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Gov. Davis, Rep. Bono support UCR desert business center

Gov. Davis, Rep. Bono support UCR desert business center

(March 29, 2001)

California Gov. Gray Davis and Congresswoman Mary Bono, R-Palm Springs, pledged to do all they can to support the Richard J. Heckmann International Center for Entrepreneurial Management in its efforts to create a new generation of entrepreneurs who will transform the Coachella Valley economy.

Davis and Bono called the center, which will operate as part of the A. Gary Anderson Graduate School of Management at the University of California, Riverside, key to creating more entrepreneurial opportunities for the Coachella Valley's residents.

"I will put another $10 million in this year's budget for the center," Davis told an audience of about 250 at a March 23 groundbreaking ceremony. The state legislature cut $10 million pledged to the center last year.

The center, which is scheduled to open in fall 2002, is named after Richard J. Heckmann, founder of Palm Desert-based USFilter. Heckmann donated $6 million to construct the 21,200-square-foot center at the corner of Cook Street and Frank Sinatra Drive in Palm Desert.

Heckmann has been lauded for his rapid turnaround of the fledgling water services and treatment firm he founded in 1990. Nine years after founding USFilter, the French conglomerate Vivendi S.A. bought it for $8.2 billion. The company made $17 million in its first year under Heckmann.

The center he helped establish will sit next to the desert campus of the California State University San Bernardino now under construction on land donated by the city of Palm Desert. The Center and the CSU campus are scheduled to open by the end of next year. Davis pledged $10 million in state funds to help build a 23,600-square-foot second phase of the center.

UCR has laid some of the educational groundwork for the center. Officials drafted agreements with 15 European universities, forging student exchange programs that will allow study in Palm Desert and overseas. UCR is also enlisting Heckmann's pull to attract internationally respected business leaders to teach classes, give seminars, and advise on the curriculum. Heckmann will chair an advisory committee on curriculum. UCR will also work with Cal. State San Bernardino and the College of the Desert to develop courses.

The center is an outgrowth of Heckmann's desire to educate a crop of business leaders and entrepreneurs who would do for the Coachella Valley business sector what irrigation did for its agriculture industry. Together with Don Dye, dean of the A. Gary Anderson Graduate School of Management, Heckmann hopes to transform the valley's economy, much like he transformed USFilter from a money loser to a global leader in water and wastewater systems.

"I'm proud of the 30,000 employees (at USFilter) who built this company from scratch into a Fortune-500 company," Heckmann said. "It's the first one in the desert but hopefully, not the last."

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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