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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

South Kingstown Chamber of Commerce Endorses Referendum Question 2

Media Contact: Wendy Roworth, 401-874-2773

Bond referendum essential to Rhode Island’s economic revitalization, job growth.

KINGSTON – October 15, 2010 --- The Board of Directors of the South Kingstown Chamber of Commerce voted unanimously this week to endorse passage of Question 2, a statewide bond referendum on the Nov. 2 ballot that will provide $61 million for a state-of-the-art chemistry facility at the University of Rhode Island and $17 million for the renovation and construction of an addition to Rhode Island College’s Art Center.

Supporters of Question 2 agree that approval of this bond referendum is essential to Rhode Island’s economic revitalization and job growth. The new Center for Chemical and Forensic Sciences at URI will help local businesses looking to hire workers in the sciences, health care, and other high-tech industries.

“With the University of Rhode Island in our backyard, the Chamber sees firsthand the importance of URI’s faculty and students to the growth and revitalization of Rhode Island’s economy,” said Joseph J. Iacoi, executive director of the chamber. “A successful URI means a successful South Kingstown. Voting yes on Question 2 will ensure that URI continues to produce talented graduates prepared to take on the knowledge economy jobs of the future.”

Passage of Question 2 will ensure that students are educated with leading edge technology and training that will help them compete and succeed in the job market, preventing them from having to leave the state in search of jobs.

“We are grateful for the support from our hometown, local SK chamber,“ said Robert Beagle, URI vice president for advancement. “URI and the Chamber have a positive relationship, realizing that we complement each other’s work in helping South Kingstown remain a strong and attractive community. The Center for Chemical and Forensic Sciences is not only essential to URI, but to South Kingstown and to the state. Endorsement from our Chamber and its board of directors will be significant to our efforts to pass this referendum,” added Beagle.

Together, the URI and RIC projects are expected to create an estimated 1,200 jobs in the construction trades, engineering, management, teaching, and research fields over the next five years.

The new chemistry center will replace the outmoded and nearly 60-year-old Pastore Hall, which opened in 1953 when 800 students took chemistry courses each year. Today more than 6,000 students take chemistry courses, and about 40 percent of all URI degree programs require at least one chemistry course.

To be twice the size of Pastore, the new 120,000-square-foot Center will have triple the amount of space for teaching labs and nearly double the space for research labs. The total student capacity in laboratories will increase by more than 50 percent, from 1,200 to 1,900 students per semester, addressing a critical bottleneck that has hampered growth in pharmacy, nursing, biotechnology, engineering, and many other fields.