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October 17, 2012

Host: Ted Simons

AZ Tech & Innovation: ASU Research Building

  |   Video
  • ASU has opened its new Interdisciplinary Science and Technology Building 4 (ISTB4). Sethuraman Panchanathan, Senior Vice President of ASU’s Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development, describes what this state-of-the-art research facility has to offer.
  • Sethuraman Panchanathan - Senior Vice President, ASU Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development
Category: Technology   |   Keywords: AZ, Technology, Innovation, ASU, research, building, facility, ,

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Ted Simons: Tonight on our continuing coverage of Arizona technology and innovation we take a look at a new research facility recently opened at Arizona State University. It's a state-of-the-art structure designed to spur innovation and showcase research. Here to talk about the new building is Seth Raman Pahnchanahthahn, senior vice president of ASU's office of knowledge enterprise development and I think I got that name right.

Seth Raman Pahnchanahthahn: you got it right. Amazing.

Ted Simons: That's amazing.This is an amazing structure. Talk to us about what was behind this, how long it's taken from the idea to get the doors open here.

Seth Raman Pahnchanahthahn: yes. So this is one of the interdisciplinary science and technology buildings. We have had a number of those buildings. We had ISTB1, 2, 3, this is the fourth one. We already have five because it was one of the existing buildings that got converted. We have the bio design buildings as well. This was actually thought about four years ago. We designed it, we knew that this was going to be a place, a home for our school of space exploration. Going to put some research groups into that. So we knew what we were going to build and what kind of space we would want, and this is the single largest research building so far at ASU.

Ted Simons: We're looking at what looks like a moon-driven, Mars-driven stuff on display. You got a lot of high-tech labs there. Some of those on the first and second floors are open to the public. People can watch scientists at work.

Seth Raman Pahnchanahthahn: That's correct. We want to make sure that whatever is happening inside the building is also available for the public to get to see and get inspired by. Let's take for example our k-12 students today. We're looking for a lot of students interested in S.T.E.M.; science, technology and math disciplines and establish careers around those. Visiting this building and engaging with researchers, looking at some of the things going on inside the building, is bound to inspire youth to get interested in wanting those careers.

Ted Simons: And the meteorite collection will go a long way.

Seth Raman Pahnchanahthahn: absolutely. It's exciting to be able to touch, feel and look at the meteorite examples. One of a kind in the country.

Ted Simons: as long as the work being done, R&D on security and defense, on renewable energy, that's being accomplished as well.

Seth Raman Pahnchanahthahn: exactly. We have a security and defense initiative system initiative that we launched recently. We hired a very senior scientist from the U.S. Air Force, the chief sign test in Pentagon, he's coming and leading the initiative right now at ASU. This initiative, metro Phoenix area at large is hot bed for companies in the aerospace industry. We have a good position in terms of working with those companies, helping with the economic development of our state, also working on national security issues that benefit our nation.

Ted Simons: this is ASU's most expensive -- $185 million.

Seth Raman Pahnchanahthahn: that's correct. We have had this building constructed under budget and in a shorter time than originally envisioned. It's one of those nice projects to have launched.

Ted Simons: We talked about this on the program before. The idea is to get research going, but not only to get research going but to develop things, get patents for those things, wind up getting the patents turning into start-up businesses. You got jobs, you got everything circling back in, you have a self-perpetuating system.

Seth Raman Pahnchanahthahn: that's it. The other form of economic impact that in addition to working with industry.. We have an advanced battery center located in this building. That faculty member is already commercializing the technology coming out. He has Department of Energy funding that has incubated the ideas. The ideas are now getting into the marketplace. So this is costing economic impact, jobs will be created and just in the last year alone from research enterprise we have over 180 intellectual property disclosures across ASU. This is increasing year after year. These result in patents. They get licensed by companies or become the basis for new companies to be created.

Ted Simons: I think I know the answer but it might be confusing as well. Sky song seems to be somewhat similar. What's the difference?

Seth Raman Pahnchanahthahn: Here in this building the research happens. That research outcome is taken to a place like sky song where a faculty member or student will take that idea and then build that company around sky song, provide the environment. Training modules for them to think about how to start a company, incubation allowed other companies to get started and the attract investment.

Ted Simons: Before this building was constructed these scientists were working in different buildings. How much of a difference does this make?

