UALR Engineering & IT College Expansion Gets Under Way

Gov. Mike Beebe and University of Arkansas at Little Rock Chancellor Joel E. Anderson on Monday marked the start of construction on the university's $30 million expansion of the Donaghey College of Engineering & Information Technology building.

Beebe, speaking at a ceremony at UALR's Stella Boyle Smith Concert Hall, pledged $4 million from state funds to kick start the project.

UALR dubbed Monday "Connection Day" to show a connection between higher education and economic development.

"Today's Connection Day celebration at UALR is an exciting way to remind all of us about the connection between higher education and economic development," Beebe said. "UALR's new EIT building will be a tremendous catalyst for economic growth, providing more high-tech professionals and applied research to build the economy of our state."

Instead of breaking ground with shovels, construction workers were hoisted onto the EIT's current building to begin work on a skywalk that will connect the old building with the new 120,000-SF expansion

Anderson said the announcement will help the university better serve Arkansans.
"UALR's Engineering and Information Technology program has delivered on our promise to strengthen economic development efforts in Arkansas with more than 800 graduates and a faculty dedicated to solving highly technical problems to keep Arkansas corporations globally competitive," Anderson said. "EIT's rapid growth has brought us to today's ceremony, making the beginning of the most 'technologized' classroom and research building in UALR history.

The building was only introduced today, but the promise of the structure and the expansion of engineering and technology courses at the school have already impacted central Arkansas, said Jay Chesshir, president and CEO of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce

Promise of the EIT building helped attract a wind turbine blade manufacturer to central Arkansas last summer, Chesshir said. Denmark-based LM Glasfiber announced it would build a $150 million production plant and North American headquarters in Little Rock last June. The EIT program's ability to train a larger number of high-tech employees helped recruitment of the Danish company to the Little Rock Port Authority's site move from "lagging behind to competitive," Chesshir said.
"This expansion will help attract the businesses and jobs that we are focused on creating and retaining in central Arkansas and Little Rock," he said. "You either have it and are competitive or you don't have it and you are out of the game.

Chesshir also credited Maria Haley, executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, and Beebe with aiding the recruitment.

Once nicknamed the "CyberCollege," the EIT was created nine years ago by the General Assembly to further "economic development in the knowledge-based economy of the 21st century," UALR said

The college has more than doubled its enrollment of declared majors during that time and received more than $33 million in research funding

EIT Dean Mary L. Good earned applause for her leadership role as the college's founding and current dean

"Gov. Beebe's $4 million commitment from state funds was the catalyst we needed to begin construction immediately," Good said. "He understands the impact this new teaching and research facility at UALR can have on the Arkansas economy for decades to come."

Beebe said the college's graduates will help develop the vision for how industry will progress in Arkansas and the United States. Within the coming years, industry in India and China has set the goal of reaching the U.S.'s current plateau, Beebe said, meaning American industry must look farther ahead.

"The challenge and key for us is to figure out what we'll do 10 to 20 years from now," Beebe said

Good said along with educating young professionals, the college's goal is to foster growth in the engineering and information technology sectors

"It's about creating new companies and helping young companies," Good said.
She has not forgotten many of the private companies and foundations that helped develop the current EIT program, she said

"This is just a tremendous project between private and public entities," Good said. "It's going to change the economic landscape for the state.

Rep Vic Snyder, D-Ark., and UA System President B. Alan Sugg also attended the event

Cromwell Architects Engineers firm designed the building; Nabholz Construction is general contractor.