By From the Lowell Sun
By Hillary Chabot
LOWELL ߞ; Gov. Deval Patrick crammed into a 600-square-foot laboratory at UMass Lowell with at least 20 other politicians and professors yesterday.
As those in the room stumbled over each other, UMass Lowell professor Carl Lawton shrugged.
“As you can see we're a little constrained in here,” said Lawton, who is also the director of the Massachusetts BioManufacturing Center.
Help is on the way. Patrick announced $4 million in state funding toward a new nanotechnology and biomanufacturing center that would help professors like Lawson and students spread out in a 100,000-square-foot laboratory.
The $4 million is only one piece of a $35 million commitment from the state toward the project, which is expected to cost $80 million. Patrick made sure to credit Sen. Steve Panagiotakos, Rep. Kevin Murphy, Rep. David Nangle and Rep. Tom Golden, all from Lowell, for securing the funding last year.
“The investment in this building is just a piece of a broader move to secure our leadership role in (nanotechnology and biomanufacturing),” Patrick said. “The students and the faculty will soon have the equipment and the space needed to do the work they are so capable of.”
Patrick shook hands with students, joked with professors and studied high-tech equipment, such as a machine that allows students to study material at the nano-level.
The new center will do more than attract jobs to the area, Panagiotakos said.
“This center, if we do it right, is an investment which will make the areainternationally recognized as a leader in the field,” Panagiotakos said. “This center really is about economic development.”
Diane Prideaux-Brune, vice chancellor for facilities at UMass Lowell, said the state will pay an additional $9.5 million the next fiscal year, which begins in July. Once the site is selected and the project progresses, the state will hand over another $7.5 million, and bond the rest of the $14 million.
Lowell Mayor Bill Martin said the funding is an important next step in the development of the city.
“This is vital to the future of the economy in Lowell and I'm pleased Patrick is recognizing our legislators' hard work in making this a reality,” Martin said.
Patrick also mentioned an expanded capital proposal for public higher education, which he hopes to unveil soon.
UMass President Jack Wilson, who has worked with Patrick on the proposal, said the governor has shown a commitment to improving higher-education facilities.
“He gets it. He understands that if you invest in the universities, you invest in the commonwealth and more jobs,” Wilson said.