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Don't forget this region, governor

Published February 17. 2013 4:00AM

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy recently announced yet another proposal for the state to make a large investment - this time in the University of Connecticut - to stimulate growth in science, technology and engineering jobs. And once again southeastern Connecticut was conspicuous by its absence.

Gov. Malloy wants the legislature to approve borrowing $1.54 billion to build and improve research laboratories, information technology, expanded classroom space and other infrastructure necessary to accommodate 6,580 new students in science and engineering fields and expand UConn's role as a research center. He would spend another $286 million over a decade to expand faculty in these fields.

The big winners would be the main campus at Storrs and the Stamford campus. Seemingly forgotten in all this expansion planning was the Avery Point campus in Groton. We don't get it. Avery Point, with its well-regarded Marine Sciences program appears a natural place to expand science and technology opportunities. A two-year engineering program, which will feed into the School of Engineering at Storrs, begins this fall.

The campus' proximity to major science, technology and engineering employers - Pfizer, Electric Boat, Millstone Power Station, as well as the many smaller companies that collaborate with them - could make Avery Point a potential pipeline for employment growth. Given the resources, Avery Point would provide a great opportunity to target non-traditional students coming from urban centers and families who have no experience with a college-level education.

UConn President Susan Herbst told a reporter that a lack of room to expand is a problem at Avery Point. We disagree. The Coast Guard recently vacated its facilities at Avery Point, relocating to the Fort Trumbull area in New London, and if those outdated buildings were razed it would leave plenty of room for expansion and perhaps for the first time, dormitories.

None of the "First Five," or the six, seven and eight that followed in receiving state aid to open or expand businesses, will build in this area. Farmington is getting Jackson Laboratories. It is hard for this area not to feel ignored.

We welcome a bill introduced by local lawmakers that would require the Department of Economic and Community Development to develop plans to encourage startup bioscience and pharmaceutical businesses in southeastern Connecticut. Pfizer has available a massive research and development building, now vacant, that for a relatively modest investment, and without need for new construction, could expand bioscience business opportunities. Without a buyer, Pfizer will raze it, and Groton will lose $2 million in property taxes annually.

Are you listening, governor?

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