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USU gets $15 million to build Vernal research center

The Entrepreneurship and Energy Research Center, to be built with a $15 million donation, is seen in an artist's rendering.
The Entrepreneurship and Energy Research Center, to be built with a $15 million donation, is seen in an artist's rendering.
Entrepreneurship Academy Research Center

A satellite campus for Utah State University in Vernal began two years ago with a generous land donation and is now the location for the school's largest-ever private gift.

A $15 million research center is in the works for USU's Uintah Basin campus, thanks to Utah businessman Marc Bingham and his wife, Debbie Bingham, who felt the money could benefit the campus, which is in their hometown.

"Mr. Bingham has come home to Vernal in an exceptional way," said Robert Foley, chairman of the education committee for the Vernal area Chamber of Commerce and a member of the USU's Board of Trustees. "This gift of education challenges everyone in the basin to learn more, achieve more and be all they can be."

The Entrepreneurship and Energy Resource Center will be a state-of-the-art, high-tech educational facility to train students in business, entrepreneurship, accounting, engineering, water management, natural resources, environmental policy and other programs. The design and programming phase for the building has already begun and construction is expected to begin early next year, with completion one year from breaking ground.

Bingham is a USU graduate and Utah entrepreneur. In 1971 he founded the Phone Directories Co., which has become one of the most successful independent publishers in the yellow page industry. He and his wife, who works with many pro-education causes, have also made donations to the College of Eastern Utah and are very involved in nature and conservation efforts in the Vernal area.

"Mr. Bingham's contribution will have lasting effects on the educational culture and environment in the Uintah Basin," said USU President Stan L. Albrecht. "It will raise the level of education and the quality of life in the basin. But, most important for the community, it will support the Utah State University's broader effort to help the basin recruit its own, educate its own and return them to the local community as educated citizens, business people and leaders."

The Vernal campus started with 138 acres of land from Vernal businessman Bob Williams, and other gifts from individuals, businesses and government entities have allowed it to grow quickly to offer the area educational opportunities through USU. The Binghams' gift will fund the second building on the campus and will be used jointly by the USU branch and the Uintah Basin Applied Technology College.

Albrecht said worldwide demand for Utah's mineral resources and a continued interest in energy from traditional and new alternative sources has put Vernal, Uintah County and the basin at the center of national and international focus, which is why the proposed building is a perfect match for the area.

Officials hope the center will help Utah, the region and the nation to develop energy resources more efficiently by enabling teams of professionals from key disciplines to work together with government, business and community partners to create synergistic solutions and to foster entrepreneurship.