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LBW, Reid expected to announce new tech center

While details are still under wraps, a "special announcement" is scheduled during the Greenville city council's Monday meeting, with the announcement being one that Mayor Dexter McLendon said is "big" for the city of Greenville and surrounding areas.

The meeting, which will be held on the Greenville campus of Lurleen B. Wallace Community College at 5:30 p.m., will involve representatives from Reid State, LBW and several dignitaries including Speaker of the House and President Emeritus of LBW, Seth Hammett, Senator Wendell Mitchell and Rep. Charles Newton. The public is also encouraged and invited to attend.

McLendon said the announcement involves the establishment of a $2.5 million industrial training center that would be a cooperative project between the two community colleges and the Alabama Industrial Training Center as well as other state entities.

Officials from AIDT will also be on hand to discuss how the state employment training program will work with the colleges to produce a ready workforce for the numerous Hyundai related industries that have located in the area, including Hwashin and Hysco.

"Without the announcements with Hwashin, Hysco and the surrounding companies, this would not be happening," McLendon said. "This training facility will be key to our ability to recruit other industry as well. We've got to have a way to prepare our workforce for these jobs, otherwise people from outside Butler County will have to fill them."

Dr. Ed Meadows, President of LBW, said the partnership is a model of how economic development partnerships can have a positive impact.

"It's a partnership between of city of Greenville, the Alabama Technology Network,

AIDT, and the Butler County Commission for Economic Development," Meadows said. "We will actually have a partnership under one roof for two colleges and two workforce development agencies in addition to office space and a conference room and use of those facilities for various training as needed by the BCCED."

Meadows said the idea for the 30,000 square foot; two-story building began with discussions between LBW, Reid State and the city after the city announced the new Hyundai related industries. One of the main focuses, he said, will be industrial recruitment and enhancing and expanding the college's educational offerings.

"We began two years ago with the announcement of the Hyundai plant and the first tier plant's desire to locate in Greenville," he said. "We started looking at the workforce needs in Butler and surrounding counties and what we could do as a community college to provide those needs. After some discussion with the mayor and the BCCED we decided to put a new technology building in Greenville.

"The whole aim to the technology center is to assist in promoting Greenville and Butler County to future prospective business and industries and increasing the access to education and training to Greenville and Butler County and the surrounding areas. It certainly will be a very visible and definitive statement regarding that region of the state in working together to provide economic development and a better quality of life for residents of that area."

Jean Thompson, Director of the Greenville campus of LBW and a recently elected city councilwoman, said her vision of an industrial training center has been a long time coming.

"I came to open the current campus 11 years ago and I've wanted some technical programs for a long time," she said.

"But I give Dr. Meadows the credit for his visionary philosophy and his saying it can be done. He's only been here for two years, but after he got here things began to happen. I'm just so excited about this because I thought I would retire before this would happen. Now it's going to happen and I'm just so pleased."

BCCED Executive Director Ricky McLaney also said the facility is a long time coming and will fill a badly needed void in workforce development.

"It's something I said when I started in Greenville seven-and-a-half years ago," he said. "Workforce development has been severely lacking. When your closest training center is in Evergreen and Opp, it hurts. If you'll watch throughout the state these workforce development centers and the communities that utilize them are going to be far in front of others in industrial recruitment and development. I think that's the thing we need to stress with our industries and the community is that it's only going to be good if they utilize it."

LBW will be responsible for retiring the debt on the facility, which is expected to be completed by early 2006.

"The project is going to be funded in majority by a bond issue awarded by LBW, which has been approved by the state board, and we will be responsible for the retirement of that debt," Meadows said. "The city council and the mayor plan to announce a commitment to supply the infrastructure for this technology and training center, and that commitment will be announced on Monday. That's what makes it a nice partnership because it takes a financial commitment on all sides to make a true partnership and we're getting that."