It's been about a year since Rhode Island voters bullishly approved Phase II funding to create a gleaming new complex for the University of Rhode Island's College of Engineering --- a $125 million endeavor designed to put our state's flagship research institution at the vanguard, internationally, for engineering and entrepreneurial prowess.
Eager to see how the project is shaping up, I headed over to campus to take a closer look. I was thrilled to see teams of construction workers moving earth, burying conduit and pouring concrete. Indeed, they are laying the metaphorical groundwork for the jobs of the future. (Check out some fun facts about the project!)
From the Chamber's vantage point as business builders, it's promising that Rhode Island is responding to market demands for engineering talent. Across the state, several of our world-class institutions of higher education, including Brown University, are investing more than $300 million in sophisticated new infrastructure that will produce high value engineering research and learning facilities. That pace bodes well for Rhode Island's ability to be a prime target for new corporate investment.
Pictured here is the project site where the demolition of five antiquated buildings began in the spring and was completed this summer. Sparking the need, the older buildings had not undergone any major improvements in more than 50 years. Consequently, they did not provide the open and flexible teaching, learning and research spaces necessary to adequately prepare engineering students and fully serve faculty members.
Don't underestimate the ubiquitousness of engineering. It's at the heart of most everything in contemporary society: energy, medicine, water, bridges, data, physical structures and more. That's why the sector is growing jobs at such a rapid clip.
URI President David Dooley puts it in perspective: “Increasingly, our engineering students and faculty are not only working in interdisciplinary teams within the College of Engineering, but with students and faculty from across the University in oceanography, health, pharmacy, chemistry, computer science, and business, to name but a few, as well as companies and corporations around the state, region and the world. This new facility will stimulate collaborative, multidisciplinary learning and research. It will lead to discoveries that we cannot even imagine today. Our engineering alumni, students, and faculty have always been essential drivers of innovation and economic development in Rhode Island, and with these new facilities, we know that URI’s role in moving the state forward will be strongly enhanced."
The Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce was proud to be an early champion of the project. We invested time, money and resources in promoting the economic benefits to the state and making the case that access to engineering talent will attract attention from corporations looking to sit alongside URI's demonstrated expertise in undersea robotics, smart building technology and other engineering disciplines. Many Chamber member companies also took up the mantle to make the project a reality: Toray Plastics (America) $2 million: FM Global, $1 million; Taco Inc., $400,000; and an anonymous gift of $2.5 million from a URI alumnus and corporate leader.
Ballinger of Philadelphia, is the prime architect, mechanical engineer, electrical engineer, and structural engineer on the project, and the associate architectural firm is Chamber member DBVW of Providence. The construction management firm is Dimeo Construction Co. of Providence.
Congratulations to Chamber Directors Brad Dimeo and David Dooley for their leadership on this essential project to Rhode Island's future. We're looking forward to the ribbon cutting in 2019!