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The New Jersey Life Sciences Vendors Alliance (NJLSVA) is a coalition of businesses, individuals and academia who provide goods and services to New Jersey’s life sciences companies.

The NJLSVA was founded to educate suppliers on trends in industry procurement and public policy that affects the life sciences industry.

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Opinion: Top-Notch Facilities on the Way for NJ Colleges

Trenton, NJ, December 2, 2013The Record has published the following guest opinion column by Michael W. Klein, J.D., Ph.D., executive director/CEO of the New Jersey Association of State Colleges and Universities:

 One year ago, more than 1.5 million New Jersey residents voted in favor of the Building Our Future bond referendum.  The bond issue was approved last November by 62.7 percent of all who cast a ballot.

To the voters of New Jersey, the leaders of the state colleges and universities are deeply grateful.  These institutions now want to solidify their trust and confidence as we construct facilities backed by the bonds.  We want New Jerseyans to know that their decision was the right one, providing a smart and worthy investment of precious public dollars.

To the voters of New Jersey, the leaders of the state colleges and universities are deeply grateful.  These institutions now want to solidify their trust and confidence as we construct facilities backed by the bonds.  We want New Jerseyans to know that their decision was the right one, providing a smart and worthy investment of precious public dollars.

About $1.3 billion in bond proceeds, including those from Building Our Future bonds and other recently renewed bond programs under the New Jersey Educational Facilities Authority (NJEFA), will generate jobs and give our students and faculty the top-notch facilities they deserve.

These facilities projects, many of which are underway and beginning to stimulate statewide, regional and local economic activity through construction and other jobs, will help keep the Garden State competitive and help keep more students in their home state.  They will support and enhance classroom learning, research, public service and regional development. All of these benefits should be measurable and should be shared with the public. Institutions are planning to do just that.

Projects at our institutions in Mercer County are well underway. The College of New Jersey is working with a nationally renowned architectural engineering team to design its science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) complex, including the proposed new STEM building and related renovations of existing facilities.  Much work is being done to prepare the site for construction, including demolishing an old academic building, Holman Hall.  The contract for that work should be awarded soon, and construction is expected to start next year.

Thomas Edison State College is building a 34,702-square-foot nursing education center at the former site of the dilapidated Glen Cairn Arms apartment complex. Built in 1926, the Glen Cairn Arms was a five-story complex that had been vacant for more than 20 years and became a blight at one of the city’s key gateways.  The demolition of the apartments began last September and is expected to be completed by the end of this month. The college will begin the bidding process for the construction of the nursing education center in January 2014.  Construction is expected to begin in March 2014 and be completed by September 2015.  The center will house a patient simulation laboratory, auditoriums, lecture halls and academic staff.

Bond-supported projects at the other state colleges and universities will serve a variety of educational programs and functions.  They include multipurpose academic buildings, science centers and business school buildings.  The buildings will provide labs, lecture halls, high-tech classrooms, research space, greenhouses and computer labs.  The new facilities will serve more students and, in some instances, enable enrollment in certain programs to double.

These new buildings will serve the future of our students and our state’s economy.  Our new facilities, with 21st-century technology, will pave the way for thousands of additional students who want to enter the high-demand science, mathematics, engineering and technology fields, and the health science, finance and teaching professions, which are all critical to New Jersey’s economy.

University and college leaders have every reason to make sure the construction funds are well-spent and provide the types of learning and research spaces students richly deserve.  Not only are their institutions’ funds on the line — institutions must pay for 25 percent of the cost of facilities supported by the Building Our Future bonds — they also recognize that state funds will be very closely watched by officials and the general public. There will be layers of approval, including many state processes and regulations.

Thus far, things are going smoothly. State agencies, including the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education, NJEFA and the Attorney General’s Office, are working closely with bond counsel and our institutions to assure that each project adheres to guidelines for tax-exempt status, a necessary step before institutions execute grant agreements and receive state funds.

How effectively presidents, boards and other administrators at the state colleges and universities meet these responsibilities is important for several reasons.  First, it is the right thing to do.  Second, it will influence whether the public’s trust has been well-placed.  Third, it could determine whether the state invests in higher education facilities again soon.

Our association and our institutions’ leaders accept these challenges and pledge to continue to earn New Jerseyans’ trust in investing in their state’s future.

Michael W. Klein, J.D., Ph.D., is executive director/CEO of the New Jersey Association of State Colleges and Universities, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization whose members are: The College of New Jersey, Kean University, Montclair State University, New Jersey City University, Ramapo College of New Jersey, The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, Rowan University, Thomas Edison State College and William Paterson University.