Middle Tennessee State University broke ground Thursday on its long-awaited $147 million Science Building, a project that will help the institution produce more college graduates ready for emerging high-tech jobs.

The turn of the shovels also was the official construction launch for the building, which is aiming for a spring 2015 opening date.

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Gov. Bill Haslam said the building will help address the state’s need for more college graduates, especially in STEM areas—science, technology, engineering and math.

“Graduates with STEM degrees are vital to our state’s ability to thrive and compete in the 21st century economy,” Haslam said during the ceremony. “With more space to train in these areas, this building will help us toward our goal of increasing STEM graduates.”

The governor included almost $127 million for construction of the Science Building in his 2012-13 state budget, which passed both chambers of the General Assembly late Monday. About $20 million has been spent to prepare for the facility.

“It is fitting that we celebrate the end of the University’s yearlong Centennial observance with this investment toward its second century of service,” Haslam added.

Middle Tennessee State Normal School opened in 1911 to educate Tennessee’s teachers. Its focus has expanded with enrollment, course offerings, buildings and acreage in the century since then, but the University’s science facilities have not kept pace. Read Full