Regional Extension office finds new home in Worthington's Biotechnology Advancement Center
WORTHINGTON -- The Worthington Regional Extension Center is settling into its new surroundings this week as the first tenant in the Biotechnology Advancement Center (BAC) just north of Prairie Holdings on Prairie Drive in the bioscience park.
The BAC is a 7,500-square-foot new addition onto the spec building constructed in 2006 by the city of Worthington and the Worthington Regional Economic Development Corp. The spec building has since been converted into a three-bay incubator for budding bioscience companies.
Holli Arp, regional Extension director, said the move to the new office opens the doors for future collaboration with research entities and higher education.
"We were looking at partnering with Minnesota West, just as an opportunity to work with higher education in better, more efficient ways," Arp said.
At the same time, Extension's lease was coming due at its offices on Stower Drive, and it was looking for a different location with more visibility. The new office is easily accessible from both U.S. 59 and Interstate 90.
"This gives us some overall visibility and lets people know that Extension has a strong presence in Worthington and the region," Arp added.
The Extension Regional Center first opened in Worthington in January 2004. It houses five Extension educators today, including Dave Bau in farm business management, Liz Stahl in crops, Colleen Gengler in family relations, Deb Hadley in 4-H education/program leadership, and Kia Harries in 4-H youth development-curriculum (primarily working with Operation Military Kids).
"So much of the regionalization has allowed us access to programming in every area, even if they aren't housed here," said Arp.
The new location offers additional office space for those who work in Worthington on occasion, including community leadership and civic engagement Extension specialist Toby Spanier, community economics specialist Neil Linscheid and financial management specialist Shirley Anderson-Porisch, all of whom are housed in Marshall.
Arp said having a presence in the BAC will allow for the university to connect with bioscience industry as the remainder of the building becomes occupied.
"Just being aware of some of the grants they're working on, the projects they're working on, gives us the ability to connect into the university as needed," she said. "We don't know exactly how that will happen, but we believe it will evolve in a positive way."
The greatest benefit will be the shared access to technology. The BAC was built to include shared classroom space, in addition to common break room and copier area.
"(The WREDC's) plan for technology will allow greater video conferencing capabilities, and we all are noticing more and more webinars," Arp said. "There will be a technology classroom onsite that educators can use."
Glenn Thuringer, WREDC manager, said Extension's presence in the BAC is a great fit for the intent of the facility.
"We think they are a perfect match and will help market the facility because of the programs they administer and the clientele that will be utilizing ... the facility," he said.
"We wanted to make sure that Extension stayed in Worthington," added Dan Greve, WREDC board member. "I think one of the changes within the University of Minnesota, we've been told, is that they will act more as a catalyst for the conduit into the University in specific, targeted areas (such as) science and engineering."
The University of Minnesota isn't the only educational institution to play a role in the developing bioscience park in Worthington. Thuringer said several four-year institutions are aligning themselves with Minnesota West to work with students who go through the soon-to-be-developed training and testing laboratory in the BAC. Articulation agreements have been signed with Southwest Minnesota State University, South Dakota State University and Minnesota State University-Mankato. In addition, community colleges in Salt Lake City, Utah, and Dakota County are also working with WREDC.
Greve said the middle school and high school science efforts will also be involved.
"It starts there, and then is built on with the community and four-year institutions," he said.
The BAC and incubator building project now stands at $5.2 million, which paid for the building, street improvement and development of the bioscience park. Of that total, $4.7 million has been paid for through state and federal grant dollars. The city of Worthington chipped in the remaining $500,000. Income will be generated through rent earned by the building's occupants.