URI launches campaign to “Engineer Rhode Island’s Future:” Question 4 bond referendum for new engineering facilities

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Skilled engineers are key to job growth, economic development

NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. – September 29, 2014 – Corporate and government leaders joined with University of Rhode Island officials, alumni, faculty and staff and other supporters of bond referendum Question 4 to officially kick off the campaign, “Engineering Rhode Island’s Future,” at Toray Plastics (America) at Quonset Point in North Kingstown.


Approval of the $125 million higher education facilities referendum will fund construction of a new URI engineering building and associated renovations to existing 50-year-old structures. The new facility will meet the state’s need for more highly-educated professionals, expand research capabilities, and provide support to Rhode Island’s defense, manufacturing, biomedical and other industries.


Governor Lincoln D. Chafee, R.I. House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, President and CEO of Toray Plastics (America) Inc. Mike Brandmeier; President and CEO of Taco, Inc. John Hazen White, Jr.; and President and CEO of Hope Global Cheryl Merchant join URI President David M. Dooley and College of Engineering Dean Raymond Wright for the official launch at 10:30 today.


“Engineers are innovators at the frontiers of their disciplines and a crucial part of the state’s economic revitalization,” said Dooley. “We’re seeking to construct a building that will dramatically elevate our teaching and research in engineering, and foster new discoveries that will be the foundation of new companies and stimulate growth in existing Rhode Island companies. We’re looking to build a talented workforce that will help drive Rhode Island’s economic engine.”

“Toray is proud to be one of the first corporations to stand up as a sponsor of the URI College of Engineering bond initiative with our pledge of $2 million toward the project,” said Brandmeier . “We have a long-standing and extremely positive relationship with URI that includes $2 million in prior endowments for undergraduate and graduate scholarships. This relationship runs from the newest URI graduate we hired this summer to the very top of our company with the President of Toray Industries in Japan, Mr. Akihiro Nikkaku. Of the 77 degreed engineers who work at Toray, 23 of them are URI graduates, with more joining our company every year.”


If Question 4 is approved by the voters, the engineering facility project will directly generate nearly 1,500 construction-related and professional service jobs during the three-year period.


According to Dean Wright, the proposed state-of-the-art classrooms and laboratories are key to fostering innovative research demanded by contemporary engineering firms. New facilities will also accommodate a projected 18 percent increase in student enrollment for a college that has seen the number of undergraduates grow by about 39 percent over the last decade.


More than 4,000 URI engineering alumni live in Rhode Island and work at about 750 companies in the state.


o The starting salary for URI engineering graduates ranges from $52,000 to $83,000.

o 90 percent of the 2013 College of Engineering graduates were employed or attending graduate school within six months of graduation.

o 70 percent of the graduates of the Class of 2013 were Rhode Islanders.


Wright said the new facilities would significantly enhance URI’s competitiveness in attracting research opportunities, high-caliber faculty and students. “Every dollar invested in this project will provide exponential returns to the Rhode Island economy,” he said.


The College of Engineering contributes about $142 million to the Rhode Island economy each year, based on a 2013 economic impact study conducted by the Perryman Group. (Editors: please note study is available).

The 195,000-square-foot new building would replace five existing engineering buildings on URI’s Kingston campus – Crawford Hall, Gilbreth Hall, Kelly Hall, Kelly Hall Annex and Wales Hall – all of which opened in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The building would be home to seven of the University’s eight engineering programs: biomedical, chemical, civil, computer, electrical, industrial and systems, and mechanical engineering. Six of the seven buildings that comprise the engineering complex have not undergone any major improvements in more than 50 years.


CEOs and presidents of more than 30 Rhode Island companies have publicly expressed their support for Question 4 and the new engineering building — Amgen, Amtrol, Hexagon Metrology, Electro Standards Laboratories, FM Global, General Dynamics, GTECH, Gilbane, Hasbro, Raytheon, Taco Inc., Teknor Apex and Toray Plastics (America) Inc. are among those companies that not only support the bond, but currently hire URI engineering graduates.


At least 28 Rhode Island companies have been founded by faculty and alumni of the College, and URI engineering faculty members have been awarded 73 patents for their research in the last decade.


The University of Rhode Island has awarded engineering degrees since 1893. The College enrolls 1,316 undergraduate students and 231 graduate students. In addition, the College’s award-winning International Engineering Program provides a global perspective, allowing engineers to graduate with bachelors’ degrees in engineering and a second degree in one of six different languages.


Question 4: $125 million for higher education facilities has been endorsed by:

Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce

Rhode Island Building and Construction Trades Council
Rhode Island Manufacturers Association
Southeastern New England Defense Industry Alliance


Governor Lincoln D. Chafee said, “Toray continues to be a terrific business partner, and I’m glad to see such strong support for our effort to upgrade the URI campus. By investing in higher education, together we are growing our reputation for having a well-educated and skilled workforce that is attractive to companies. We proposed this voter bond issue because this is a smart investment that will pay dividends, and help close an equality gap for our current businesses and those that plan to relocate here.”


R.I. Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello said, “I was proud to make a commitment to place this bond issue on the November ballot because engineering is going to play an important role in fueling economic growth in our state. URI is paving a path toward a brighter future by preparing our students for the jobs in the engineering field, which pay well. My son graduated last May from the College of Engineering, so I know first-hand the excellence that exists at our University — which will only be enhanced with badly needed new facilities.”


John Hazen White, Jr., president and CEO of Taco Inc., said, “As an employer and contributor to the economic vitality of this state, I am fully supportive of the bond issue that will be before the voters and I urge them to vote Yes on 4. Taco and companies like it rely on both the well-trained, highly educated workforce coming out of URI and the research and innovation taking place in University labs. I am confident, as an employer of URI engineering students, that the passage of the referendum and the resulting construction of the new engineering facilities at URI, will contribute significantly to the growth of our state.”


Cheryl Merchant, president and CEO of Hope, said, “As a proud Rhode Island company, Hope Global turns to Rhode Island’s flagship public engineering school for highly-skilled interns and employees. URI engineering students are talented, creative problem solvers, well prepared to thrive in an international business environment. We say “Yes on 4” — for Rhode Island’s bright future.”


Pictured above


RALLYING SUPPORT: From left, Rep. Nicholas A. Mattiello, speaker of the Rhode Island House of Representatives; Cheryl Merchant, president and chief executive officer of Hope Global; Raymond M. Wright, dean of URI’s College of Engineering and David M. Dooley, URI president, talk about the “Vote Yes on 4” campaign in support of a $125 million bond issue to build new engineering facilities at URI.


URI President David M. Dooley is surrounded by campaign signs as he speaks about the importance of the referendum to URI and the Rhode Island economy.


Taco Inc. President and CEO John Hazen White Jr. makes a point as he addresses the crowd of supporters at the Question 4 kick-off event.


URI photos by Nora Lewis.


Artist’s rendering of the new College of Engineering