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Development Corporation of Abilene commits $2.9 million to ACU’s NEXT Lab facility expansion

At its July meeting, the Abilene City Council approved a $2.93 million incentive package that enables the Development Corporation of Abilene to enter into an agreement with Abilene Christian University’s Nuclear Energy eXperimental Testing Lab to expand its research and development facility at the former Taylor Elementary School site.

“This project is an incredible opportunity for Abilene,” said Misty Mayo, president and CEO of the DCOA. “Abilene Christian University’s NEXT Lab not only brings opportunities to Abilene residents and students, but it has the potential to positively impact the world through future research and development projects and the commercialization of renewable energy in Abilene. The DCOA is thrilled to be a part of this achievement.”

Incentive funds from the DCOA will be used to support the purchase and improvements of the Taylor property, as well as specialized equipment and materials, and the building of a new Science and Engineering Research Center on the property. NEXT Lab’s expansion plans will retain 28 jobs and create an additional 37 jobs, including 13 projected student positions.

“In addition to retaining and creating jobs, this expansion will provide employment for students which is a great recruitment tool for ACU and a win for our community,” said Mayor Anthony Williams.

ACU expects to invest $29.3 million in the community through NEXT Lab, meaning for every $1 the DCOA invests in the company through its incentive package, $23.14 is invested back into Abilene through initial capital investment and direct spend over the next 10 years. The DCOA also invested $300,000 in NEXT Lab in 2018.

The NEXT Lab – in collaboration with the Georgia Institute of Technology, Texas A&M University, and The University of Texas at Austin – has set out to design, license and commission a molten salt research reactor to be hosted on ACU’s campus. The mission of ACU’s NEXT Lab is to provide global solutions to the world’s need for energy, water and medical isotopes by advancing the technology of molten salt reactors while educating future leaders in nuclear science and engineering. 

“The support of our Abilene community and the DCOA is critical to our success, and we’re thankful for this partnership,” said Dr. Rusty Towell, director of NEXT Lab. “Through this groundbreaking research venture, Abilene and ACU are at the forefront of developing advanced nuclear technology to address global energy needs.”

Learn more about ACU’s NEXT Lab at

— Wendy Kilmer

July 15, 2021

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