Most of the attendees had no idea how quickly those campaigns would take off until they viewed Southern's new multi-million dollar Allied Health and Technology Center Wednesday during the official grand opening.
Legislators, educators and administrators, elected officials and medical professionals gathered at the college for the grand opening of the center on Wednesday.
West Virginia Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin said he was exceptionally proud of the new 55,000-square-foot facility as well as the millions utilized to build other educational facilities in our region, such as the new regional high school in Chapmanville and other projects in the area such as the new multi-million sewage treatment project which will provide service to the college. Tomblin said some people might find a major sewage project amusing, but it's a requirement in the modern world and no laughing matter to those without it.
"These are all publicly financed projects," Tomblin said. "But I am also proud of the private investments being made to our area."
Tomblin noted that Logan Regional Medical Center had invested millions into improving healthcare in our region and that coal companies such as Arch and Massey had played a role by funding projects like the race track, which will be on the border between Logan and Mingo Counties, near the Holden area.
"These are things we can see and touch and they make us proud," Tomblin said.
Tomblin said 15 years ago he and other members of the legislature noticed a major dilemma. Other states that were doing better than West Virginia had found success through better preparing the workforce for the realities of modern life. Tomblin said West Virginia's leaders realized they needed to adjust and change the community college system in order to address that thorny issue.
"At that time, the focus in higher education across the state was on traditional four year programs," Tomblin explained, and employers had a hard time getting employees who had the specialized training the workplace needed. The West Virginia Senate then decided to create a new system in the state that would help people get the kind of training the workforce required.
"It took us 15 years," Tomblin noted, explaining the traditionalists in the state's higher education system "kicked and screamed every step of the way." However the needed improvements were made, Tomblin said, adding that after three years even Gov. Manchin signed on with the plans. "He is now convinced we did the right thing for the state of West Virginia. Today, the community college system is doing better, enrollment is up and tuition is affordable. Of all the community colleges in the state Southern got the picture of what we were doing the quickest."
Tomblin said Southern has taken a leadership role for the rest of the schools in the community college system.
"This facility will be a major asset to the community," Tomblin said.
SWVCTC President Joanne Jaeger Tomblin discussed the roots of the project in two recent campaigns at the college and thanked many people across the community for their assistance in making the vision become reality.
"We have a large number of health programs at Southern" Tomblin noted, explaining that in 2003, the college made an important decision to expand the training it offered in order to help the local workforce fill shortages it had in trained employees. The college already had an excellent reputation due to the graduates from its health programs who were working in their chosen field across the state.
"We knew we needed more space and more technology," Tomblin said explaining that the college approached WV Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin for his help and assistance. The college's board of governors and the Southern Foundation approved of the Vision program in 2003 which had a stated goal of expanding the training provided by the college to assist the local workforce and took a big risk when it started the 20-20 Major Gifts campaign to fund the idea of raising $7 million by 2012.
"In two years we managed to raise $6.8 million," Tomblin said, which allowed the college to expand. The mine training academy was announced and became a reality along with other innovative programs including respiratory, dental hygiene, surveying, cosmetology and others. Tomblin said the Mine Academy has provided needed training for thousands of new miners since its inception.
"We look forward to a greater future and serving this country in a bigger way," Tomblin said.