everal thousand jobs are being attributed to work now getting under way at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) in Idaho Falls, the centerpiece of which is a new, $50-million, 148,000-sq.-ft. (13,750-sq.-m.) research and education laboratory. The three-floor facility will feature offices and multiple laboratories for conducting experiments and performing energy security research as well as conference rooms and meeting space for community outreach activities. Once complete in 2013, the new center will be leased to Battelle Energy Alliance.
Since 2005, INL has opened 13 research, development or support facilities totaling over 430,000 square feet (40,000 sq. m.). One of 10 national laboratories, INL specializes in energy, national security, science and the environment. It is a leading center for nuclear energy research and development and was the lead developer of the batteries for the Mars Rover.
The jobs associated with the new project are from multiple parties, explains Linda Martin, CEO of Grow Idaho Falls, the local economic development organization.
"There are the Alliance personnel, the contractors and scientists with the lab itself as well as a clean-up project that is going on that is a rather significant employment base for several contracting companies here," says Martin. "If you include all of that employment together, you get into the thousands — I'd say it's between 6,000 and 7,000 at any given time."
What's more, says Martin, the lab's presence in Idaho is a magnet for related investment on the part of private enterprise, such as nuclear energy giant AREVA, which just received its Nuclear Regulatory Commission license in October. Subcontractors to the AREVA project are actively seeking work with INL, and additional synergies are forming between INL and the region's higher education resources, particularly at University Place, a joint campus of Idaho State University and the University of Idaho.
"We are also finding some synergies with the Eastern Idaho Technical College in the area of class offerings, which is a great thing, especially for people working at the lab who want to do some continuing education work and for work-force training for new jobs. University Place is also the location of the Center for Advanced Energy Studies, which recently hosted a group of international students working there and with INL."