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October 21, 1996

UC MBEST Center receives $1 million grant to sustain progress at Fort Ord site

The University of California's Monterey Bay Education, Science, and Technology (MBEST) Center at the former Fort Ord military base will soon take another step toward recruiting new educational and research tenants, thanks to a $1 million grant from the Economic Development Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The new arrivals will join tenants such as Systems West, a satellite weather-technology company; UCSC Extension, which offers classes in environmental remediation and other topics; and the Pacific Cetacean Group, a nonprofit education and research organization.

The grant, first announced on September 16 by White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta, was formally received last week by UCSC, lead campus for the MBEST Center. It was part of a $15 million Fort Ord redevelopment package from the Economic Development Administration, including $13 million for facilities at California State University, Monterey Bay, and $1 million to the Fort Ord Reuse Authority for road improvements.

Most of the UCSC grant will allow the campus to plan and construct a new building at the center's site, near the new Marina Municipal Airport. The building will become the second permanent MBEST facility.

"The announcement of this grant marks another forward step in achieving the economic development and programmatic goals of the UC MBEST Center," says Lora Lee Martin, director of the center. "We are pleased that the Economic Development Administration provided this grant to build the first new facility on University of California land at the former Fort Ord."

Depending on cost estimates and other planning issues, the building will contain about 10,000 square feet of space for future tenants and MBEST Center staff. Construction should begin by early 1998 and will last about eight months.

Several public agencies and private companies already have expressed interest in moving to the MBEST Center or establishing branches there to create a presence in the Monterey Bay region. The center's staff will seek new tenants who have programmatic links with at least one of the many institutions in the Monterey Bay Research Crescent. The research and development goals of prospective tenants are expected to complement one or more of several regional research strengths: information technology, biotechnology, multimedia, and environmental technology.

With this first physical expansion, MBEST organizers will advance toward their long-term goal of creating a community of innovative and forward-thinking researchers and educators. This synergistic community, Martin and her colleagues envision, will help to position the Monterey Bay region and central California competitively in the global economy of the coming decades.

However, MBEST's overall mission extends far beyond the boundaries of its real estate at Fort Ord and any walls that may arise there. Rather, the MBEST Center is striving to build collaborative interactions and strategic alliances among research and educational institutions, private businesses, and policy makers throughout the entire region in order to foster economic development. At a pair of workshops organized this past summer by UCSC, leaders from private and public sectors spoke of their hopes that MBEST could indeed catalyze the region's potential in this way.

The MBEST Center has progressed markedly within the last year on several other fronts. Most notably, two teams of consultants have nearly completed work on three major planning projects: a master plan for the Fort Ord site, which will provide a blueprint for future development and land use; a business plan, which recommends a functional structure and evaluates financial feasibility; and a market analysis, which recommends actions for the region and university to attract educational and research businesses. A previous $1.2 million grant from the Economic Development Administration has funded these projects and the work of MBEST staff at UCSC.

MBEST's site at Fort Ord comprises about 1,100 acres of land along Reservation Road, of which 436 acres are developable. The Fort Ord Reuse Authority has projected that over the next few decades, development at the MBEST Center will create the largest number of new jobs of any reuse activity at the former base. Funding for future buildings will come mainly from private sources.

As part of the MBEST project, the UC Regents recently accepted about 600 acres of unique maritime chaparral into the UC Natural Reserve System. Called the Fort Ord Reserve, this land is adjacent to the developable MBEST property and the Marina Municipal Airport.

--Robert Irion