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Idaho contractor will design, build Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative at USC Aiken

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The Department of Energy’s cleanup office on Thursday picked an Idaho-based contractor to design and construct the Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative, a facility at USC Aiken that has been planned for years and promises to springboard academia and futuristic industries.

North Wind Construction Services LLC will handle the $50 million endeavor, Environmental Management explained in an afternoon announcement, and could lean on local small businesses and other nearby resources.

The selection, and naming, of a contractor is a significant step forward for the project, which has caught snags before.

Construction of the Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative – a partnership between USCA and the Savannah River National Laboratory – is expected to be complete in 2024. USCA Chancellor Dr. Sandra Jordan earlier this year said the hope is “to break ground in ’21, in the fall.”

A turning of shovels was previously teased for 2020. Instead, late that year, a 3D model of the prospective facility was unveiled with the help of Energy Department executives and South Carolina elected officials.

“This is a big day, and young people, hold on to your hats,” Gov. Henry McMaster, a Republican, said at the time. “The best is yet to come. You’re going to see things you’ve never seen before.”

Eight capability statements were submitted after Environmental Management issued a request for information in September 2020. The cleanup office in its Thursday announcement said NWCS has a “proven track record of working with DOE and successfully completing similar projects.”

The Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative is meant to augment USC Aiken and the Savannah River National Lab – two entities already working together. At its most basic, the collaborative compound is expected to be a home for bleeding-edge tech and top-notch research.

“What it is, in effect, is moving many of the research agenda items from the Savannah River National Laboratory out from the woods, and out from behind the barbed wire, onto the campus in a brand new state-of-the-art facility,” Jordan has said. “This allows for them to share their research, to leverage it outward.”

Attracting investments to Aiken County and developing a specialized workforce pipeline here are pluses, too.

“We want to make certain we make a bigger impact in the local community in terms of spin outs and new companies based on tech, whether broader tech or energy-related,” Paul Dabbar said when he was the under secretary for science. “That would be a victory, and that’s certainly a big focus of this collaboration.”

Colin Demarest covers the Savannah River Site, the Energy Department, its NNSA, and government and politics, in general. Follow him on Twitter: @demarest_colin.

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