Seth Raman Pahnchanahthahn: This makes a huge difference in the following sense. First of all there's the state of the the art sensibility. Brings researchers from multiple disciplines. That's what it's all about. Brings researchers from multiple disciplines and co-locates them so the bouncing of ideas, generation of new ideas, being together creates an eco-system that makes a very creative place. Now they can work on larger problems for the solutions for which require all these expertise being brought together.

Ted Sumons: You can work while you know other folks are watching you work. They have this Mars rover in the video clip, there's a replica of the curiosity right here in the door.

Seth Raman Pahnchanahthahn: exactly. We hhave the 2,000 pound curiosity on Mars and we have a reduced version of it right in the building as you enter the foyer on the left hand side. You'll see it right there. It was something we participated in with the jet propulsion laboratory in NASA and our scientists work on NASA programs including the next one, which is mining asteroids. As you enter the building these are glass enclosures. You can actually see what's going on. We want people to experience that so it's not behind closed doors but it's something people can watch and get inspired by.

Ted Simons: there's one looking at the camera images from the asteroid research was there as well. You can basically watch scientists getting those images.

Seth Raman Pahnchanahthahn: That's correct. So the real time images that come from the program people can watch us and even control the cameras and take pictures as they would like to see the different parts of the surfaces of the moon.

Ted Simons: You get a brand new building, brand new home, you think you're never going to move. What's next out there?

Seth Raman Pahnchanahthahn: We are always planning for the next thing. Just put it out there, our research expenditures, which is an indicator of how robust we are in terms of research growth, has tripled in the last ten years. We're now in the top 20 universities in the nation in terms of research performance. Like MIT, Cal-Tech, Austin. Universities of that caliber. We're advancing rapidly. As you advance, we need more new facilities and you'll make sure that you're planning for them now in order we will get them ready and online.

Ted Simons: Well it sounds like things are happening. Thank you so much for joining us.

Seth Raman Pahnchanahthahn: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be with you.

Phoenix to Tucson Passenger Rail

  |   Video
  • The Arizona Department of Transportation is studying a number of options for passenger rail service from Phoenix to Tucson. ADOT has identified several potential routes and is now asking for public input on those options. Sean Holstege, a transportation reporter for The Arizona Republic, provides the latest details on this story.
  • Sean Holstege - Transportation Reporter, The Arizona Republic
Category: Community   |   Keywords: transportation, arizona, phoenix, tucson, project, ,

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Ted Simons: Good Evening and Welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. The Arizona department of transportation is studying the concept of passenger rail service from Phoenix to Tucson. The agency has identified six possible routes and posted those options online. Adot is taking public comment on those options and here with more is Sean Holstege. He covers transportation issues for the Arizona Republic and has been following this story. Thanks for joining us. Where do we stand?

Sean Holstege: Adot has taken their planning farther than the state has ever taken rail planning in the past. They are asking the public for input on six options to get passengers between Phoenix and Tucson. It's more than that, beyond Phoenix, out into the west valley down to Tucson airport. By roughly this time next year, end of next year, they should have those options narrowed down to one and ready to proceed with the real planning, the real engineering, design, all the stuff that makes a project happen.

Ted Simons: we're looking at options here. The last one that's bright there, that's the one that seems to be getting the most attention up through Mesa and Gateway airport.

Sean Holstege: That's right. The six options generally either follow I-10 or the versions off to the side, alternate routes to the side. Three go through the east valley. The most favorable so far based on some real preliminary criteria is that option that goes through Williams Gateway airport. It would take all three airports and extend up to surprise and the west valley and Buckeye.

Ted Simons: That's interesting because a lot of I-10 up near the valley is avoided on that particular option. I think people think it's going to parallel I-10. It doesn't until you get down by, what, Eloy?

Sean Holstege: Picacho. Part of reason for that is the projections for traffic demand. They did a study looking at passenger rail, commuter rail, different service, shorter hop, more stations, getting people to work from suburbs. Found that it would be so popular in the east valley it would rival the system in Los Angeles, which is a pretty robust system now. Adot is dovetailing into that plan to capture the same riders and do basically a two for one. Get people to work, to Tucson.

Ted Simons: what about existing freight lines?

Sean Holstege: There's the wrinkle. Some follow freight lines. Some don't. Most of the freight lines south of Phoenix are union Pacific. Union Pacific is very guarded about sharing its track with any passenger service. That's something that would need to be negotiated. It's one of the reasons a lot of rail advocates in Arizona talk about the need for statewide leadership on the issue. In the western states where similar systems have been introduced recently, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico, it took a governor and it took a lot of state money.

Ted Simons: what are we hearing from state lead centers.

