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Ivy Tech opens new life sciences center

Jef Akst | IDS | Date: 1/25/2009

Officials held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday for a new life sciences center, they hope will help train students to meet the thousand-plus life science jobs they expect to be created in the coming years.

Ivy Tech-Bloomington and the Monroe County government had a ceremony Friday for the new Indiana Center for Life Sciences, which opened Jan. 12 – just in time for classes.

Ivy Tech Community College joined forces with the county government and several biotechnology corporations in the area to construct a 20,000-square-foot building dedicated to education in the life sciences.

The building currently ushers about 800 students through its classrooms each week. Last Friday, Ivy Tech Chancellor John Whikehart, several Monroe County Commissioners and a number of local dignitaries gathered for the ceremony.

“We want to make certain that we are recognizing that the building is not just an Ivy Tech academic building, but it has far greater implications and applications than that,” Whikehart said at the grand opening ceremonies.

The center is aimed at providing industry-specific training to individuals entering careers in life sciences. It boasts four scientific laboratories, three classrooms and an expansive 5,000-square-foot training suite that can be used to simulate real working conditions.

“It’s awesome. We went from one biotech lab to four labs now,” said Katie Noel, recent biotechnology graduate of Ivy Tech and current biotechnology lab assistant at the new building. “We have a lot more room to spread out and a lot more room for growth.”

The land on which the building now stands is owned by Ivy Tech. But it is located in a Tax Increment Financing district, which allowed the Monroe County Redevelopment Commission to finance the construction with a $5 million bond.

“Part of the beauty of this building is the partnership that brought it from concept to construction to completion in just about two years,” said Barry Lessow, president of the Monroe County Redevelopment Commission.

Ivy Tech works closely with its industry partners, Cook Inc., Cook Pharmica, BioConvergence, Boston Scientific and Baxter. Together, they develop curricula for certificate programs that will meet the current demands of the industry.

In addition, many of the partners will use the building to train current and future employees.

The industry also provides the growing demand for biotechnology professionals.
“It was projected that over the next few years, as many as 1,200 to 1,400 new life sciences jobs would be created throughout this region,” said Dan Peterson, vice president for Industry and Government Affairs of Cook Group Inc.

Monroe County is already a leader in the biotechnology industry.

Monroe County has a life sciences employment rate six times greater than the national average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Officials said they hope the Indiana Center for Life Sciences will increase the number of people trained in life sciences.

“This is a very unique relationship,” Whikehart said. “You’ve got industry, government and Ivy Tech working together in partnership and collaboration to make something like this happen.”

The collaboration has already brought in several local and state awards and is a finalist for the Bellwether Award, a national honor that recognizes innovative programs in community colleges.

“There’s never been anything else happen like this in Indiana,” county commissioner Patrick Stoffers said.