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Front Page » Top Stories » Shalala Um Is A Vital Economic Force In Miami

Shalala Um Is A Vital Economic Force In Miami

Written by on November 9, 2006

By Eric Kalis
Thanks to a successful $1 billion fundraising drive and a vast pipeline of academic projects throughout Miami-Dade County, the University of Miami is emerging as a vital economic catalyst for the region, President Donna Shalala said last week.

The university has reached its fundraising goal for this year, Ms. Shalala said Nov. 1 at a Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce Board of Governors luncheon. To continue the campaign’s momentum, university officials are trying to generate another $250 million by the end of next year, she said.

All of the money will go to the music and medical schools and new scholarship programs, she said.

The successful campaign is representative of the university’s role as a lightning rod for business and new jobs throughout the county, Ms. Shalala said. UM is the largest private employer and the sixth-largest overall in Miami-Dade, she said.

Ms. Shalala promised chamber members that the university will continue to be a driving force in the region’s economy. "We view UM as one of the economic engines in the community," Ms. Shalala said. "Our challenge is to create good jobs and help the economic base grow."

About 68,000 out-of-town visitors attend UM academic events annually and spend $75 million, Ms. Shalala said. The university is in the midst of several major projects that could significantly increase both figures, she said.

Highlighting the list of projects is a mixed-use academic village planned for 4 acres near Miami MetroZoo, Ms. Shalala said. The complex will house a math- and science-concentrated public high school next to 1,200 single-family homes and a town center with retail shops, she said. Students at the high school will be able to pursue a dual-enrollment option through the university for their senior year, she said.

A new county library will be built on the land as well, and the Department of Environmental Resource Management promised to provide 40 acres of natural forest space surrounding the complex to be managed by Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, Ms. Shalala said.

"This will result in a model community for South Florida on land we could have easily flipped for more money," she said. "This will be a first-class development."

Miami Beach architect Michael Graves is designing another project for the university — the Miguel Fernandez Family Entrepreneurship Building for business students. The nine-story, 195,000-square-foot building will have student housing on top of classrooms and academic pavilions. Mr. Fernandez donated $10 million, the largest gift ever received by the business school, Ms. Shalala said.

Most of the university’s building activity is in the revamped Miller School of Medicine, Ms. Shalala said. Within a year, the school will have a 182,000-square-foot basic science wet-lab facility, a 600,000-square-foot medical practice building and a biotechnology research park, she said. University officials recently hired a new medical school dean, Pascal Goldschmidt, and vice president, Bill Donelan, from Duke University.

In conjunction with the medical school projects, the university is working with Miami Mayor Manny Diaz to promote the school’s health district and entice science companies to move to the new facilities, Ms. Shalala said. The university is also forming alliances with other South Florida colleges, she said.

These endeavors could propel the university’s academic reputation to the level of Ivy League schools, but it is important for UM to not waver from the values that make it unique, Ms. Shalala said.

"We do not want to pretend to be Yale — we want to be Miami," Ms. Shalala said. "I think Miami is better, anyways."