Dakota Wesleyan University received some news Monday that was good for business.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that DWU has been awarded a $14.5 million loan to be used primarily for construction on the university's new Center for Business and Rural Innovation.
The university has plans for a 30,000-square foot facility that will cost an estimated $6.7 million. Construction on that project could start this fall.
The remaining funds from the USDA will be used to pay down some of the university's debt load at a low interest rate over the next 40 years, said DWU Executive Vice President Theresa Kriese.
"We're really pleased about this," Kriese said Monday. "The potential partnership for Dakota Wesleyan with the USDA is something that can benefit our students and our community for many years to come."
DWU has two years to use the funding. Kriese said the university will move toward the design phase, which had remained mostly in neutral until the university knew it had been approved for the funding. The plan is for the building to be constructed on the southeast corner of DWU's campus.
In all, the USDA is funding 16 projects through the Community Facilities Direct Loan program with low-interest loans or grants. The funding helps rural small towns, cities and communities make infrastructure improvements and provide essential facilities such as public schools, libraries, courthouses, public safety facilities, hospitals, colleges and day care centers.
In a press release, the USDA noted the project will serve Mitchell's more than 15,000 residents. Applicants for the projects must be from rural areas with a population of fewer than 20,000 people. DWU's process for being approved for federal funding included a public forum for the project, and vetting that the project would serve the rural community.
Kriese said the university will continue fundraising to pay off the university's debt toward its recently constructed dorms known as Dakota Hall and the new yet-to-be-built business facility. She called the application process with the USDA "rewarding."
"It's an extensive process," Kriese said. "From their side, they want to make sure funds they allocate are benefitting the entire community. I think they were very pleased with the fact that DWU has such good community support, and that this facility has the potential to benefit our whole region."
The facility will house the university's business program, along with the Kelley Center for Entrepreneurship and additional classroom space. Kriese said it will be built in mind to have classrooms that are function to work individually and in groups, emphasizing what are called collaborative digital learning environments.
"We want that work to be student-led," Kriese said. "The faculty can put out something that's collaborative in nature and the students can really run with it."