Lindsey Graham, Aiken Republican Club

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., arrives in Aiken Tuesday morning. Graham soon after spoke at a luncheon jointly hosted by the Aiken Republican Club and the Aiken County Republican Party.

A years-in-the-making facility designed to foster education and industry connections between the public and the Savannah River Site and drive high-tech investment to the region will be financed this year by Congress, according to U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham.

Asked Tuesday if the Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative would be funded, Graham was quick to the point: "Yes."

"The person who asked that question probably works there," Graham said, drawing laughs from a crowd of more than 200 people.

The South Carolina Republican went on to describe the AMC as "a really good investment." Former U.S. Department of Energy environmental cleanup chief Anne Marie White in April described the facility as "very exciting."

The AMC would cover 60,000 square-feet at the USC Aiken campus, according to federal budget documents. Prior renderings and drawings of the AMC show engineering, cyber, robotics and metal labs as well as office spaces, break rooms and areas to meet. The facility will "provide some laboratory space, testing kinds of space, available both for industry and academia," Savannah River Site deputy manager Thomas Johnson Jr. has said.

"So, we're trying to spin off from the site, the technology and the great minds that exist around here to help the private sector," Graham said Tuesday. "We're trying to take a government footprint and leverage it so we can grow the private sector."

Both USCA Chancellor Sandra Jordan and Economic Development Partnership President and CEO Will Williams have portrayed the AMC as an economic flashpoint for Aiken County and the University Parkway corridor, more specifically. The Economic Development Partnership is a nonprofit that works to promote growth in a four-county region.

Jordan in mid-April sat down with Deputy Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette to discuss the AMC. During their talks, Brouillette "expressed his very deep interest in and support for" the multimillion-dollar venture, according to the chancellor.

"He wants to break ground in the fall," Jordan said.

President Donald Trump's fiscal year 2020 budget blueprint – not actual appropriations – included $50 million for the AMC project. Graham did not provide a specific funding figure during his speech, which was delivered at a luncheon jointly hosted by the Aiken Republican Club and the Aiken County Republican Party.

In an interview before his speech, Graham said he thought the Savannah River Site would "get a good number," referencing overall funding.

The budget for "the site is going to be good," the senior senator continued.

Colin Demarest covers the Savannah River Site, the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Nuclear Security Administration and government in general. Follow him on Twitter: @demarest_colin