A ceremonial groundbreaking was held Wednesday for two new buildings that are expected to play a major role in expanding Idaho National Laboratory’s research and cybersecurity work.
The Cybercore Integration Center will host an advanced electronics lab that will be used for cybersecurity and infrastructure security research. The Collaborative Computing Center will house a “supercomputer” providing research capabilities that will benefit not only INL but universities and other institutions throughout Idaho thanks to their connection through the Idaho Regional Optical Network. Both buildings will go near INL’s facilities on University Boulevard.
“This is a very important effort,” said INL Director Mark Peters.
As well as bolstering important national security-related work at INL, Peters said the buildings would create new professional jobs that would make it easier for people to build careers and raise their families in eastern Idaho.
Actual construction is scheduled to start within the next couple of weeks, with the buildings done and ready to be occupied in fall 2019.
The buildings are being paid for through a deal where the state Building Authority sold the $90 million in bonds used to fund the project, then leased the land to the state Board of Education, which in turn is leasing it to INL. INL will pay the state $6,120,000 a year, said state Board of Education spokesman Mike Keckler.
The buildings are expected to add $102 million a year to the local economy, according to numbers compiled by the Research and Business Development Center in Rexburg.
Construction is expected to create 585 jobs directly with 402 spinoff jobs. When done, the facilities will employ 148 people, with an average yearly salary of $126,585 and the potential to create 397 more jobs by their economic impact.
The Legislature voted to approve the bonds in 2017. The resolution passed the state Senate unanimously but was delayed for almost a month in the House due to unrelated disputes over transportation and tax cuts before passing 56-14.
Peters thanked Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter, who called for the buildings’ funding in his 2017 State of the State address, for his support, as well as Lt. Gov. Brad Little, the co-chairman of the state’s Leadership in Nuclear Energy Commission who also headed a state cybersecurity task force. Peters also thanked the state’s congressional delegation, singling out U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson, who has played a key role in securing federal support for INL during his tenure.
Peters also thanked the state lawmakers who supported it, highlighting Sen. Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls, and Rep. Julie VanOrden, R-Pingree, the chairmen of the Senate and House education committees, respectively, which had to clear the resolution; former state Sen. Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, who was Majority Leader at the time; and Rep. Wendy Horman, R-Idaho Falls, who carried the resolution on the House floor.
INL is operated by the contractor Battelle Energy Alliance, and the U.S. Department of Energy recently extended Battelle’s contract for five more years. Rick Provencher, the manager of the DOE’s Idaho operations office, said Battelle’s work to build support for the two buildings was a big factor in DOE’s decision.
Little praised the vision behind the buildings’ construction.
“The people outside this area don’t understand what the magnitude of this issue is for defending America and for helping Idaho,” he said.
Reporter Nathan Brown can be reached at 208-542-6757. Follow him on Twitter: @NateBrownNews.