UIDP30 Speaker Spotlight: Kelly Templin, Texas A&M University
Kelly Templin is director of the Texas A&M System’s RELLIS Campus. He previously served as the city manager of the City of College Station, TX, and Seabrook, TX. Kelly holds degrees in architecture and urban planning from Texas A&M University.
UIDP: You’re a panelist for the UIDP30 presentation, “Re-envisioning Acquired Spaces for New Partnerships.” What are three challenges universities face when repurposing a space for university-industry partnership?
Templin: If there were only three challenges, how easy life would be! The RELLIS campus started as an air base that was established in 1943 to train aviators for World War II. It was reactivated for the Korean Conflict. After the 1950s, it was mothballed and Texas A&M acquired it free of charge. For 58 years, we’ve been conducting testing and training there. In 2016 it was transformed into the RELLIS campus. That’s when we started to reinvent and modernize it.
Because of the age of the property, much of the infrastructure was vintage 1940s. The first large challenge was to modernize water, sewer, electricity, thermals, all those sorts of things. The second challenge was diving into the master plan and reaching a consensus for how we would use the campus, which proved difficult because of the wide breadth of training, testing and research that takes place on the campus. But to size those utilities and plan space for the activities that would take place, we had to arrive at a consensus. Perhaps, now, the greatest challenge is being nimble and responding to evolving research needs, particularly coming from the Army Futures Command, but also from the private sector and federal agencies. Not a week goes by that we don’t have a different inquiry about whether we can accommodate a new project. We find ourselves trying to plan ahead and stay flexible, but as a state agency, sometimes we’re not able to be as nimble as our customers would prefer. And that’s an ongoing challenge. But if you love doing economic development, and as a city manager I do, no two days are the same and I’m never allowed to be bored.
UIDP: The RELLIS Campus is an example of a repurposed space, and it will be a tour destination for attendees at UIDP30. Can you share some highlights they will see?
Templin: In two years, I’ve done over 60 tours of the campus—everything from local groups to Fortune 100 companies. There are a lot of exciting high points here. We’ve dedicated the Center for Infrastructure Renewal, a $93 million facility that researches and investigates the country’s infrastructure. The whole idea is to get greater longevity from our infrastructure and to remove inefficiencies from that industry. I love touring that building because it’s always eye opening to see the breadth of technologies being tested there, from concrete reinforcement to the electrical grid.
We also have a new 180,000 square foot headquarters building for the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, the largest non-federal transportation research group in the country. They’ve done work for 40 states and 30 nations. They break things and they do weekly crash tests there. Every day they’re trying to make our roadways, railways, and seaways better, they break a lot of things in a test environment here so they don’t fail in the real world.
The George Bush Combat Development Complex is still under construction, but it’s very exciting because of the research it’s bringing to campus—energy directed weapons, secure 5-G networks, hypersonics, vertical lift systems–I don’t understand a lot of these technologies, but I love being part of facilitating their needs for facilities and test grounds.
UIDP: What is one thing about visiting College Station that university and industry research partnership pros may not know?
Templin: I know all the peculiarities about my alma mater. You may not know it, but there are 64,300 students at Texas A&M University, among the biggest student populations in the country. It’s a top-10 public research university. It has grown tremendously; when my father was here, there were 2,800 cadets. And it’s a friendly campus; the Princeton press always rates it as one of the friendliest campuses in the country.