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Community comments about Victoria College's new center


Aug. 27, 2012 at 3:27 a.m.

Victoria College President Tom Butler discusses an incoming emerging technology center Monday morning inside the Leo J. Welder Center for the Performing Arts. The college is asking for the community's input regarding what training options and facility features would be most useful.

The location is set and the concept in place for Victoria College's incoming Emerging Technology Center. And on Monday morning, the community had its chance to offer input on the project.

About 50 people gathered inside the Leo J. Welder Center for the Performing Arts to learn more about the new center and discuss ideas for both the design and training that would be available.

Initial plans call for a 56,000-square-foot conference center facility complete with reception area, computer labs, a corporate training room, large meeting space and more, said Victoria College President Tom Butler. A 24,000-square-foot high bay training area would offer six bays, while a possible mezzanine would allow for additional office and classroom space.

"We would like to plan this for future expansion," Butler said. "We believe that we, at some point, will need another six bays."

Butler said the $22.5 million approved during the May bond election would cover project's site work and buildings, but not the six additional bays or all of the technology and equipment.

"So we will be continuing to look for sources of funding to make things work as we move forward," he said. "My two greatest fears are that whatever we build won't be big enough, and that we will run out of money."

The college based construction and labor estimates on what it cost for Victoria's two new high schools, he said, and sent representatives to communities in South Carolina and Kentucky to visit existing emerging technology centers.

Randy Vivian, president and CEO of the Victoria Chamber of Commerce, said the added conference and meeting space - something currently nonexistent in Victoria - would benefit the area.

"I probably get three or four phone calls a month from people looking for conference space for a sizeable audience," Vivian said during a question-and-answer session. "I'll tell them, 'With the limited spaces we have, it's just not conducive.'"

Vivian said space for 400 to 500 people would be an adequate start, but said it was important to locate accommodations next to the facility.

Mike McGuire, who volunteers with the Calhoun County school district, said the district finds it difficult to get students interested in trades. Of the 60-some students who applied for Rotary scholarships last year, he said, only one said he was interested in welding, while a handful were interested in nursing.

McGuire encouraged Victoria College to tighten its links with area high schools however possible.

"It is a big problem in our area," he said. "We're just not being successful in bringing kids where the jobs are."

Butler said the college planned to begin issuing bids for construction manager at risk in September and to award the contract in October. Plans would continue forward with a finalized design in November and, in the next month, a groundbreaking.

He said they hoped to complete construction and occupy the building in spring 2015, if not sooner.

"This is going to be a building that's different than anything we've done before," Butler said. "That people will come here to look at, just as we went there to look at theirs. That's where we're going."

For those unable to attend Monday, there's still a chance to offer comments. Visit to view a presentation and take a survey on what you'd like to see come to the center.



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