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EERC cuts 8 jobs due to funding slowdown

GRAND FORKS -- Because of a decline in research projects, the Energy & Environmental Research Center at the University of North Dakota has eliminated eight of its 270 jobs.

The reason for the layoffs is a slowdown in funding from both the federal government and energy companies "for a variety of reasons related to the federal fiscal reality," said Tom Erickson, EERC associate director.

"The industry is holding off on many decisions because it's waiting to see the regulatory environment that comes forward."

It's not a response to sequestration, Erickson said, but rather developments over the last two years. Eighty-six percent of its research contracts are with the private sector, he added.

The layoff of 3 percent of its workforce is concentrated on research support positions, not on staff members with doctorates.

A program development expansion effort, through a $375,000 investment authorized by UND President Robert Kelley, is underway. "That money will entirely be used to bring in new opportunities and new funding," Erickson said.

EERC officials say the center has annual expenditures of $45 million and an annual economic impact on the region of $117 million.

The EERC was founded in 1951 as a lignite research laboratory, a federal facility under the U.S. Bureau of Mines. The lab became a technology center under the U.S. Department of Energy in 1977 and was de-federalized in 1983, when it became part of UND.