UTEP gets $5 million for Hunt institute
September 2, 2010
This city's future was entrusted to the University of Texas at El Paso on Tuesday by businessman Woody Hunt and his wife, who gave the school a $5 million gift to change the economic direction of the region.
Written by Ramon Bracamontes, www.elpasotimes.com
EL PASO -- This city's future was entrusted to the University of Texas at El Paso on Tuesday by businessman Woody Hunt and his wife, who gave the school a $5 million gift to change the economic direction of the region.
With the money, UTEP will establish the Hunt Institute for Global Competitiveness. The institute will be a policy center that will look at the impact of education on economic development, and then set a path for future economic development in the Paso del Norte region, officials said.
The gift was presented to UTEP on Tuesday by Woody and Gayle Hunt, and the Hunt Family Foundation. The institute will be a part of the College of Business.
"The easy part from our side is transferring the money," Woody Hunt said. "The tough part on UTEP's side is to attract the talent to this institute, to make it successful."
To succeed in the future, Hunt said, El Paso must change its economic standing in the world, and UTEP must help get the region there.
In 1955, El Paso's per capita income was about $2,000, higher than the national per capita average of $1,881.
Today, El Paso's per capita income is about $17,000, well below than the national average of about $43,000.
Hunt said El Paso must find a way to get back to the national average.
"I'm convinced we can turn that around and I think we've already started," he said. "This institute will help drive the vision."
For four decades El Paso's main economic drivers were the garment factories and farming.Today, the city is attempting to build its economy around Fort Bliss and the defense industry, as well as the medical field.
The institute's key challenge will be to find a way to make the area an economic success.
UTEP President Diana Natalicio said the extraordinary gift from the Hunts will have an impact on UTEP and on the future of the community. She said work on establishing the institute will begin right away.
"We will be thoughtful and will work hard to find the best use of these resources," she said. "We will use this gift to set up the best institution that will change the direction of economic development in this region."
The goal, Natalicio and Hunt said, is to use the institute to stop El Paso's talented people from leaving the region after they obtain a higher education degree.
The donation by the Hunt family will allow the university to apply for matching state money that may bring in an additional $3 million, Natalicio said.
The contribution is also the largest single donation so far to UTEP's current fundraising campaign.
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