Saturday, April 22, 2006

Bring on the germs!

Big news: UND is seeking to build a 500,000 square foot germ research lab west of Grand Forks that would provide as many as 300 high-paying jobs. The National Bio and Agro-defense Facility would research both human and animal diseases as well as diseases that can cross over...bird flu anyone?

This lab could be a major boon for the local economy...construction and the first year of operation would have a $500 million dollar impact! This is also the type of project that could bring in many private sector companies who want to set up shop near such a facility. Last year, UND failed in an attempt to get a similar (but smaller) lab. Hopefully things will turn out different this time around. UND also is going to start construction soon on a new research park on 32nd Avenue South west of the interstate. This park will also feature a small bio-research lab. Sounds like the life sciences sector of the Grand Forks economy is poised for explosive growth. This type of project offers exactly the highly-skilled high-paying jobs the city covets. It sounds a bit odd to be excited about germs, but I'm thinking...bring 'em on!

Update - 4/24/2006
You might be interested to see all of the recent news stories similar to this one that are on Google News. Looks like Grand Forks will have plenty of competition and is going to have to put forward a very good proposal if we really want to get this facility.

Update 4/28/2006
UND VP of research Peter Alfonso now says that the University will likely no longer seek to build the lab on the previously proposed Oakville Prairie site west of Grand Forks. This comes on the heels of intense criticism by the UND biology department which currently uses that land for research. I have to admit that it seems like someone (Rick Tonder at facilities?) seemingly goofed when they picked Oakville Prairie for the lab. Community support is so critical for the University to actually land the lab that it doesn't surprise me too much that Alfonso would so quickly announce that a new site for the lab will be sought. I'm a little nervous about building a huge germ lab on 32nd Avenue South in UND's new tech park, not because I think the lab is dangerous, but because of the potential that residents and businesses may not want to set up shop so close to such a huge facility that may be perceived to be dangerous. From what I've heard, UND owns large tracts of land all over the area. Certainly, the facilities department can find a suitable location. They better do so quickly.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hope the community gets behind this. I also hope there is a recognition of relative risk. The anhydrous ammonia tanks north of town or ammonia railcars going through town create orders of magnitude more risk than any Level 4 biolab.

For economic and patriotic reasons, this city embraced nuclear bombers and nuclear missiles. For economic and patriotic reasons, GF should not have an issue with a very small risk associated with homeland security.

Dave Miller said...

Looks like another taxpayer funded addition to Grand Forks. This might be a great boon to the construction industry and will add jobs to GF, but the money will come from our pockets and those 300 employees will be paid by you and me.

I am all for growth and expansion, but where will it end for Grand Forks and its attraction to taxpayer funded projects?

JGS said...

I agree, I hope the community does get behind this project. This could be another big step for Grand Forks and it's future growth if we get it. The paper says UND is competing with 17 other entities across the nation. Small city Grand Forks Vs. Big cities like L.A., Seattle, Dallas, etc. It's definitely going to be harder to get them to build it here, but I hope UND pulls it off.

Still Anonymous said...

I'm not absolutely sure, but I think if UND supplies the land, building, etc. the majority of the operating costs come from private business and other research requests.

I think the biggest problem will be the environmental whackos that don't want this type of research.

UND Student said...

we have a lot of environmental whackos in Seattle, and there are a lot of them in big cities across the nation... I think that might give a small town like Grand Forks the edge. I think Grand Forks would be a great spot.

Anonymous said...

My understanding is that Grand Forks is competing with a variety of cities, not just big ones. I don't have a list of the 18 competitors but I know there are some smaller cities on it.

Also, Dave Miller says it's a taxpayer funded project, implying that it'll fall on the shoulders of local taxpayers. There might be some local component -- free land, for one -- but the majority would have to be from the feds, not unlike the air base. We don't have half a billion dollars to spare around here (that's a little more than the cost of our dikes!).

Tu-Uyen

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, you can find more information about the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility from the Dept. of Homeland Security Web site here and here.

Thanks, as ever, for reading the Herald and/or talking about our stories. Enjoyed all the comments.

Tu-Uyen

Dave Miller said...

Tu-Uyen, I tend not to differentiate too much on where the tax dollars are coming from. Regarless, the people are paying for it. In this case it's some schmuck from Kalamazoo and some other sap from, I don't know, Sioux Falls.

I'm not living in Grand Forks anymore, but somehow through mysterious supernatural powers my money is still funding pet projects back home. Weird how that happens. I love Grand Forks to death (hope to return some day) but I though that maybe the city's hand was removed from my wallet.

Keep up the good work Tran.

GrandForksGuy said...

Tu-Uyen...why don't you get a blogger user name so you don't always show up as just another "Anonymous"? Just a suggestion...

GrandForksGuy said...

I just added a Google News link to the article. It looks like a lot of cities around the country (big and small, by the way) are working on proposals to get this lab. We're going to have to do plenty of work if we actually want to land this facility. I hope the state is already up to date on the project and is ready to put their support behind it.

Anonymous said...

Dave: It's not really a "pet project" if the federal government decides it's needed to serve a specific purpose to the benefit of the entire nation.

You can argue that the lab is not needed or necessary if you like, but you are not doing that. You are suggesting that UND and the region should not put in a proposal because it is a federal (or publicly funded) project. That's asinine. If it is decided that it is a worthy project that is necessary to benefit all, and it is going to be sited somewhere, why shouldn't we try to get it sited in our region?

Anonymous said...

Dave Miller posts nothing but how he wants GF not to grow and everything is tax based etc. He doesn't really ever add anything to the converstion. He's from Sioux Falls, SD.

Conservative Yahoo said...

"Regarless, the people are paying for it. In this case it's some schmuck from Kalamazoo and some other sap from, I don't know, Sioux Falls."

Name me one thing that isn't paid for by "the people" either through taxes or by a private business that uses profits from sales of products.