Well, it's a great pleasure to have been invited here today to join you for this celebration.
I think of all the phases of a construction project, this is the best one by far. This is where all of the bulldozers are gone and the dust and the orange cones and the realization of the dream is in front of you and tangible. This is a beautiful facility and we're delighted to be here from NIST.
A number of people to acknowledge—first and foremost I am to a large part standing in for my boss, Secretary Gary Locke, Secretary of Commerce, who very much wanted to be here today. In fact, we saw it on his schedule and I fully anticipated he was going to be here. But as many of you know, the President a couple of weeks ago announced his intention to nominate Secretary Locke to be our next Ambassador to China and so his schedule got thrown away and a brand new schedule replaced and he's very busy getting ready for that new set of responsibilities that will be very important. And so he sends his sincere regrets that he could not be here today.
NIST, as I think some of you know, or many of you know, is the nation's measurement laboratory, and for that reason we feel a great deal of, share a great deal of sympathy with our physics colleagues here in enjoying this wonderful facility because we understand the enabling role that a key facility like this can play to your research, and so we are very excited to be here.
The reason NIST was involved specifically with this project was because there is a fairly new program at NIST called the Construction Research Grant Program [officially: NIST Construction Grant Program] that was actually begun only in 2008. It was a relatively small program, and Rice was an applicant at that time and I think did not make the cut. And then in 2009 this country was faced with the worst economic downturn in over a generation, and Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, what many of us think of as the Stimulus Act. And one of the consequences of that was this very small grant program was increased from $20 million a year to $180 million for one time. And our strategy was to go back and look at the over 90 applications we had received, and we had only been able to fund four, and to realize that there was a lot of great work here and one of the ones that rose to the top, of course, was this program here. And so NIST was able to provide a little over $11 million at what was a crucial time.
One thing that I want to add before sitting down, because I'm anxious to hear Shannon myself, is there is a lot of rethinking about the Stimulus Bill. We hear about it all the time—what does it mean, do we need it, and looking at cost and a lot of other things in this country. But it's important to go back and remember when that piece of legislation was passed, it had two goals. One of them was stimulus, one of them was to inject money into the economy, and certainly this counted as a shovel-ready project. Rice was ready to go and we were happy to help. But the other major goal of this, of that bill, was to invest in the fundamentals for future economic growth for the United States, and this facility also plays that role. There is nothing more fundamental to our ability to grow as a country than our ability to stay on the cutting edge of research. This is the home of nanotechnology, we've seen the promise right here in front of us. And the other important part of this is that the most important investment we make is in the education of the people who are going to be the future leaders—the future scientists, the future leaders. And this facility also plays such an essential role in education and research. And so there's no, there's no better combination of both the economic stimulus for the short term as a recovery and in the long term as a great investment that we're here today to celebrate.
So I'm delighted to be here and appreciate very much the opportunity to join you today. Thank you. [Applause]