MSU Site Gets 34 Million

June 28, 2007
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HOLLAND — Michigan State University got a big boost Thursday upon receiving a $3.4 million grant from the 21st Century Jobs Fund to help operate its Bioeconomy Research Center in a donated Pfizer facility here.

MichaelShore, spokesman for the Michigan Economic Development Corp., said the Jobs Fund grant will cover first three years of the center’s operation. The grant is specifically targeted to cover operational costs of $1.1 million annually, plus equipment maintenance costs of $600,000. The Michigan Strategic Fund previously allocated $12 million to retain Pfizer assets in Michigan and the grant was one piece of that, he said. But it’s not necessarily the only Jobs Fund grant the project might receive this year, Shore said.

“We originally anticipated that in each of the next eight years we would be getting another $75 million for the 21st Century Jobs Fund so that there would be additional monies available,” he explained.

Pfizer agreed in May to donate a $50 million pilot plant and research building at

188 Howard Ave.
to the university to house an MSU bioeconomic research center that will research, develop and commercialize biofuels, biomaterials and biochemicals. Essentially, it’s the kind of research that will help the economy move away from petroleum-based products towards more renewable, plant-based products, said Randy Thelen, president of Lakeshore Advantage, the economic development agency serving the Holland-Zeeland area.   

The agreement with Pfizer hinged on completion of an operational funding arrangement that would include federal research grants, private sector research contracts and partnerships, and federal and state grants and local donations. The Community Foundation of the Holland-Zeeland Area was the first to donate to funding for the center, with a $100,000 grant. Thelen said the center is applying for other funding resources and has donors who are interested, as well, so the operational funding piece is essentially in place.  

However, the deal still awaits approval of the MSU Board of Trustees.

Pfizer previously used the three-story, 138,000-square foot building for drug development. It includes modern laboratories for up to 100 researchers, which is the number of researchers MSU plans to hire over time. The facility includes a bio-economy business incubator that will support the start up of new companies, as well as a 125-seat auditorium, library and offices. MSU officials indicated at that time that they’d like to begin staffing the center in January 2008.

James Epolito, MEDC president and chair of the Michigan Strategic Fund, said the announcement is the result of a concerted effort to ensure that Pfizer’s assets continue to be used productively to grow Michigan’s high-tech economy.     

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