At long last, Chattahoochee Technical College has taken the first step toward fulfilling a longtime goal.
Representatives from the Technical College System of Georgia, Cartersville-Bartow County Chamber of Commerce and the business community joined faculty and staff Oct. 15 to break ground on the college's new $8.9 million Center for Advanced Manufacturing and Emerging Technologies on the North Metro campus in Acworth.
"This facility will be dedicated to advanced manufacturing training and will allow Chattahoochee Tech to answer employer needs within our community," CTC President Dr. Ron Newcomb said. "Local industries have an increasing need for a trained workforce in advanced manufacturing technologies."
During the groundbreaking ceremony, Chattahoochee Tech Foundation board Chairman Mark Goddard, TCSG Commissioner Greg Dozier, chamber Chairman Josh Brock, Tom Gay of Gay Construction, Scott Gordon of Clark Patterson Lee and Newcomb gripped shovels stuck in a mound of dirt to signify the beginning of the long-awaited building process.
"As we walk into this new facility in just months, we'll see that the training is matching those jobs of the future, and that means the economy of the future," Dozier said. "This is a proud moment, and I truly look forward to walking through this facility so I can see the future jobs and future leaders of Georgia."
Also addressing the crowd were former CTC board Chairman Jim Hawk, Goddard, Gordon, Gay and Newcomb.
The 20,001-square-foot center — which will be located in the area between the Health Education Center and the main part of campus and will be visible from all parts of the campus and Interstate 75 — has been in the works for "a little over two years," according to CTC Vice President of Academic Affairs and Economic Development Jason Tanner.
"The process included requests for funding and a bid process for architects and a general contractor," he said. "Honestly, it’s been a dream of Chattahoochee for a long time."
Manufacturing industries and economic development agencies in the college's six-county service area have requested additional education and training in advanced manufacturing technologies, and those requests have been increasing over the past five years.
Current instructional space for advanced manufacturing is inadequate to support additional training due to space limitations and the age of the building.
"Our current facility for these programs was built in the late 1980s," Tanner said. "Precision manufacturing and machining came to Chattahoochee about four years ago as a new program. Robotics and automation have advancements daily. So we currently have an older facility of a set size, and we also have retrofitted space. There are size limitations that this new space will help ease. There also are technological limitations in the current space that the new building will address. Every inch of this new building is planned for the programs that will be in it, not remodeled or retrofitted."
The $8,905,000 center — designed by Clark Patterson Lee and being built by Gay Construction — will house the precision machining and manufacturing program and the industrial maintenance and electrical technology program as well as high-tech robotics and emerging technologies labs, two lecture classrooms, two computer labs and four faculty offices.
"The majority of this building is dedicated to instruction," Tanner said. "There will be movement, action and hands-on activities in all instructional spaces. About 50% of the building, roughly 10,000 square feet, is dedicated to the flexible lab/bay space. That allows for a robotics-centered lab, a CNC [computer numerical control]-centered lab and an industrial maintenance-centered lab."
The building won't have any administrative space or conference space "in order to allow instructional space to be maximized," Tanner said.
"There are two computer lab classrooms, and that is crucial for the programs that have computer-based competencies like CAD [computer-aided design], CAM [computer-aided manufacturing] and PLCs [programmable logic controllers]. There are two standard classrooms, but they will have the space and utility to hold some equipment. There also will be space for four faculty offices and some common areas for students."
The projected completion date for the new facility is October 2021.
"The build time is 12 months so we anticipate completion about a year from now, with students and courses fully operational in January 2022, which is spring semester 2022," Tanner said. "The way construction is planned and our current schedule is formatted should mean no disruption to the programs, courses or services due to construction as this is a separate facility on campus. We will have time to move existing equipment into the new facility late in fall 2021, over the break."
Everyone at Chattahoochee Tech is eager for the center to be completed, according to Tanner.
"We’re excited about it and ready for it to begin," he said. "Let’s hope for good weather and safe work."