WMU News

New health and human services home to be built on South Campus

Jan. 21, 2000

KALAMAZOO -- A new $45 million home for WMU's College of Health and Human Services will be built on the University's South Campus property, thanks to late December approval by Gov. John Engler of a state capital outlay bill.

The bill, signed by the governor Dec. 29, 1999, begins the planning process for facilities that will bring the college, now scattered in eight locations around the campus, together under one roof for the first time in its 24-year history. The new home for the college's 1,800 students and eight departments will be located on Oakland Drive on the former Kalamazoo Psychiatric Hospital property that was transferred to the University just over a year ago.

The bill making that possible, House Bill #4297, also included approval for the University to proceed with planning for a $6.5 million facility at Lake Michigan Community College in Benton Harbor. When complete, that building will serve as a new home to WMU's Southwest Michigan Regional Center.
WMU President Elson S. Floyd was joined by area legislators and community leaders for a Jan. 6 news conference to announce the funding developments and the collaborative work that went into making the HHS funding part of the deal.

"We believe that this project will have a significant impact not only on our University but on our community, the region and the state," Floyd told those attending. "We are deeply indebted to the Michigan Legislature and Gov. Engler for their support of this most important project. I especially want to thank Senate appropriations chairman Harry Gast for his steadfast support of this project."

Joining Floyd at the news conference were a number of legislative and community leaders instrumental in securing the funding for the University. They included Michigan House Speaker Charles Perricone; Donald R. Parfet, senior vice president of Pharmacia & Upjohn; and Barry Broome of Southwest Michigan First, a Kalamazoo-based economic development agency.

Also present were Kalamazoo area legislators Edward LaForge, Dale Shugars and Jerry L. VanderRoest.
Floyd noted that it was the potential for expanded collaboration between the University and Pharmacia & Upjohn that tipped the scales in the University's favor when Engler considered signing the bill. The governor has directed University and P&U officials to engage in talks with the Michigan Economic Development Corp. to lay plans that will maximize that potential and foster new economic development in the region.

"We will use every possible resource that we have at the University to add value to our relationship with P & U and to make our region a leader in health sciences and human sciences," Floyd pledged. "It is my hope that we we'll also expand the scope of these discussions to include other partners in West Michigan that will also benefit from this form of collaboration."

Parfet added his support to the arrangement, noting that his firm has had "a very long and substantive relationship" with the University and already was doing collaborative research in the fields of chemistry and biological sciences. He predicted expanded collaborative work with the College of Health and Human Services and raised the prospect of being able to tap into the state's recently announced life sciences initiative that is being funded with tobacco settlement money.

"We've heard about the exciting developments with the Michigan life sciences corridor initiative," Parfet said. "I just think that we're going to see a very wide life sciences corridor running right through Kalamazoo County. We at Pharmacia & Upjohn look forward to engaging ourselves in that, working with Western and with any other partners that want to engage in that collaborative work."

Perricone praised the community partnerships that made the funding possible and said the University's success on the project heralded a new era in the Michigan legislature in which funding decisions will reflect the merit of the proposal and the accomplishments of the institution asking for funding.

"Now we have put in place a rating system-a point system-proposed by Sen. Harry Gast and Rep. Jon Jellema, our vice chair of appropriations in the House, that would base the applications for funding on merit," Perricone said. "It was a point system. Western came in second and third respectively on the list for the Lake Michigan College project and for this project and the governor honored that."

Floyd thanked Perricone, Gast, Jellema and the community partners who helped make the funding request a success.

"We put out a call to help the University secure this new campus for health and human services," Floyd said. "We believe, fundamentally, that we play a major, major role in this region, in this community and in this state. The only way that we can do it as an institution is with your support, and this coup represents the support that we have and we thank you very much."

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 616 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu


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