Georgia Northwestern Technical College (GNTC) celebrated the completion of a major campus addition with a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Whitfield-Murray campus expansion on Friday, Sept. 20.
Gov. Brian Kemp was the keynote speaker for the ceremony that took place in the lobby of the 80,000-square-foot facility. City, county and state leaders also were in attendance at the ceremony in Dalton.
Gov. Kemp said that the Technical College System of Georgia will continue to be a leader in producing a qualified workforce for the State of Georgia.
“I am very excited about the positive impact that this campus is going to have on the local community,” said Kemp. “We have been specifically targeting the northwest Georgia area and we know that Georgia Northwestern Technical College will equip the students that we need with the knowledge and skills necessary to learn a trade and to start having a meaningful career.”
The event began with remarks by Dr. Heidi Popham, president of GNTC. Popham thanked all the GNTC employees that went above and beyond their normal work schedules and duties to transition into the new facility.
“I must take a moment to thank GNTC’s dedicated faculty and staff that have packed, moved and unpacked supplies, furniture and equipment; cleaned old areas and new areas; and came in early and worked late to ensure our students never missed a minute of instruction, advisement or support as we transitioned from our shared space with the College and Career Academy to this new facility,” said Popham. “My sincere thank you to each of you and the work you do to improve the lives of our students.”
Technical College System of Georgia Commissioner (TCSG) Matt Arthur said that the new facility will produce highly-skilled workers that are trained before they start their careers.
“We are always fortunate across the state and right now today to open up a facility like this,” said Arthur. “To have state-of-the-art technology so that when students go through these programs, and they go into the workplace, our industry doesn’t have to do any training. We are doing the training. They will take them and they will tweak them, but the training needs to take place here.”
Joe Yarbrough, TCSG state board member, said that the combination of support from the state of Georgia, city and county governments, community, education partners and business and industry were necessary for the campus expansion to take place.
“When you get through a project like this one, and you see the names of partners that have been involved in making this happen, you know these things don’t happen because of any one individual,” said Yarbrough. “These things don’t happen because of a financial commitment, they happen because of a collaboration.”
Josh Henson, senior project manager of Balfour Beatty, and Mike Macon, senior vice president of Balfour Beatty, presented a $3,000 scholarship to Allen Molina of the Boys and Girls Club of Dalton to attend GNTC. Balfour Beatty is a leading infrastructure group that built the campus expansion.
GNTC’s expansion into Whitfield and Murray counties began in 2010 when business and industry leaders met with GNTC administration to express their support for establishing a campus in the area to address a shortage of highly-skilled workers. Later that year, the Technical College System of Georgia officially expanded GNTC’s service area to include Whitfield and Murray counties with the goal of offering classes in fall 2011.
At this time GNTC’s Whitfield Murray Campus was housed within the Northwest Georgia College and Career Academy. This helped strengthen the partnership between Whitfield County Schools and the college, enhanced dual enrollment options for students and provided GNTC with a means to begin serving the area years before construction for expansion began.
The process for the 80,000 square foot expansion began in December 2014, when the Whitfield County Board of Education graciously voted to donate 23 acres of land to Georgia Northwestern for the campus addition. That same year, planning funds in the amount of $900,000 were appropriated by the Legislature.
HOK, an architecture firm from Atlanta, was selected to help plan and design the addition. HOK completed the master plan for the project in Sept. 2015.
In 2017, $5 million in capital funds for the expansion project was included in the state budget. Bond funding in the amount of $18,780,000 was included in the proposed state budget for fiscal year 2018. The funding approval allowed the state to begin construction in the fall of 2017. Another $4.1 million in bond funding was added for furniture, fixtures and equipment in fiscal year 2019.
State bond funds, in the total of $28.7 million, has allowed for the construction of GNTC’s $33.2 million campus expansion. The difference in campus expansion cost and bond funding of $4.5 million was provided by the local community and industry partners.
The new campus expansion also allowed GNTC to add three brand new industry-focused programs – Automation Engineering Technology, Diesel Mechanic and Flooring Production – to better serve the workforce demands of the northwest Georgia region. The new programs were created in partnership with business and industry leaders to address specific needs with the workforce in the Dalton area.
Programs offered at the expanded campus include Automation Engineering Technology, Business Healthcare Technology, Business Management, Business Technology, CNC Technology, Chemical Technology, Computer Support Specialist, Crime Scene Investigation, Criminal Justice, Diesel Equipment Technology, Early Childhood Care and Education, Flooring Production Operator and Technician, Healthcare Assistant, Industrial Systems Technology, Logistics and Supply Chain Management, Precision Machining and Manufacturing, and Welding and Joining Technology.