Innovista: where seldom is heard a sane word
Innovista’s woes have been much publicized over the past few years.
Some $135 million in public dollars have been spent on two buildings still uncompleted nearly half a decade after they were begun; the private aspect of the “public-private” partnership is dead in the water; and legislators and University of South Carolina officials are still trying to sell taxpayers a bill of goods regarding this fiscal boondoggle.
The most recent news regarding Innovista was released Sunday in yet another puff piece about USC’s research campus printed by The State newspaper under the headline “USC Makes Progress Completing Innovista Research Building.”
According to the story, USC is poised to complete the first of Innovista’s two publicly funded research buildings as the school’s Board of Trustees has approved $15.5 million for the interior work of the final three floors of the five-story Discovery I building.
A USC official told the newspaper that the money to complete the work “came from overhead fees the university is allowed to retain from research grants.”
Why does that not sound like it’s on the up and up?
If USC gets research grants for, say, nanotechnology, how is it that “overhead fees” can be directed toward a money pit that was started in 2005, a money pit that has mostly remained empty since exterior construction was completed in 2008 while USC sought funds for completion?
What exactly does the money pit have to do with grant money dedicated, in this case, to nanotechnology?
One suspects that if a publicly traded company tried these same tactics, the US Securities and Exchange Commission shut it down in a heartbeat.
Also according to The State, two floors of the second publicly funded research building, Horizon I, await funding to complete interior work. This is hardly news as these two floors have been uncompleted for years.
The paper, which has been among Innovista’s biggest cheerleaders over the years, would seem unclear on just how much has been spent on the project.
At one point, it writes that “Discovery’s total construction cost with the up-fit is $45.5 million,” and adds that “Horizon so far has cost $43.6 million with two floors still needing interior work.”
That works out to a grand total of $89.1 million.
However, two paragraphs later, The State writes “The university has spent $100 million since 2005 to build the two research buildings and establish the special teams of scientists. The city and county pitched in $35 million for two parking structures for the buildings.
The paper doesn’t explain why there’s a discrepancy of approximately $11 million between what the university has spent since 2005 and what the two buildings have cost.
It likely has something to do with hiring scientists and such, but then again, that seems like an awful lot of money for folks working in buildings that aren’t complete.
And, of course, there’s no explanation from university officials about figures that don’t add up, interminable delays in construction or the lack of private investment. All readers get are a “hallelujah,” from Innovista’s executive director and word from a USC official that the buildings “are going to be awesome.”
But, then again, why should USC willingly divulge bad news if no one can be bothered asking a tough question or two?