Gov. Dannel P. Malloy today announced an $864 million plan to make the University of Connecticut Health Center, with a renewed John Dempsey Hospital and expanded medical and dental schools, a focal point of the state’s economic recovery.
The plan, called Bioscience Connecticut, would reportedly generate more than 16,000 permanent, high-quality jobs by 2037 and 3,000 construction jobs per year until 2018.
“This is what this investment is about,” Malloy said. “It’s not about beds or about researchers or students. It’s about the future of Connecticut.”
The plan has a number of benefits, according to Malloy: both short-term and long-term job creation, enticing the state’s top talent to stay in the state and help resolve an anticipated physician shortage and securing a place for UConn in the top tier of the country’s medical and dental schools. The plan would also solve the health center’s chronic financial problems, Malloy said and bolster the Hartford area by growing and attracting bioscience companies.
The project comes with a big price tag. Though Malloy’s plan includes $338 million in previously approved bonding, the legislature would have to approve $254 million in new bonding, while $203 million in private fundraising and $69 million from the health center would be required.
State Rep. William Wadsworth (R-Farmington) isn’t worried about the cost.
“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity,” he said. “The investment we make today will generate enough private dollars in research and in the bioscience area especially, that over the long run it will recoup more than we’re putting into it.”
And for Farmington, it’s wonderful, Town Council Chairman Mike Clark said.
“It’s great for the community and for job growth. We’ve partnered with the university in setting up the enterprise zone to increase bioscience industry presence in Farmington,” he said. “We look at it as a great investment in the community.”
The investment includes $155 million to renovate the health center, $318 million to construct a new patient tower and a garage and $163 million for a new ambulatory care center. The improvements would allow for greater research capacity, more scientists and expanded incubator facilities. It would also allow for 30 percent increase in enrollment across the medical and dental schools.
State legislators clustered around Malloy at the health center were supportive and the crowd of doctors and students, exultant.
“The bold step this governor is helping us take clearly shows his passion for creating jobs,” said Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Catherine Smith. “This is an investment that will pay back for many years to come.”
Sen. Terry Gerratana (D-6), co-chair of the General Assembly’s Public Health Committee, who also represents the part of Farmington where UConn is located, agreed.
“The UConn Health Center is our only public health research center in the state, and its focus on translational research—finding new cures and treatments that can be put quickly into meaningful medical practice—is an essential component in creating a bioscience corridor.”
UConn President-Designate Susan Herbst joined Malloy in calling the plan a way to transform UConn into an economic driver.
“The new discoveries and innovations that result will produce technologies that can be transferred to industry, strengthening the competitiveness of existing Connecticut businesses and creating new enterprises,” she said.
Speaking for the UConn community, she said, “Connecticut can count on UConn to make this a successful venture. It’s not risky at all.”