If you don’t think the federal stimulus has done much good, they beg to differ with you at the University of Michigan.
UM officials Thursday staged an event to describe their job-creating research endeavors — funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, better known as the federal stimulus.
Stephen Forrest, vice president of research at UM, kicked off the event by describing the economic conditions of late 2008: “The economy was in free fall. The banks were in chaos. The auto companies were imploding and going bankrupt. The work force was shedding more than half a million jobs a month, month after month. And no issue of the New York Times was without a story above the fold that did not contain some dire information. We were headed for an unrecoverable abyss. Our statewide nightmare had finally touched the entire nation.”
Forrest credited President Obama and congressional Democrats for passing ARRA, “a significant step toward real recovery. ARRA sent the signal to the world that America understood… that we would be OK if we just continued to do what we do best — innovate and of course build things.”
Forrest said UM has received more than $200 million in stimulus grants to fund research and new initiatives. Leading the way: UM’s Medical School, with $80 million across 270 grants, UM’s engineering college, with 60 grants worth $50 million, and the Institute for Social Research, with $47.5 million in grants.
The biggest single grant, for $19.5 million, established the Energy Frontier Research Center for solar energy research.
Forrest said UM received that many ARRA grants because it knows how to innovate and knows how to establish companies that create jobs.
He said UM is among the nation’s top universities in receiving the grants with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University and the University of California-Berkeley.
“Not bad for a university in the heart of flyover country,” Forrest said.
James Jackson, director of the UM Institute for Social Research, spoke of a $15 million ARRA grant that will fund a $23 million, 50,000-square-foot building expansion for the ISR, creating 100 temporary construction jobs, nearly 100 permanent research jobs and 430 spinoff jobs.
Fernando Martinex, director of pulmonary diagnostic services at UM’s medical school and Galen Toews, professor, described a $9 million ARRA grant to study how genetics affects the lung disease pulmonary fibrosis.
And Huei Peng, professor of mechanical engineering, described a $2.5 ARRA million grant to UM Ann Arbor, UM Dearborn and Kettering University to develop new courses in hybrid and electric vehicle design and construction and build three EV laboratories. The program also includes outreach to Michigan K-12 students about science and engineering careers.
The event wrapped up with remarks from U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, who pointed out the “eerie, frightening” parallels between 2008 and 1929. ARRA, he said, “is an attempt to replicate the best things that were done in the New Deal. History has found that what worked best was putting money into the hands of people.”
He also credited former President Bush for pushing through the TARP bank bailout, which he noted is now being paid back by banks that are back from the abyss.
He said UM’s stimulus activities should be provided as an example of the program’s success to “some of my dunderheaded colleagues in Washington who don’t see the value” in the program.
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