On Tuesday, Sept. 26, the River Falls City Council unanimously passed a resolution approving a $100,000 naming agreement between River Falls Municipal Utilities (RFMU) and UW-River Falls (UWRF) for the university’s forthcoming Science and Technology Innovation Center. The council’s action will bestow naming rights on the facility’s first-floor ecology lab, which will be known as the River Falls Municipal Utilities Ecology Lab.
The nearly 74,000-square-foot Science and Technology Innovation Center (SciTech), now under construction, is a state-of-the-art research and instructional facility that will provide opportunities for students to engage in high-impact learning experiences in biology, chemistry, physics, and psychological sciences. The facility will also feature the University and Business Collaboration Center, where local business leaders will interact with students and faculty through internships, collaborative research projects, and more. Construction is expected to be completed in 2026.
“On behalf of all of us at UW-River Falls, I express deep appreciation to Mayor Dan Toland and the River Falls City Council for this meaningful endorsement and commitment to SciTech,” UWRF Chancellor Maria Gallo said. “We are honored to be longtime partners with River Falls Municipal Utilities and look forward to prominently recognizing RFMU for its generous support of this transformational project that will positively impact our campus, community and entire region.”
“While there are many unique factors that distinguish our community from others, there is no question that having a UW System university embedded in our town is a game changer,” Utility Director Kevin Westhuis said. “From providing employment, top-tier education, and training, to offering sports, arts, and cultural opportunities, UWRF is a crucial component of the backbone of our community.”
For the past four years, the City Council has included support of the SciTech as both a strategic initiative and legislative priority. The council has advocated for state funding of the facility through correspondence with legislators.
“When we conduct our community survey every two years, residents continue to tell us that the economic vitality of River Falls is a top priority,” Mayor Dan Toland said. “UWRF is the number one employer in River Falls and plays a critical role in our local economy. Beyond offering employment opportunities on campus, its talent pipeline is key to the success of businesses in River Falls, including the City.”
Fifteen percent of the City’s total workforce is comprised of UWRF graduates, and roughly 25 percent of River Falls Municipal Utilities staff members are graduates.
“As a proud graduate of UWRF, the business and life I’ve built in River Falls are an example of the system working,” River Falls Utility Advisory Board Member Chris Lick added. “By supporting the university’s growth and development, we are strengthening our number one source of talent and innovation.”
Additionally, UWRF is the largest customer for all three of the City’s primary utilities: electric, water, and wastewater. Annual utility revenue is more than $2 million, of which the university represents the following proportions: 10 percent for electric, six percent for water, and six percent for wastewater, which amounts to 22 percent of total utility revenue.
“As such a large customer, UWRF helps us maintain stable, affordable utility rates for the rest of the community,” Westhuis said. “Supporting UWRF as it expands its impact with projects like SciTech benefits all of us.”