Monday, March 11, 2013

Tri-County President Ronnie L. Booth, front row, sixth from left, was joined by Commissioners, Foundation Board members, county council members, legislators, faculty and community partners as they gathered March 8 to cut the ribbon for the College's new Industrial Technology Center. The 43,000-square-foot Industrial Technology Center houses the Welding and Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) programs and was specifically designed to mimic a real-world industrial setting.  

Tri-County Technical College Dedicates Industrial Technology Center

CONTACT:  DOUG ALLEN, 646-1408 or

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                            3/11/2013

                                                                                                (By Lisa Garrett)

            PENDLETON --- In his 23 years of teaching industrial electronics classes at Tri-County Technical College, Acting Dean of the Engineering and Technology Division Doug Allen says he's never seen as many requests for technically-skilled employees as he has in recent months.  Allen, speaking at a ribbon cutting and dedication ceremony for the College's new Industrial Technology Center, said the modern facility will help meet the growing needs of local industry.

            The 43,000-square-foot Industrial Technology Center houses the Welding and Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) programs and was specifically designed to mimic a real-world industrial setting.  It's also being billed a showplace by economic development prospects and local companies.

            "This is a milestone for us," said President Ronnie Booth, as he compared the Pendleton facilities to the ITC located just five miles from the campus.  "Students are learning to function in an industrial environment," said Dr. Booth, adding that equipment that students train on in the ITC matches industries' expectations of what graduates will use on the job.  "Students are proud of this facility." 

            The new facility that opened the first day of spring semester (January 14) is a far cry from the Welding and HVAC facility located on the Pendleton Campus since 1963.  "There is a vast difference in the two facilities," said third-semester Welding student Jessica Gray-Brewer, 21, who compares the two buildings as "going from a cave to the Taj Mahal.  It just knocks you out.  There's so much energy in the room," she said.

            "It's like a new program now with very up-to-date equipment.  We are learning on the latest and greatest.  It makes me eager to learn," she added.

            "Our vision was to make the ITC as close to a manufacturing facility as we could, with safety as the utmost concern in the lab areas," said Allen. "The facility is OSHA compliant, complete with all of the necessary signage in areas where Personal Protective Equipment is required."  The floors are striped for floor and forklift traffic and the welding area has a state-of-the-art smoke extraction system. 

            This semester there are 105 Welding students and 50 HVAC students.  "The welding booths were at capacity from 8 a.m. - 10 p.m. on the Pendleton Campus. HVAC was also out of space," Allen added.  "There were 32 welding booths at Pendleton.  We couldn't meet industry's demand for skilled welders.  In the new facility, there are 48 booths, and we have the capacity for 72 students. A big change is the no-wait factor for using the welding booths," he said.

            The facility includes an 11,000-square-foot welding laboratory with 48 welding booths and a 4,000 square foot fabrication area, a 6,000-square-foot HVAC lab, three classrooms, an open computer laboratory, seven offices, and a faculty work area. In addition, there is approximately 8,000 square feet of space available for future program development.

            Existing equipment was refurbished and moved to the center, and new equipment also was purchased, including a new $58,000 robot and a $78,000 manufacturing cell for the welding program, as well as all-new gas packs for the heating and air conditioning units in the HVAC program.

            Dr. Booth acknowledged community partners, Lollis Metals, Lakeside Steel and Machine and McGee Heating and Air Conditioning, who have named rooms at the facility.

            The EIT Division has begun the process of blending the Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning and Building Construction programs to become a single, more multi-functional degree.

            "Based on recommendations from our advisory committees and industry representatives, we see this as an opportunity to blend the two programs," said Doug.  "The group recognized that the HVAC students need an additional skill set (offered through Building Construction) that includes plumbing, electrical wiring and carpentry for floor and ductwork.  Adding these courses to an already strong degree offering makes our HVAC graduates much more marketable. As the economy improves and new construction, along with renovations of existing buildings increase, our graduates will be in a strong position to join the growing workforce."

            "We take pride in being sure we are preparing our graduates technically for what they will see in today's workplace.  We also are concentrating on the soft skills by embedding communications and problem solving into our courses. Graduates will be ready for the professional side of the job, as well as the technical side of the job," said Allen. 

            The ITC will allow the College to help industry with continuing education of their associates, said Dr. Booth.   "There's no space at the Pendleton Campus for classes so the Sandy Springs location will allow the College to keep the industry training programs centrally located in the service area, which is important to our students who enroll from all three counties and for the local industries served by the College."



            Several years ago, the Tri-County Technical College determined that the Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) and Welding programs needed to be moved from their existing locations in Wilson and Cleveland halls on the Pendleton Campus. The facilities were becoming outdated and had reached maximum capacity for enrollment.  

            In an effort to be a good steward of public funds, the College decided to look for an existing facility that could be refurbished, rather than construct a new building. In addition, it was important to find a facility that was centrally located in the three-county service area because enrollment from these programs comes from all three counties.

            In August 2010, the College purchased a vacant building, formerly the Virginia/Carolina Tobacco Products facility, located at 5321 Highway 76 near Sandy Springs, less than five miles from the Pendleton Campus.

            The purchase price of the building was $975,000. Funding for the project came from the College's capital reserves.


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