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Why future plans at University of Utah Research Park need help from Congress

Federal government holds minor interest on former BLM land

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An aerial view of Research Park in Salt Lake City.

An aerial view of Research Park in Salt Lake City, pictured Monday, Dec. 20, 2021.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Future plans for the highly successful University of Utah Research Park need a little help from Congress.

Utah’s congressional delegation, led by Sen. Mike Lee and Rep. Chris Stewart, have introduced legislation to end a minor interest the federal government holds on the land on Salt Lake City’s east bench. The park, a center for research and development serving both the university and the local workforce, is situated on land that was transferred to the U. by the Bureau of Land Management in 1965.

The bill would remove an encumbrance from that transfer agreement to ensure the park remains productive, including plans for additional student housing, a research innovation hub and locations for businesses that come out of the research.

“This simple fix will protect the good work and learning that takes place at Research Park,” said Lee, the lead sponsor on the measure in the Senate, noting the park’s cutting-edge companies in the biotechnology, pharmaceutical development, and manufacturing spaces.

“The work they do provides for innovation in their fields and offers first-class opportunities for students to work and learn alongside experts,” he said. “For the good of Utah and the world, this work must continue.”

Research Park boasts 48 companies, 81 university departments and a workforce of 14,000 people.

“The important work being done at the University of Utah provides our state with invaluable innovations,” said Stewart, the lead House sponsor. “I’m proud to see our entire delegation united in support of this legislation.”

Sen. Mitt Romney and Reps. John Curtis, Blake Moore Burgess Owens, all Republicans, signed on as cosponsor to the Senate and House bills, respectively.

U. President Taylor Randall said Research Park has become a key component in the university’s mission to foster innovation, advance science and contribute to Utah’s strong economy since it was established in 1968.

“The forethought of state and federal leaders in making this investment of land to the university has reaped extraordinary success and resulted in a myriad of scientific discoveries and companies that have improved the health and well-being of all Americans,” he said. “This public-private partnership remains a case study in how major research universities can contribute to the success of their communities.”

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox and Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall also support the legislation.