SPRINGFIELD - Gov. George Ryan has revived an obscure bonding authority that could help the University of Illinois Research Park under development.
"The governor has done a lot in the area of research in the last four years, and he feels that this could help in developing the state's economy," said Ryan spokesman Ray Serati.
The Illinois Research Park Authority was created by the General Assembly in 1994, but never got off the ground, perhaps because Gov. Jim Edgar, who was to appoint the members at that time, vetoed the legislation when it first hit his desk. The General Assembly voted to override that veto, and the bill became law.
Now more than eight years later, Ryan appointed his Chief Technology Officer Mary Reynolds, former University of Illinois Board of Trustees chairman Gerald Shea and former Department of Commerce and Community Affairs director Pam McDonough to the Illinois Research Park Authority, along with the presidents of Northwestern and Southern Illinois universities, Illinois Institute of Technology and University of Chicago, and someone from Motorola.
Another appointee, Bradley University President David Broski, is the former chancellor of University of Illinois-Chicago who resigned after federal regulators ordered a stop to two-thirds of the human-subject research on campus, citing concerns that participants had not been adequately informed about possible risks.
Ryan's office also approved a $1 million Illinois FIRST grant Thursday to pay for the Illinois Research Park Authority's start-up costs.
Deborah Murphy, who until recently was the Chief Operating Officer at the Department of Commerce and Community Affairs, was chosen as the authority's new executive director.
She was the only candidate the board discussed at its meeting Thursday and was selected unanimously.
"She's been very good at policing the finances of a very complicated state agency structure," McDonough said of Murphy.
She said Murphy was a good choice because of her skills and experience, and also because she had already attended the annual Association of University Research Parks conference in New Orleans to learn about what other parks are doing well.
That four-night trip, however, took place in late October 2002, while Murphy was still employed as chief operating officer at the Department of Commerce and Community Affairs.
It cost the state $1,025.16, for airfare, lodging and meals, plus $1,390 for the conference, according to a travel voucher obtained by The News-Gazette. McDonough signed off on the travel voucher Nov. 19, 2002.
The travel voucher said Murphy was representing McDonough at the conference.
In November 2001, Ryan had ordered a severe restriction on out-of-state travel by state employees as part of emergency budget-cutting measures, and that order was still in place at the time of Murphy's trip.
The meeting at which Murphy was hired as executive director Thursday was only the second meeting the Illinois Research Park Authority Board has had. It has not yet issued any bonds.
"We've got to get the operation up and running and get the word out," McDonough said.
Among the board's first tasks are finding an office, setting up bylaws and rules and deciding what direction it wants to take, she said.
The $1 million grant from Illinois FIRST will provide operating expenses for the first two years, after which the Research Park Authority is expected to be self-supporting.
The money will be funneled through Northern Illinois University, because Illinois FIRST grants cannot be given directly to a state agency.
McDonough said Ryan's Bureau of the Budget is prepared to allow the agency $12 million in authorization to issue federally tax-exempt bonds for research park projects. The bonds are not a loan of state funds and must be repaid by private sources.
Reynolds said the authority can issue more than $12 million in bonds, but any above that amount would not have the same tax benefits.
"I would hope that we can get more than $12 million," Shea said. "This is a new authority, and certainly if this authority is going to do something, that dollar amount doesn't go very far at all."
The new buildings developer Peter Fox is putting up at the UI Research Park are $6 million apiece, Shea said.
- To advance the general welfare of the people of the state.
- To increase the opportunities for employment of citizens of Illinois.
- To develop the human, economic and productive resources of Illinois.
- To promote and encourage expansion of the research and development sector, with emphasis on capital formation and investments in research and development within Illinois.
- To promote cooperative research efforts between the private sector and Illinois research universities and research parks adjacent to a federal laboratory or one or more research agencies, and to strengthen the partnership among state government, higher education and business and industry.
- To maximize the research capabilities of the universities in Illinois.
- To enhance Illinois as a leader in research, development, testing and implementation of new advances in science and technology and in the transfer of new scientific research and prototype stage to useful industrial and commercial applications.
Source: Illinois Compiled Statues Act 3850
Members of the authority
- David Baker, vice president of external affairs for Illinois Institute of Technology
- Henry Bienen, president of Northwestern University
- David Broski, president of Bradley University
- Darcy Davidsmeyer, director of governmental relations for Motorola
- Pam McDonough, chair of the Local Labor Relations Board, former director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Community Affairs
- Don Randel, president of University of Chicago
- Mary Reynolds, Chief Technology Officer for Gov. George Ryan
- Gerald Shea, lobbyist, former chair of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees, former state legislator
- James Walker, president of Southern Illinois University
Board members are paid expenses, but the position is non-salaried.
Members are appointed by the governor and must be confirmed by the Senate.