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UIS will have a downtown presence

UIS (WICS/WRSP){p}{/p}

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The University of Illinois Springfield is working to bring a presence to the downtown area.

An innovation center will give their students real-world experience.

The discussion and planning of a downtown presence has been in the works for over a year, but university officials want input from the public before any further planning is done.

Some people are in favor of the proposal.

"We need that kind of stimulation for the business of Springfield: jobs, entrepreneurship, and these folks seem to have a handle on that,” Springfield resident Jerry Jacobson said.

UIS officials said they hope with the public's input, it will soon become a reality.

"If we locate within the community and in proximity with other businesses and residential, we'll bring jobs down here,” Bruce Sommer said, UIS Director of Economic Development and Innovation. “We'll be able to have these interactions with community participants that will create advanced economic growth."

Sommer said the new innovation center will focus on five strategic areas: business incubation and acceleration, technology and research commercialization, social innovation, public policy research, and workforce development and education.

Having a center with all these features downtown will give students better access to a more hands-on education.

"It makes out engagement with industry partners like state government, like healthcare, like financial services, were they're located here [downtown Springfield], it makes our engagement much more richer if we're located amongst them,” Sommer said.

This can also benefit industry professionals.

“We’re supplying them talent to help grow their workforce,” Sommer said.

Local business owner Tony Leone said development downtown is great.

"University of Illinois Springfield way out south doesn't work well with the downtown city, and this is a way to reverse that."

Jacobson said he thinks expanding their school downtown is OK. As long as they don't take away downtown Springfield’s charm.

“The fabric of this city depends on the historic nature of Springfield, and by destroying part of it, you're taking away rather than adding to the city."

Sommers said with the public's input - it will give them a better idea where and when to create the innovation center.

Part of the finances for this building will be $15 million.

That money is part of a plan from the state for the University of Illinois to create a network of research and innovation hubs.

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