $267 million, including $149 million in direct annual payroll and $118 million in indirect payroll from new spin-off jobs. That, according to the report, “represents one of the most significant economic development projects in the recent history of Lincoln and the state of Nebraska.” The effects on this additional economic activity on state and local tax revenues would be significant, from income, sales and property taxes.

tour of Innovation Campus
Consultants lead the NU Board of Regents, UNL officials and members of the media through the Industrial Arts Building during a Nov. 20 tour of the Innovation Campus site. Photo by Troy Fedderson/University Communications.

The consultants’ construction costs estimated for Phase 1 total $214 million, much of which could be financed through private business owners or tenants, grants or donations. The report outlined numerous financing structures that could be utilized including private developer debt and equity financing, Tax Increment financing, Improvement District financing, facility bonds, federal grants and tax incentives, state or university sources, lease or sale income, and philanthropy.

The vision outlined in the plans is to use the strengths of UNL to make an “even greater contribution to the development and growth of the Nebraska economy in the 21st century. By envisioning an exciting, alternative use for the State Fair Park, the leadership of the state took an unprecedented step that will grow research and promote commercialization activities by attracting partnerships with private corporations, government agencies and other academic institutions.”

“Few universities in the nation will have such an opportunity in the 21st century,” the report said.

University of Nebraska President James B. Milliken said the vision for the development project is exciting, and its potential impact, historic.

“There is no more important time for Nebraska to be thinking big about how to leverage the significant strengths of the university for future success in the innovation economy,” Milliken said. “Innovation Campus is a bold step forward and represents hard work of many Nebraskans who share this vision for our state.”

The comprehensive business strategy plan focuses on the university’s existing research strengths, includes key facilities that will have the greatest impact on research and commercialization, and focuses on business outcomes that are competitive, innovative, flexible and achievable.

“Leading edge research areas” outlined are: agricultural biotechnology, life sciences and food nutrition; computer sciences and bioinformatics and materials science and nanotechnology. “High growth potential areas” outlined are: natural resources and water resources, and clean energy technology. “Areas of significant commercial potential” outlined in the business strategy plan are: transportation and engineering, chemical and bio-molecular engineering, and chemistry. The consultants cited work already under way at the Mid-American Transportation Center (including highway and railway safety and concrete structures), biomedical devices and process development and bioimaging and carbon sequestration as strong candidates for commercialization.

Stakeholders interviewed for the report expressed positive expectations for creating and attracting new businesses and new jobs, in sectors including technology, information technology and business services, healthcare services and traditional manufacturing. Adding jobs and keeping university graduates in Nebraska has been a major focus for the project.

“Nebraska Innovation Campus will bring our students internship opportunities there with our private business partners, and will lead to private-sector, high-tech jobs for young professionals, which ultimately brings the opportunity of keeping more of our graduates in Nebraska,” UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman said. “Educated citizens are the key to the economic future of Nebraska and we’re building the economy by tying together education and innovation.”

The business strategy plan accompanied a 30-page master plan that outlines and analyzes the site, existing buildings and ideas for new buildings and campus layout including allocation of lab and office space, core facilities, and interaction spaces in 2.2 million gross square feet.

The consultants’ report used a 25-year phased development approach.

For more information about Nebraska Innovation Campus and to view the most up-to-date versions of the plans, go to

— Story by Kelly Bartling, University Communications

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