House committee holds hearing on importance of FRIB Project to Michigan

Michigan lawmakers including Rep. Ed Clemente (D-Lincoln Park) and Sen. Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing) visited the future site of the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB) for a hearing on the project’s importance to Michigan. The New Economy and Quality of Life committee, chaired by Rep. Clemente, held the hearing.

Rep. Joan Bauer (D-Lansing), Rep. Paul Opsommer (R-DeWitt), Rep. Bill Rogers (R-Brighton), and Rep. Dick Ball (R-Owosso) joined Rep. Clemente and Sen. Whitmer at the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory — the future site of FRIB — on the Michigan State University campus. Legislative members and guests heard testimony from FRIB Project Manager Thomas Glasmacher, Anderson Economic Group CEO Patrick Anderson, and Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tim Daman about the project status, societal applications, and its impact on Michigan’s economy and image.

Daman spoke about Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce efforts to transform the local and regional economy. He pointed out that other states with similar DOE facilities including Illinois (Argonne National Lab), New Mexico (Sandia National Lab), and Tennessee (Oak Ridge National Lab), as well as New York, Virginia & Alabama have developed economic development strategies to attract and grow new high-tech research and development investments. Daman said that FRIB offers an opportunity for Michigan to do the same.

“We must continue to reinvest in our economic development efforts with a strategic focus on new business attraction, business retention, innovation, research and development and talent attraction,” explained Daman. “FRIB assists in meeting all these criteria.”

Glasmacher presented a status update of the project and answered questions about the science of FRIB.

“Basic research of the type that we do here at NSCL and will be doing at FRIB is at the heart of any efforts to recreate the economy and improve the quality of life not just of Mid-Michigan, but of Michigan and the United States as a whole,” Glasmacher said. “Basic research is the fuel for our state and national economic engine. We never know when the next discovery will be transformed into a new application that creates jobs and makes our lives better. But we do know what happens when societies stop supporting basic research – they begin losing in the global economic competition.”

Anderson summarized the findings from his economic impact study and encouraged lawmakers to support the project, which will create an estimated $1 billion in economic activity in the next decade. See a summary of the economic impact study (PDF).

After the hearing, attendees toured NSCL and the FRIB site.