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The new Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute is being squeezed by the first wave of sequester cuts.
Monday, April 22, 2013
Those in the Roanoke Valley who think sequestration is a funny word that has no effect on their lives had best start paying attention. Total Action for Progress recently announced that three Head Start classrooms are being lost to federal budget cuts. Now comes word that the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute has been hit with $640,000 in grant reductions.
While local residents may find it hard to fully grasp the science behind the biomedical research being conducted in their midst on brain injuries and cancer, they can more easily understand its importance to the region’s current and future economy. The institute is attracting some of the nation’s best researchers, and promises to generate spin-off companies in the not-too-distant future.
The automatic across-the-board federal spending cuts are bad fiscal policy for many reasons, and for the institute the timing is particularly pernicious. The center opened in September 2010, so its research projects are just starting to mature. Growth over the next five years should translate into new high-tech companies and good-paying jobs.
“Because we’re so new and literally we are a start-up, we’re particularly sensitive,” said executive director Michael Friedlander in an interview. “It is affecting our community, and it’s slowing down very important research.”
The initial federal cuts won’t derail the institute’s high expectations. None of the institute’s 140 jobs or its 21 research projects have been eliminated. But cumulative damage from slash-and-burn tactics could be devastating. Friedlander estimates the institute could lose $1 million by the end of the year and another $5 million to $10 million over the next five years if Congress fails to come up with a more rational deficit reduction strategy.
Roanoke weathered the recent recession because its economy is diversifying. It will prosper only if that process continues. Residents of the Roanoke Valley should feel invested in the institute as a key element in that growth, and they should make sure their leaders feel the same.
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