Sean Holstege: Very little. Passenger rail -- the state legislators, some of them have been critical in the past of light-rail when it was introduced in the valley a few years ago. Less critical of passenger rail, commuter rail and inner city rail. There are a variety of reasons but there have been no bills funding any money to make it happen. No leadership taking a lead.

Ted Simons: You mention money. Cost projections, a billion?

Sean Holstege: A billion to two. Mag estimated its valley wide system a billion.2. Hundreds of millions up towards $2 billion.

Ted Simons: where would the funds come from? Are we talking about a tax increase generally, tax incremental, user -- all options on the table?

Sean Holstege: All are on the table, none exist at the moment. Some involve using prop 204 tax that would if voters choose to accept that in November there's up to $100 million a year in the Kitty for transportation but it competes with highways and other uses. Private money has been floated. That's how the French built their bullet train system in the '70s. There is talk of a new prop 400 locally, there's talk of a three-County proposition to build systems like this. Any and all.

Ted Simons: Yes. As far as -- I read your story something like between three and 11 stops would be involved here.

Sean Holstege: be clear what we're talking about, only between Phoenix and Tucson. There's another stop to the airport and all the stops in the west valley if they want to marry the two systems.

Ted Simons: couple of hours?

Sean Holstege: 128, 130 minutes.

Ted Simons: those stops, a viewer wanted to know about this, were those -- where those stops are located obviously that's still rough. Is there an idea to get some development planning going quickly so something can -- little towns even, something can grow around these stops?

Sean Holstege: There's no stated objective yet, but that is part of the thinking. I asked that question of the planners at Adot. They said that will be part of the next rounds once they have narrowed down the list to one or two. It will start with two or three in the spring, narrow it down to one by the end of the year. Once they get to that point then they will start doing the heavy lifting. Planning the exact route, exact stations, planning what happens around those stations. If you develop around a station you get more riders so it's certainly in the interest of whoever develops this system to create that growth. One reason they are proposing this is anticipated growth in what they call the sun corridor. Pinal County talking about 800% increase in population by 2050. It would make more sense for our traffic patterns and mobility if you cluster them around those stations. That's happened in other western states.

Ted Simons: I would imagine existing clusters are looked at as potential stops.

Sean Holstege: Absolutely. That's why the east valley routes look so good to the Adot planners.

Ted Simons: There were six light-rail -- don't want to say light-rail. Six rail lines here options. There's also, what, speedy bus service express bus? What's that about?

Sean Holstege :By law in order to get federal funding and approval you have to study all the alternatives including a different mode, which is bus transportation or doing nothing at all. Reality is we have private bus systems now. We have jitneys to Tucson, greyhound, those carriers that are not really heavily traveled. That option was dismissed when some mag committees looked at it. The other is doing nothing. Given the kind of projections,five and a half hour drive to Tucson by 2050 they say, that doesn't look realistic either. So we're really down to the six rail option. Legal requirement.

Ted Simons: So that's what that's all about. Once again I want to remind the viewer Adot really is looking for public input. That will make a difference.

Sean Holstege: absolutely. This is the child of previous public hearings last year and state online polls. The closing date is the 15th of December. You can comment in person at some meetings they posted, or by mail.

Ted Simons: we have the online address there. Last question, it seems like we have been down this track before if you will. Does this look to you like something concrete, something is going on here?

Sean Holstege: This is a real plan. This is plan is much farther down the tracks than any other plan Arizona has ever taken before. It's a necessary step to get federal funding. In previous iterations they couldn't even ask for the money because they hadn't done enough of the preliminary work. We're past that now. Whether we have the money to build it is a whole other issue.

Ted Simons: We'll bring you back at a later date. Good stuff. We appreciate it.

Save Our Home AZ

  |   Video
  • Arizona is one of five states included in a $1.5 billion federal program designed to help homeowners avoid foreclosure. Reginald Givens, a Foreclosure Assistance Administrator for the Arizona Housing Department,explains how the program works.
  • Reginald Givens - Foreclosure Assistance Administrator, Arizona Housing Department
Category: Business/Economy   |   Keywords: valley, economy, housing, mortgage, relief, fund, ,

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Ted Simons: Arizona is one of five states included in a $1.5 billion federal program designed to help homeowners avoid foreclosure. Arizona's share of the foreclosure assistance funds amounts to $268 million with the money administered by the State Department of housing through a program called save our home AZ. Here to talk about it is Reginald Givens. Good to see you again.

Reginald Givens: thank you.

