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TN General Assembly reduces UT Martin Match for new STEM building
Closer to reality - match for UTM reduced by TN General Assembly

Editor's Note: This is interesting for two reasons: (1) Students from our area enjoy reciprocity with TN students and (2) A TN legislator went to bat for a university and got results.

MARTIN, Tenn. - A highly sought-after Science and Engineering Building is closer to reality at the University of Tennessee at Martin, thanks to a change in the university's required match to fund the project. The match reduction from 25 percent to 10 percent was led by State Sen. John Stevens (R-Huntingdon) and is the first of its kind in Tennessee government.

State building projects at public colleges and universities require a 25 percent match by the institutions to begin construction.

The STEM building is projected to cost $65 million, with $50 million originally funded by the state plus a 25 percent match by the university. UT Martin now has a one-year opportunity to match 10 percent or approximately $6.5 million of the cost to construct the 120,000-square-foot building.

The building will house the university's departments of engineering, computer science, chemistry and physics, mathematics and statistics, and an entrepreneurial center. The plans include classrooms and teaching laboratories, as well as dedicated student laboratories and project work spaces. The latter will be created in a way to encourage innovative, cross-disciplinary research and design.

"The Tennessee General Assembly has given UT Martin a unique opportunity to make a significant, positive difference for our students and West Tennessee's economy," said Dr. Bob Smith, the university's interim chancellor. "We're grateful to Senator Stevens for his heartfelt commitment and leadership in making this reduction possible. Now, it's our job to raise $6.5 million to assure that this building becomes a reality."

Smith added, "The senator's vision to invest where the economic need exists is a historic change in how state buildings are funded."

University officials see the building as a cornerstone for providing the STEM education needed to develop the region's workforce. A recent economic impact study conducted by Economic Modeling Specialists International in Moscow, Idaho, showed the proposed building's overall economic impact at $56.3 million in added income and the creation of 901 jobs from initial construction through the first 10 years of graduates.

The study also showed that West Tennessee will gain an additional $1.6 million in annual added income from the impact of its graduates and building operations. The city of Martin, Weakley County government, Weakley County Economic Development Board, USDA, Northwest Tennessee Development District, Southwest Tennessee Development District and the university partnered to sponsor the study.

The building is planned for construction on the east side of the university's academic quadrangle. Rep. Andy Holt (R-Dresden) sponsored the bill in the house.

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