Building a Healthier Nebraska initiative will create jobs, strengthen health care workforce
Student at microscope Building a Healthier Nebraska initiative will create jobs, strengthen health care workforce

The University of Nebraska will receive substantial state support for a nursing and allied health project at Kearney, a new cancer research tower at the medical center and a new Veterinary Diagnostic Center in Lincoln thanks to a budget package approved by the Legislature and signed this month by Gov. Dave Heineman.

The package includes support for three of the four capital projects that comprised the university’s Building a Healthier Nebraska initiative, which was announced in January:

  • $15 million for a building addition at the University of Nebraska at Kearney to house an expanded University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Nursing Kearney division and a new UNK-based UNMC School of Allied Health Professions.
  • $50 million for a cancer research tower at UNMC, part of a larger cancer center project that will position UNMC to earn prestigious Comprehensive Cancer Center designation from the National Institutes of Health.
  • A commitment to pay the debt service on a $50 million bond for a new Veterinary Diagnostic Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Institute for Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Each of the projects also requires a commitment of private or other funds. The fourth component of Building a Healthier Nebraska, a new College of Nursing Lincoln facility, was not funded this legislative session.

NU President James B. Milliken said: “When completed, these projects will meet workforce needs, create high-quality jobs, improve health care and expand educational opportunities for young people in our state. I want to thank all those who supported Building a Healthier Nebraska throughout the legislative session, including our key sponsors and supporters of the capital projects and Chairman Heidemann and the other members of the Appropriations Committee. The Governor’s support gave us the critical momentum we need to raise private dollars and move our Building a Healthier Nebraska initiative forward.” He added, “Finally, my thanks to all the Nebraskans who have testified, spoken and written in support of this initiative over the past few months. The positive reaction Building a Healthier Nebraska has generated around the state has been gratifying and I could not be more appreciative.”

UNK has announced a campaign to raise the $4 million necessary to complete funding for the nursing and allied health project. In addition, the state’s $50 million investment in the cancer research tower is expected to be leveraged with $200 million in private funding plus $120 million in debt assumed by The Nebraska Medical Center to complete the full cancer center project.

Milliken noted that the projects will create a significant number of new, well-paying jobs for Nebraska. Construction alone for the Kearney health project, cancer research tower and Veterinary Diagnostic Center is expected to create nearly 5,800 jobs and $700 million in economic activity, according to the university’s economic impact analysis. On an ongoing basis, Building a Healthier Nebraska is projected to support more than 4,700 jobs and $543 million in economic activity.

These are among the reasons the initiative was supported by a wide range of individuals and groups across the state, including the state, Lincoln, Omaha and Kearney chambers of commerce; the Nebraska Bankers Association; leading agricultural groups such as Ag Builders of Nebraska, Nebraska Cattlemen and Nebraska Farm Bureau; and others.

If private fundraising benchmarks are met, the Kearney health facility is expected to open in fall of 2014. Nursing enrollment would grow by about 40 – to more than 160 – by 2017-18. Currently, the Kearney nursing division turns away about 50 percent of qualified applicants. Enrollment in the new UNK-based allied health professions school would be about 50 by 2017-18; the UNMC school accepts only 25 percent of applicants.

The cancer center is projected to be completed in 2016. The Veterinary Diagnostic Center also is projected to open that year, providing a high-quality, accredited center for Nebraska’s veterinarians and livestock producers.

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