Ted Simons: give me a better definition of save our home AZ.

Reginald Givens: Save our home AZ is designed to assist home owners the avoidance of foreclosure. It provides a number of types of assistance but ideally it's for the consumer who are who either first cant afford their mortgage payment, second is delinquent on their mortgage payment, incapable of getting current, or third may be struggling from negative equity, commonly referred to as being under water.

Ted Simons: it helps those facing foreclosure. Are we talking mortgage modification? What is the assistance?

Reginald Givens: There's the gambit that it runs. What we do first of all is receive an application online from a consumer requiring assistance. We evaluate their circumstances based upon the documentation and make a determination what's best for them. There's principal reduction, in some instances, all of this can come up to $100,000 of assistance. Whereas they may owe $300,000 on a house now worth $200. They qualify. We would provide $100,000 to reduce the principal balance, so what they owe becomes in line with the current value of the home. That's the modification that has non matched dollars for principal reduction.

Ted Simons: there's also short sale assistance. What kind of help does that involve?

Reginald Givens: Short sale is for the person who has either decided that they want to transition out or circumstantially need to transition out. We can help them with $4500 of assistance as they sell the house, what's commonly referred to as cash for keys, we help with 3% of closing "Consumer Reports." That helps with marketability of the property. We can extinguish Junior leans in that process, which is needful in that short sale.

Ted Simons: the second elimination, who qualifies for that?

Reginald Givens: Again, the general qualifications for the program are universal. If I may give you five. The property needs to be in Arizona. Needs to be a primary residence, where you live. You have to have an eligible hardship and we can talk about that but basically it consists of three aspects. Nonself-inflicted, income reducing and non affordable payment producing.

Ted Simons: It sounds like, then, unemployed, under-employed, they qualify?

Reginald Givens: Those are almost a SHOO-in. If you're unemployed and you didn't do anything to become terminated or unemployed you're going to fit the program. We subsidize those up to $2,000 a month for as long as 24 months. The assistance is significant, allowing the household the opportunity to reestablish themselves.

Ted Simons: interesting, two years. That's a deadline. That's ballgame.

Reginald Givens: exactly. Two years. But that's proven to be significant and sufficient. We have helped a number of households we may have assess at the time up to 12, 18 months now. They have been gainfully reemployed and they are maintaining their home on their own.

Ted Simons: Eligibility regarding Fanny, Freddy, FHA, they do not qualify?

Reginald Givens: They do qualify. Various aspects of our assistance requires certain level of investor approval or cooperation. Some aspects just get it across the board. Under the unemployed and under employed and reinstatement we hope to bring the household current no investor will say no. We help them receive monthly the contractual payment due them. When it comes to principal reduction and we want them to match there was resistance, which is why we have eliminated the need for the match. Your loan could be owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac and we can provide you assistance to modify that payment that most likely will cut it by more than a third.

Ted Simons: I heard these federally guaranteed loans did not qualify necessarily.

Reginald Givens: right. It used to be. It's changed. The program has evolved. This started in October of 2010. We have had so many iterations of our policies, to effectively deploy the money in the market given the barriers to accomplish the objective.

Ted Simons: tax consequences here?

Reginald Givens: This is a great thing. The dollars have already been deemed for the general welfare of the public, therefore none of the assistance is taxable to the consumer. It does a major service for our marketplace. We have avoided 800 foreclosures.

Ted Simons: some folks are renters in property that looks like it's facing foreclosure. They are wondering, is there some way to get that money even if the owner is not interested, they don't want to move. Anything for them?

Reginald Givens: Nothing on that level for this program because this is all about homeownership for the consumer that currently owns and has to transition out. However, for the consumer looking to acquire, in our marketplace has an interesting dynamic going on in that the market is pretty solid and starting to improve, when a consumer is short-selling their house in that space our assistance can provide some closing cost assistance to the person buying. So it's helpful to look at short sales where before people would shy away from them.

Ted Simons: it's also helpful to know whether or not you're eligible. For more information we have the website up there.

Reginald Givens: That is the place to go. The program I like to say is web-based and consumer driven. You must complete the online application and you as a consumer have to remain invested in the process.

Ted Simons: So gets you going.

Reginald Givens: exactly.
Ted Simons: are people taking advantage of this? Is it starting to get some traction?
Reginald Givens : I'm glad you have us on here so we can help more people become aware of it because it can do a lot more than it has. It's gaining traction and that's great.

Ted Simons: good stuff. Thanks for joining us.

Reginald Givens: Thank you.