As president of the University of Minnesota, I have a vision for our state. My vision is that Minnesota will lead the nation and world in agricultural innovation. That we’ll find solutions to addiction. That we will close the opportunity gap and enable all children to fulfill their potential. And we’ll be a state that cares for its aging population, protecting its safety and dignity.

That vision will be fueled by the university on all five of our campuses.

So, that’s the future.

But here’s the present: Whether you are receiving health care from a U of M alum, sending a care package to your student at one of our campuses or watching your children show animals at your local 4-H, the U is with you every step of the way.

As the 2018 legislative session approaches, we have never been more important to our great state. In fact, earlier this month, a national research firm concluded that the University of Minnesota contributes more than $8.6 billion a year in economic activity to our 87 counties.

In many ways, the university’s impact is strong. And our state-funded facilities serve as the foundation for that strength. Across Minnesota, our buildings, classrooms, labs and research centers are home to research and education that propel our state forward. Each year, 16,000 new graduates leave our campuses and enter the workforce.

But much of our 29 million square feet of facilities are in critical need of renewal. That’s why this session we’re asking the state to partner with us to invest in repairing leaky roofs, replacing windows, restoring masonry, refurbishing elevators and replacing water heaters. Our obsolete classrooms need renovation so they can be useful to students and meet the demands of a 21st-century education. Our researchers need modern and up-to-date facilities to advance their work.

We are proud to be a strong driver of Minnesota’s health, economy and culture. But for the university’s impact in Minnesota to remain strong, our researchers, students, educators and visitors require 21st-century facilities. We aren’t seeking shiny, new buildings. We are renewing what we have, just like we regularly do in our homes.

Yes, we have a vision for the future of our great state, and we look forward to working with the governor and Legislature this session to help us get there.

 

Eric W. Kaler is president of the University of Minnesota.