UNI’s industrial tech building.

The state Board of Regents is asking lawmakers to set aside millions for a new laboratory at Iowa State University as well as big upgrades to the Industrial Technology Center at the University of Northern Iowa.

ISU president Wendy Wintersteen said the five-year plan for a new Veterinary Diagnostic Lab in Ames has a $100 million price tag.

“This is a critical need for Iowa agriculture in the state and one we hope that we can begin progress on this year in this legislative session,” Wintersteen said today.

An inspection team from a national association recently re-certified the lab, but the group warns “the aging facility” may not be able to “adequately respond to a large-scale foreign animal disease outbreak” in the future.

“This really is essential for our livestock and poultry industry in the state,” Winterstein said. “…You all remember the avian influenza outbreak where we ended up having 30 million chickens and turkeys put down because of that disease and the Vet Diagnostic Lab worked 24/7 to meet the needs of the industry at that time.”

The three-year plan to renovate and expand the Industrial Technology Center in Cedar Falls carries a $36 million price tag. UNI president Mark Nook said the current space is too small, with $9.4 million dollars worth of postponed maintenance work.

“The center was built in 1974 and, at that time, it was largely constructed to be a facility to train shop teachers for the high schools in the state of Iowa,” Nook said today. “We have moved from that greatly.”

UNI is now offering degrees in “Career and Technical Education” and the center is jammed with technology courses. The plan calls for having an industrial foundry in the renovated center, along with “technology-heavy” laboratories for students.

The presidents of UNI, Iowa State and the University of Iowa were in Governor Reynolds’ office today to outline their budget priorities. All three are asking for a state funding boost, to provide more financial aid to students who are Iowa residents.

“The exceptional quality at our institutions has taken generations to build,” Board of Regents president Michael Richards told the governor to start the presentations, “and it is imperative that we all work together to continue the progress made by those that came before us.”

University of Iowa president Bruce Harreld said spending more on the universities is an investment in “well-educated” citizens who spur economic growth.

“Our strategic plan specifically calls for increasing our four-year graduation rate to 60 percent, which is a nine percentage point increase above our current four-year level,” Harreld said. “This increase would add over 300 more graduates each year into the Iowa workforce.”

Harreld is promising to find about $11 million worth of campus cost-cutting measures, money he’d divert to programs aimed at improving student achievement.