Thursday, January 31, 2013

USU Eastern is poised to be an 'economic engine' for Castle Country

As the nation moves into 2013 amid unceasing rhetoric about the country's economic future, there's a bit of good news for this region. It is the potential for USU Eastern to become an economic development engine for Castle Country, a potential that already has seen a $1.6 million investment by the university and the prospect of a privately-financed multimillion-dollar coke processing facility in the near future.

The word came from USU Vice President for Commercialization and Regional Development Robert Behunin, who spoke at last week's Carbon County Chamber of Commerce banquet.

Behunin's PowerPoint presentation was a response to USU Eastern Chancellor Joe Petersen and the chamber, who had asked for an in-depth look at the public/private partnership which developing between the Castle Country community and the college.

"Utah State University as a land grant university is famous for these types of partnerships," he said.
Behunin was enthusiastic this partnership and many of the "great things" happening at Utah State are taking place in rural Utah. Even though the main campus is based in Logan, much of Behunin's presentation focused on rural communities and the work being done there.

To demonstrate more directly the program's initiatives, Behunin explained USU's Utah Advanced Transportation Initiative.

The group as built an electric bus that charges without being plugged in. "Maybe some of you have seen this on the news, maybe you saw it on the jumbo-tron in Times Square, maybe you read about it in Popular Mechanics because we have been everywhere," he said. "This bus has a charging pad that sits in the ground where it picks people up and receiver pad. So when the bus pulls over the charging pad it charges wirelessly. It pushes a 25 kilowatt current to the bus with no degradation of the field. Doesn't hurt your hearing aid or your pacemaker and it doesn't fry your cell phone."

According to Behunin, this is the first bus of its kind and it was developed at Utah State.

"Why is this important to coal country," he asked. "Well, we aren't carrying our fuel with us and we are relaying on the electrical generation infrastructure to put that in place." Sun Advocate