Golden LEAF awards NC State $45M grant for agricultural complex

NC State professorTerri Long displays her ongoing research in her Gardner Hall lab.

RALEIGH — With a $45 million grant from the Golden LEAF Foundation, NC State has the funds it needs to move forward with plans for a $160.2 million Plant Sciences Research Complex on Centennial Campus in Raleigh.”This is a major commitment and what comes after this will be extremely great,” Golden LEAF Foundation president Dan Gerlach said of the grant, the largest single contribution ever made to NC State’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.Along with the $85 million earmarked for the project through the voter-approved Connect NC Bond and another $9 million promised from more than 40 agricultural groups, construction on the 200,000 square-foot research facility should begin in the fall of 2016 and be completed by August 2021.”This is a commitment to our farmers to be the world’s foremost plant science research and training center in a building specifically designed for interdisciplinary study,” Steve Lommel, associate dean of NC State’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, said. “We have assets at our disposal in North Carolina that no one else has … we will take advantage of that and create new markets.”Lommel said the facility will allow students to learn how engineering and analytics can help solve large-scale issues by forging a partnership with the state and its farmers. The new complex will also train students to be more involved in entrepreneurship and help create a new breed of interdisciplinary farmer, Lommel said.The nonprofit Golden LEAF Foundation was founded in 1999, a year after cigarette manufacturers agreed to pay out $4.6 billion to North Carolina as part of a $206 billion agreement between the manufacturers and 46 states, five U.S. territories and the District of Columbia for their practices in marketing and promoting tobacco products.The Golden LEAF Foundation was given $2.3 billion, half of North Carolina’s settlement to be paid out over 25 years, to help the state’s economy, particularly in rural communities where tobacco was a major crop and economic tentpole.