University of Idaho officials hope the latest outline of a proposed Post Falls research park will ease fears among regents meeting this week in Boise.
The State Board of Education will vote whether to give the Riverbend Research and Training Park the green light Thursday at its monthly meeting.
The UI Foundation accepted a 28-acre gift from the Jacklin Land Co. earlier this month. The university plans to use the land as collateral to begin building the park aimed at research opportunities and recruiting business.
State board members outlined 12 major concerns in a memo to UI President Robert Hoover in February. They want to know who’s legally responsible if someone sues, who will look after infrastructure and who’s financially responsible if revenues at the park dip. They’re concerned about duplicating or competing with similar efforts by other institutions, such as the Spokane Intercollegiate Research and Technical Institute.
The UI Foundation and the lead bank, First Security Bank - Corporate Banking Division - will insure the project, UI’s report said.
“It’s risky, but it does not risk the assets of the foundation, but rather the 28-acre gift,” said UI Foundation Director Linda Davidson. “The important thing to remember is by involving the foundation, it removes the risk from UI and the state board.”
The UI has budgeted $200,000 for a park manager, secretary and facility support. The budgets of the Idaho Water resources Research Institute, the University Response Center and the Vandal Boosters Inc., Cooperative Education, Engineering Management, and Manufacturing Extension will also be shifted to Coeur d’Alene.
As for liability, Jacklin, the foundation and UI will be responsible only for their own negligent acts, the report said.
Building costs will be comparable to the Business Technology Incubator building in Moscow, according to the report, with total project costs at an estimated $60 per square foot.
To save costs, UI will seek long-term tenants, who might consider “subsidizing special needs of the university such as Internet connectivity, satellite downlinks and other telecommunications infrastructure.”
The region’s other schools, North Idaho College, Lewis-Clark State College, Washington State University, Eastern Washington University, SIRTI, and Gonzaga, have all expressed interest in collaboration, the report said, though few have pledged concrete financial support.
There is also the potential of local consortium including the city, school district, sister schools, corporations, and other interested community organizations.
Board member Curtis Eaton, a Twin Falls banker, expressed concern about UI providing “incentives to business.”
But UI officials countered that without incentives, businesses won’t be willing to partner with universities. Eaton also said the agreement shouldn’t bind UI to assisting only the Post Falls area “in the case where an out-of-state company wants to move to Idaho and has two or three sites it is considering.”
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