THUNDER BAY – Lakehead University is $1 million closer to meeting the capital and equipment costs for its new building.
Thunder Bay city council on Monday night unanimously approved the university’s seven-figure ask for the Centre for Advanced Studies in Engineering and Sciences, a project that has a total $26.2 million price tag.
“We will be able to attract and retain a highly skilled workforce in Thunder Bay. Right here in our community, which will include international student graduates,” said Deb Comuzzi, the university’s vice president of external relations.
“If we do this right, they will stay.”
The 24,000-square-foot building, which is being constructed on the site of the former natural resources and forestry building, will include space for a number of the school’s Canada Research Chairs.
The building will host a laboratory management training program and the Lakehead University Centre for Analytical Services, which will include transmission electron microscopes and an x-ray photoelectron spectroscope. Other specialized laboratories would be included for integrated freshwater science, human origins and biomass utilization.
“It’s extremely essential we provide the best tools and opportunities for these chairs and high-performing researchers to do that work without the concerns about whether something might break or if it’s not going to be state-of-the-art,” said Andrew Dean, Lakehead’s vice president of research and innovation.
Another component of the building is the 4,300-square-foot Ingenuity business incubator space, which Dean said will work alongside other entrepreneurial supports already operating in Thunder Bay.
Dean said the hope is to have 25 to 30 new start-up companies coming out of the university in its first five years.
“These work,” Dean said.
“It gives students the opportunity to find something new, something exciting that contributes to the economy. I think what’s important is that students today don’t just graduate and go to a company that they’re going to be there for 20 to 30 years. They create their own businesses, they create their own small to medium enterprises and they work with the local community.”
The university last year released the results of a study that found Lakehead has a $1.4 billion economic impact in Ontario, including an up to $1 billion effect on the local economy.
“It’s one of the biggest economic drivers in our community and our area,” Coun. Larry Hebert said. “This is a no-brainer as far as I’m concerned to support.”
The money will be contributed over five years through the Renew Thunder Bay reserve fund, which city treasurer Linda Evans said was a result of the funding being highly leveraged.
The funding brings Lakehead to a little more than $2 million short of the target. The project had already received contributions of $9 million from the federal government and another $6.5 million from the province. Comuzzi said the university will begin a fundraising campaign to get to the final amount.
Lakehead had previously received $1 million from city council in 2008 for research expansion. Confederation College had received $500,000 from the city through the Thunder Bay Community Economic Development Commission for their TEC Hub.