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U of M approves lease for research center at MinnWest

MINNEAPOLIS -- The University of Minnesota Board of Regents voted on Friday to approve a 20-year lease with the city of Willmar to occupy a building on the MinnWest Technology Campus.

This is one of the last steps required for a $1.25 million grant from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development to renovate an 18,000-square-foot building for the University of Minnesota Mid-Central Research and Outreach Center.

Grant funds will be matched by a contribution from the MinnWest Technology Campus to build out and equip a laboratory for biotechnology research.

The Willmar City Council approved lease and management agreements earlier this week to pave the way for the regents' approval.

"The university is grateful to the state, the city of Willmar and MinnWest Technology Campus for making this new center possible. We look forward to serving the community and the region," said university President Robert Bruininks in a news release.

The research center will emphasize collaboration with business and industry, local government and civic organizations and other higher education partners including St. Cloud State University.

When the renovation is completed in May 2011, one of the first initiatives will be the establishment of the Center for Avian Gut Health, an interdisciplinary research effort headed by turkey disease expert Dr. Carol Cardona.

University of Minnesota Extension will offer workshops and other services in the center. The Morris and Twin Cities campuses will coordinate a variety of programs, including graduate-level internships, student research opportunities, continuing education, renewable energy initiatives, and K-12 college preparation programs.

"This is a very good day for the city," said Willmar City Administrator Michael Schmit in the news release. "The addition of a new program of the University of Minnesota will greatly benefit this community and enhance the good work already underway by the university in western Minnesota."

A community open house for the completed center will be held in summer 2011. Questions about the new facility or the existing internship programs can be directed to Tim Miller, 320-222-3066.