The Sioux Falls City Council is set to pass an ordinance that will provide $3.5 million in funding to the University of South Dakota Discovery District.
The council voted to pass a first reading of the ordinance on Tuesday evening. The order will require a second approval vote before being finalized.
Councilman Curt Soehl told Chief Argus before the meeting that $4 million would actually go from the city to the Discovery District, with the $3.5 million coming from current general funds and an additional $500,000 that was in in what Soehl described as an account of the discovery district. for the city for several years now.
“Tonight we’re clearing that up, ‘Here’s our money,'” Soehl told frontman Argus. “We are ready to write the check.”
Councilwoman Christine Erickson pointed to the Discovery District’s beginnings in 2001 and last July, when council passed a statement that this funding was one of its priorities.
“We want our brightest and best to stay here in South Dakota,” Erickson said, noting the high salaries some of the Discovery District jobs will bring to area graduates.
The USD is requesting a total of $25 million in state, private and public funding for the project, with $15 million already coming from the Discovery District through Bill 1210 and $4 million from the city.
SHU President Sheila Gestring said she is still working to secure the remaining $6 million needed for the Discovery District through private partnerships.
Who is involved in the Discovery District?
Typical tenants of a research park like USD’s Discovery District include companies with seed funding and immediate space needs, and companies in advanced research and development, through to commercialization early.
Inquiries from potential tenants to date include “peripheral arterial disease preclinical research and development company”, “bio-market medical device company”, “multi-state prosthetics and orthotics company” , a “pharmaceutical/managed care company for quality management and accreditation,” and a “research unit of a multinational corporation,” according to USD.
Gestring said one of the goals is to bring students from the USD biomedical engineering program who may have created an article or developed a new technology, and then they start a small business that needs to be incubated.
They do this at the Center for Higher Education and Applied Research (GEAR), and then the business could evolve to a stage where they move into the Discovery District, for example, Gestring told the council.
Gestring said some companies from other states have shown interest in the Discovery District, but they don’t have time to wait for USD officials to build the facilities. They need a pre-built space so they can move in immediately, she explained.
“(The Discovery District) will help us retain the best and brightest scientific minds from South Dakota State students,” Gestring said. “They can live and work here in South Dakota instead of having to go somewhere around Minneapolis and do very similar work.”
Discovery District Timeline
Gestring told Chief Argus that establishing a research park is a long-term endeavor that can take up to 25 years.
The first phase of the Discovery District began with securing a $4.2 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration to build the GEAR Center in 2003, then donating 252 acres of the Great Plains Education Foundation in 2006.
In 2009, the legislature passed a bill designating 80 acres of this land for a research park. That year, the GEAR Center was also completed to house the USD Biomedical Engineering Ph.D. program, a good manufacturing practices facility, an incubator, a laboratory, an office and a classroom.
In 2012, the legislature also passed a bill authorizing the Board of Regents to establish research park corporations and develop research parks on lands controlled by the BOR. The following year, the initial 80-acre land lease was signed between the BOR and USD Research Park, Inc.
In 2014, the Legislature allocated $500,000 for the expansion of the GEAR Center and $500,000 for the infrastructure of the SHU Research Park. That year, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development also committed up to $867,000 to equip and operate the facility.
The second phase of the Discovery District’s development began in 2016 with a $755,000 Economic Development Administration grant awarded for infrastructure, then the following year the completion of Frances Avenue and Nobel Street at a cost total of $1.5 million.
In 2018, the city’s $1.5 million infrastructure funding agreement was also executed. In 2020, work was also completed for Haines Street and Pell Avenue at a total cost of $639,121, and planning began for streets, streetscapes, and parking.
Phase three of the Discovery District development is underway as USD secures financing for construction of the 50,000 square foot multi-tenant building. One-third of the building will house anchor tenants, and two-thirds of the building will be constructed for core and shell.
City funding for the Discovery District will go to second reading at the April 13 meeting.