Governor Matt Mead and University of Wyoming President Laurie Nichols took up the golden shovels Friday morning to break ground on the new UW Engineering Education and Research Building.

The building is set to open for classes in fall of 2018, Nichols said after Friday's ceremony.

"This really will drive the top-tier engineering initiative," Nichols said. "It allows wonderful teaching to happen and of course it will have state-of-the art classrooms."

Nichols says in addition to educational facilities, the building will include entrepreneurial space for students in order to spur them in that direction.

The building, with a price tag of $105 million, is almost entirely funded by a legislative appropriation. The remaining $5 million came in the form of private donations.

Gov. Mead told the crowd the state must focus on keeping young people in Wyoming to grow the state's intellectual capital, and the new building as part of the engineering initiative currently underway is a significant step toward that goal.

"We lose sixty percent of our young people between eighteen and twenty-five," Mead said. "We cannot lose our most important resource, and that is those young people. We have to turn the tide."

Mead said the new building will provide excellence in education that will go a long way toward keeping those young people in the state.

Over the last two years, the UW College of Engineering and Applied Sciences has seen enrollment increase almost 16 percent. Mead said while the boost enrollment is a positive step, keeping students in those programs is crucial.

"Of those, ninety-three percent are still in the program. It's a remarkable thing," Mead said.

Nichols attributes the increase in enrollment to the college's improved visibility among prospective students as well as ramped-up recruitment efforts.

"And I think, quite frankly, we have more employers coming to this university to hire," Nichols said. "And that's always popular with students."

Nichols says engineering is a vital part of the university and the state's economy.

"Engineering is usually what's behind manufacturing, it's behind energy, it's behind so many things that become part of the economic development of the state," Nichols said.

"We support all disciplines at this university and it's certainly not just about engineering," Nichols said. "But we know that in terms of what's really important to the state, engineering and science really stand out and we're working that very hard so that we can be the best land-grant university we can be to the state and really help the state with the economy."