Ann Arbor Rotary Club
March 4, 2009
Thank you, Cynthia, and thank you to the Ann Arbor Rotary for the invitation to be part of your meeting today. I always look forward to joining you and seeing familiar faces.
As I hope you know, our community has been the focus of Hollywood’s cameras these past 10 days or so, with Hilary Swank, Minnie Driver, Sam Rockwell and others in town and on campus to film the movie drama, “Betty Ann Waters.”
It seems the film crew has been everywhere … in Ann Arbor, then to Ypsilanti, and then over to Dexter.
That we – as a university, and a city, and a community – are attracting filmmakers to this region is wonderful economic news at a time when the headlines can be so discouraging.
That does not mean it has been easy.
The staff in the University’s very small but busy Film Office tells me they recently took a call from Hollywood, with someone inquiring about filming in our state.
“Does Michigan,” the caller asked, “have any coastline?”
Yes, these are challenging times!
When it comes to going to the movies, I’ll always look for something that is upbeat, or is thoughtful and has an important message. There are exceptions, but I can’t understand why I would want to go to the movies and be depressed.
I feel the same way about the current mood in our state. I know we are engulfed in an economic cloud unlike anything most of us have ever experienced. We’re all feeling anxious about what the future holds.
But we should not overlook the progress unfolding here in Ann Arbor and in our state, because we have some great stories to tell.
I want to take a few minutes today to focus on three areas where the University of Michigan is working to make a difference in our economy: First, with our commitment to keeping Ann Arbor vibrant. Second, with our physical growth. And third, with our continually growing research portfolio.
And I want to leave plenty of time for questions, because this crowd always has something to say.
It’s important to remember the University’s mission: teaching, research and public service. We are placing more emphasis than ever on all as they relate to the economic wellbeing of our region and state.
In three weeks, we are going to throw open the doors to one of our region’s true gems – one that brings thousands of people to our community. The U-M Museum of Art – expanded, renovated, and ready for the public – re-opens on March 28. That is a Saturday, and the museum will open at 6 p.m. and stay open for 24 consecutive hours.
Come by whenever it is convenient, and you will see a spectacular new space that allows us to showcase more of our collection. The new wing – the Frankel wing – also affords wonderful new views of the campus.
When you are walking through both the new galleries and the renovated historic spaces, know that you are one of an estimated 200,000 people to walk through the Museum’s doors each year.
In addition to art, we are focused on commerce in our community, with our Business Engagement Center. The Center is located in the Galleria Building on South University Avenue, where it shares space with our Office of Technology Transfer.
We established the Center with the express purpose of better connecting the University with business and community partners. We are committed to helping attract and nurture high-growth companies in our area.
This office is a bridge between our students and faculty and the growing industries in our region. And the demand for assistance is exploding.
This leads me to an explosion of another sort, and that is the construction under way across the campus. Not many places are growing in our state, but we are. In fact, the New York Times identified U-M as having the most construction of any campus in the country.
Over the past five years, we have committed nearly $2.5 billion and almost 5 million square feet of new space to life sciences research, education, technology, engineering and – we believe – economic growth.
North Quad and Mott Children’s Hospital are looking spectacular. We expect to see students in North Quad in the fall of 2010, and patients in the children’s hospital in 2012.
The expansion of Michigan Stadium – which we all know attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors and their spending dollars to our community – is on track, as is the football team’s indoor practice facility along State Street.
Also on State Street, we will break ground this spring for a new academic building for the Law School, and its design will echo the beauty of the Law Quad.
All of this activity supports teaching, research, patient care, and student development, making our campus and Ann Arbor an attractive location for current and future faculty, staff and students.
Of course, I can’t talk about our growth without discussing our purchase of the former Pfizer property, which leads me to a third area of University activity that is supporting the economy, and that is our research portfolio.
Buying the Pfizer property was a strategic decision, based on the vitality of our research enterprise.
This is a bold commitment to invest in research that will benefit our community, our state, and beyond. Specifically, it will advance our work in health, biomedical sciences, and other disciplines. Over time, this expansion of our research facilities will allow us to bring millions of dollars of additional research into the state and lead to 2,000 new, high-paying jobs.
This will be one of the largest expansions of the University in more than a half-century. It will allow us to broaden our contributions as a research institution, and to stimulate new business in the region.
Just this week we announced our new executive vice president for medical affairs – Dr. Ora Pescovitz of Indiana University. Her skill set as an administrator, researcher, and physician is critical to the path we take with this expansion.
Across the campus, we anticipate more research growth, building on what already is an $875 million enterprise. The new federal stimulus package will benefit agencies such as the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Energy, which translates into more research support for universities such as ours.
When we talk about attracting research dollars to the state, we should not limit the benefits to U-M’s contributions. The University Research Corridor –the collaboration of Michigan, Michigan State, and Wayne State – is vital to state’s future.
Our three universities are all working on behalf of the state’s economy. A powerful example of our synergy is a project known as F-RIB.
F-RIB is the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams, a half-billion-dollar nuclear research facility, funded by the federal government and awarded to MSU. It will attract top researchers from around the world who are exploring nuclear science and astrophysics. The F-RIB is expected to generate $1 billion in economic activity and create 400 jobs.
MSU’s proposal had the full support of Wayne State and U-M, and that the F-RIB will be built in East Lansing is a major coup for our state. There was intense national competition for this project, and we threw ourselves behind Michigan State, because this facility will benefit our entire state.
If we are to succeed here in Michigan, we must think regionally.
So – the next time the folks from Hollywood, or anywhere else, ask if anything positive is happening in the Great Lakes State, I hope you will join me in answering, “Yes.”
Yes, as in, “Yes, we have coastlines in Michigan” – coastlines unlike anywhere else.
Yes, we have growth and potential – people and projects positioned to change the face of our state.
And, yes, we have a promising economy, one that looks to develop and explore new forms of energy, biomedicine, advanced manufacturing and stem cell research as the industries of tomorrow.