Asu Campus In Payson Means Jobs For Residents

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Jobs, jobs and more jobs. That is what an ASU campus will bring to the local economy, community organizers reiterated at a Business Buzz meeting recently.

For teachers, construction workers, Realtors and retailers, the campus will act as a magnet, bringing with it at least 600 full-time, permanent jobs.

“More people means more business,” said Laura Bartlett, public relations lead with a volunteer planning committee, to an audience of business owners. “And with new people comes new businesses and new opportunities for your own established businesses to serve them.”

Local business will not only help fill the needs of teachers, students and guests, they will likely have to grow to do so, Bartlett said in an effort to squash fears local businesses would be run out by new, bigger outlets.

A campus means new hospitality, retail, personal and construction services and “that means more J-O-B-S!” said Payson Councilor Su Connell.

And because students are typically here more in the winter than the summer, the campus will give a boost to Rim businesses that normally struggle in the slower winter months.

Preliminary plans estimate local workers will fill two-thirds of construction jobs. With construction continuing until 2022, many of those construction jobs will be long term.

But how and when the campus will arrive is still on the drawing board.

Payson Mayor Kenny Evans is negotiating with ASU representatives on a lease agreement.

“We have worked tirelessly with ASU and have been very patient, I believe, with them,” he said. “We are continuing to swallow our pride and continuing to work on the 123rd iteration of the contract.”

Evans’ dreams of a four-year, state-of-the-art campus in Payson started coming together five years ago. Early on, the project found a sure footing with investors. Evans secured $100 million in pledges from smaller donors and as the concept grew, bigger players expressed interest.

Several companies agreed to fully fund the cottage campus, pledging another $450 million.

“Panasonic came to us and said they believe our vision fits with their international vision for the future,” he said. IBM and Cisco have also expressed interest.

However, many of the donors pledged because ASU was tied to the project.

If Evans and ASU cannot reach an agreement, many of those donations will be lost.

“So if we can’t get a deal done with ASU and we go to the second, third, fourth or fifth entity that would like to come up here, we will have to start all over replacing those millions that are lost,” he said.

“I have had 3,923 e-mails to ASU since January ... It has been a tough negotiation, but I think we are getting really, really close.”

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Plans for a four-year college campus in Payson were discussed recently at a Business Buzz meeting.

Evans has set a Dec. 12 target date with ASU. If something can’t be reached by then, Evans said he plans to move on to “plan double Z.”

However it happens, the town and its constituents are not responsible for funding.

A Separate Legal Entity (SLE), recently formed by the towns of Star Valley and Payson with six outside board members, will be responsible for running the campus and managing funds. It takes on all liability if anything goes wrong.

The SLE will contract for police, fire, water and the sanitary district for services. Since the SLE will most likely buy water from Payson, it will help carry the burden of funding Blue Ridge. The pipeline will cost Payson $35 million and outside groups like the SLE can help subsidize the cost.

Workers will build the campus in several stages. The first most likely being built north of Highway 260 and east of Gila Community College with the second south of Highway 260 on 300 acres currently owned by the Forest Service.

Phase one will include 60,000 square feet of teaching space and 180,000 square feet of dorm space. With additional area for retail, phase one should cost around $61 million.

Buildings clustered by curriculum mean students won’t have to travel back and forth across campus.

A sky bridge over Highway 260 will connect phase one with phase two.

Wood beams 147-foot-long and 8-foot-thick in sections will give the bridge a mountain feel. Organizers want the campus to look rural from the outside, but technologically advanced inside.

Architects will design modestly scaled buildings that blend into the landscape with the use of native materials. Architects will take extra care to maintain natural ridgelines, so buildings blend in with the topography.

“We will derive the building forms from the site forms,” said Judith Lyon, volunteer committee chair.

Like a small mountain hamlet, paths will link buildings with in-between spaces created for studying and relaxing.

The campus will eventually hold up to 6,000 students, but organizers don’t expect that to happen overnight. The campus will be fully built out by 2022.

When finished, the campus will include a convention hotel, retail shops and a performance hall.

The hall will hold up to 1,500 people with massive doors in the rear that open up to a grassy knoll where another 10,000 people can sit.

The whole campus will run on solar and geothermal power.

Some of the power generated will come from panels placed over the Payson Event Center. Evans is working on a plan that will cover the arena with enough panels to generate 7.5 megawatts of power.

Construction on that project should start soon. The main hiccup is figuring out a schedule for construction that does not interfere with scheduled events, which take place all over the 45-acre center.

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