Public, private funding planned for engineering complex
Gov. Bobby Jindal announced Tuesday a $100 million public-private partnership to renovate LSU’s Patrick F. Taylor Hall and turn it into a state-of-the-art engineering education complex.
Jindal said he will support $50 million in capital outlay funding for the venture. That money has to be approved by the state Legislature and the state Bond Commission before the project can move forward.
The remaining $50 million needed for the renovation is expected to be raised through private donations.
LSU’s College of Engineering, formerly called the Center for Engineering and Business Administration, has already raised about $8 million for the project, Jindal said.
LSU System President and Baton Rouge Chancellor William Jenkins said he’s optimistic that LSU can raise $42 million before the scheduled start of construction two years from now.
“We’ve got to get busy. We are at the start of the campaign and we have been in touch with our alumni and those who have an interest in the College of Engineering,” Jenkins said. “We believe they can help us.”
Jenkins called the renovation a component of maintaining LSU as a high-value and “comprehensive, research-focused” university for the state.
Jindal also weighed in on the statewide implications of renovating the 35-year-old, 300,000-square-foot building. He called the new construction essential to attract highly-qualified engineering students, faculty and researchers.
Estimates from the state’s higher education management board, the Louisiana Board of Regents and the Louisiana Workforce Commission predict the need for larger numbers — about 330 per year — of engineering and construction management graduates to meet current demand, Jindal said.
“States that are going to compete in today’s economy have to have the most skilled and productive workforce,” he said.
Roughly 560 students earn bachelor’s degrees from LSU’s College of Engineering each year, putting the school in the top 10 nationally.
According to a news release from Jindal’s press office, engineers in Louisiana typically earn salaries ranging from $83,000 to $108,000 per year plus benefits.
The renovated engineering facility should include new laboratories for teaching and research, expanded areas for student services, an academic support center, and several new spaces for graduate and undergraduate students.
A planned new annex dedicated to chemical engineering is also in the works, raising the area of the entire complex to more than 380,000 square feet.
LSU estimates the architectural design phase of the project will start in December, while construction should begin in fall 2014. The entire project is expected to be completed by fall 2016.
Rick Koubek, dean of LSU’s College of Engineering, said the investment in Taylor Hall will be a boon for the school as it pursues research opportunities.
The investment, Koubek said, will “prepare the next-generation engineering workforce with the skills needed to lead the industries driving our state’s economy.”
LSU’s plans for Taylor Hall share some similarities with the 14-years-in-the-making Business Education Complex next door, which was christened earlier this year.
That project was originally planned as a $60 million, 50-50, public-private venture, but LSU struggled to raise the private funds during lean economic times. However, the economic downturn led to a buyer’s market for construction jobs and lowered the total construction cost, putting the final price tag closer to $56 million.
The state ended up contributing about $27 million for the Business Education Complex building; LSU raised $18 million in funds; with the remaining money coming from an $8 million bridge loan from the private, nonprofit LSU Foundation.