Tarleton State University and Texas A&M AgriLife leaders broke ground this morning on the new Research and Economic Development Building that aims to create an innovation ecosystem to accelerate sponsored research and strengthen regional partnerships.

Tarleton will share the $7 million facility, located at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Stephenville, with Texas A&M AgriLife Research and the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

“This is a watershed moment for Tarleton State, Texas A&M AgriLife and the entire Texas A&M University System,” said Tarleton State University President James Hurley. “Today marks the beginning of the next chapter in our 124-year commitment to academic distinction and community connections that lift the living standard, empower the workforce and drive economic prosperity.”

The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents approved the new building in May, with move-in set for fall 2024. Construction dollars come from the Permanent University Fund, an endowment created in 1876 by the Texas Constitution to support the Texas A&M and University of Texas higher education systems. Funds received by Tarleton are restricted to capital improvements.

Tarleton State broke ground Nov. 1 on a $7 million Research and Economic Development Building in Stephenville. The university will share the facility with Texas A&M AgriLife Research and the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. Top photo, from left, are Vic Seidel, executive associate vice chancellor and chief operating officer for Texas A&M AgriLife; Dr. Cliff Lamb, director of Texas A&M AgriLife Research; A&M System Chancellor John Sharp; Tarleton President Dr. James Hurley and Dr. Rupa Iyer, vice president for Tarleton’s Division of Research, Innovation and Economic Development. The new 10,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art building (artist’s renderings) will be at U.S. Highway 281 and East Lingleville Road. (Courtesy photo)

New opportunities for collaboration

“This building will help bring new collaboration and more research dollars to Stephenville, changing the whole region for the better,” said John Sharp, chancellor of The Texas A&M University System. “Today’s groundbreaking shows the strength of the A&M System working together and serving regional needs.”

Today’s historic event comes on the heels of a grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration that will enable Tarleton State to operate as an EDA University Center — the only one in North Central Texas and one of just 73 nationwide. In addition to $650,000 in EDA funding, regional partners are matching the grant in-kind for a total $1.3 million over five years.

The EDA University Center will join Tarleton’s new Institute for Rural Economic Development and Research, also approved by the regents this spring, in the new 10,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art Research and Economic Development Building, and the university’s Small Business Development Center will relocate there.

“This is more than a building, this is a continuation of our collaboration with Tarleton State University, and it’s a relationship that we hold dear,” said Jeffrey W. Savell, Ph.D., Vice Chancellor and Dean for Agriculture and Life Sciences at Texas A&M. “Together we’re taking another step to create innovative and science-based solutions that showcase Texas as a national model.” 

Hurley concurred. “For us today, the word ‘groundbreaking’ is far more than the literal turning of dirt. It is groundbreaking research that meets the critical challenges of our region, our state and our nation. It’s the groundbreaking alliance of Tarleton State and Texas A&M AgriLife researchers who dare to imagine a better world.”

Supporting research advancements

Among other topics, researchers are championing plant-based materials to improve water safety; innovative smart climate practices; enhanced rural communications and healthcare; healthier pollinators for increased food production; and greater transportation efficiency.

Rupa Iyer, Ph.D., vice president for Tarleton State’s Division of Research, Innovation and Economic Development, called the Research and Economic Development Building an investment in the university’s faculty and faculty-mentored research. She mentioned Tarleton’s largest-ever increase in total and restricted research expenditures, $20 million, and an almost 30-point jump in Higher Education Research and Development rankings to 290 from 319.

“No university team is doing more to enhance quality of life and deliver a life-changing education,” she said. “We’re going beyond what’s known to shape what’s possible. AgriLife will be a worthy partner in this endeavor.”

AgriLife Research has nearly doubled its grant awards in the past year, noted its director, G. Cliff Lamb, Ph.D. “We are excited to share in this success and create meaningful ways to collaborate with Tarleton State for agriculture and life sciences to reach new heights in Stephenville and across Texas.”

Angela Burkham, Ed.D., executive associate director of AgriLife Extension, said she looks forward to working with the university to bring AgriLife Extension programming and more service opportunities to the community.

“We’re so pleased to partner with Tarleton on this exciting facility,” she said.

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