Pol­i­cy­mak­ers, of­fi­cials tour CMTE 2.0 and stu­dent union at EMCC

Starkville Daily News - - FORUM -

Mis­sis­sippi leg­is­la­tors and mem­bers of a state agency with over­sight over con­struc­tion of fa­cil­i­ties funded wholly, or in part, through state-is­sued bonds toured East Mis­sis­sippi Com­mu­nity Col­lege's Cen­ter for Man­u­fac­tur­ing Tech­nol­ogy Ex­cel­lence 2.0 and the stu­dent union on the Golden Tri­an­gle cam­pus.

At­ten­dees of the Fri­day, July 13, tour in­cluded of­fi­cials from the Mis­sis­sippi House and Se­nate, the Mis­sis­sippi De­part­ment of Fi­nance and Ad­min­is­tra­tion (DFA), and the Bu­reau of Build­ing, Grounds and Real Prop­erty Man­age­ment.

The Bu­reau of Build­ing op­er­ates under the um­brella of the DFA. The agen­cies hold the con­struc­tion con­tracts for fa­cil­i­ties in which state funds are used. Their ar­chi­tects and en­gi­neers en­sure the fa­cil­i­ties are built to spec­i­fi­ca­tions and that pro­cure­ment laws are fol­lowed.

The Mis­sis­sippi House and Se­nate del­e­gates who ac­com­pa­nied the DFA of­fi­cials are mem­bers of a leg­isla­tive over­sight com­mit­tee charged with in­spect­ing the build­ings.

“It is a re­ally use­ful process in that the leg­is­la­tors, who are the de­ci­sion mak­ers, can put their eyes on the fa­cil­i­ties rather than just rely on me to tell them what needs to be done,” DFA Deputy Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Glenn Korn­brek said.

The trip to EMCC was the last stop for the of­fi­cials, who have been vis­it­ing fa­cil­i­ties across the state. Both EMCC's stu­dent union on the Golden Tri­an­gle cam­pus and the CMTE 2.0, also known as the Com­mu­ni­ver­sity, fall under DFA's do­main. Both build­ings were de­signed by Pry­orMor­row, an ar­chi­tec­ture firm with of­fices in Colum­bus, Tu­pelo and Bran­don.

CMTE 2.0 is under con­struc­tion at the en­trance to the Golden Tri­an­gle Re­gional Global In­dus­trial Aerospace Park in Lown­des County, with work to be com­pleted in 2019.

The state helped ap­pro­pri­ate $3 mil­lion of the $17 mil­lion needed to con­struct the stu­dent union and multi-pur­pose build­ing, which opened to stu­dents in Jan­uary 2017. The re­main­ing $14 mil­lion in bonds sold was shoul­dered by the six coun­ties in EMCC's district, with each pay­ing a pro­rated amount based on the num­ber of stu­dents from their re­spec­tive ar­eas.

The 76,000-square-foot stu­dent union fea­tures an ex­panded book­store, a full-ser­vice cafe­te­ria, a cof­fee shop, lounge ar­eas, ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fice space, com­puter labs and class­rooms.

“From day one this build­ing has done ex­actly what we wanted it to do and that is pro­vide space for stu­dents to study, re­lax and plug into the col­lege's avail­able ser­vices,” EMCC Vice Pres­i­dent for the Golden Tri­an­gle Cam­pus Dr. Paul Miller told the vis­i­tors dur­ing a pre­sen­ta­tion about the col­lege's cur­rent and fu­ture projects.

The state also helped fund the CMTE 2.0, is­su­ing $18 mil­lion in bonds. For­mer Sen. Thad Cochran and the Ap­palachian Re­gional Com­mis­sion se­cured more than $10 mil­lion in fed­eral funds, and Clay, Lown­des and Ok­tibbeha coun­ties con­trib­uted the re­main­ing $13.5 mil­lion to the nearly $42 mil­lion project.

“Ev­ery­body has been in­volved in this project,” said District 62 Rep. Tom Weathersby, who is a mem­ber of the House Ways and Means com­mit­tee and chair­man of the Pub­lic Prop­erty com­mit­tee. “That is due to the peo­ple in this com­mu­nity and their vi­sion for work­force train­ing. We also have a great group of leg­is­la­tors from this area who have helped push the project through.”

One those lo­cal leg­is­la­tors, District 17 Sen. Charles “Chuck” Younger, was among those in at­ten­dance dur­ing the tour. Younger, who sits on the House Ap­pro­pri­a­tions, Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment and Agri­cul­ture com­mit­tees, called the CMTE 2.0 a “game changer for the area.”

“This is go­ing to do noth­ing but con­tinue to grow,” Younger said of the de­mand for train­ing at the fa­cil­ity that will house EMCC's pro­grams in ad­vanced man­u­fac­tur­ing. “You have Alabama on one side us, Mis­sis­sippi State Univer­sity on the other side of us and EMCC is right in the mid­dle. Then we have Mis­sis­sippi Univer­sity for Women. This is noth­ing but good for our youth.”

EMCC has out­grown the orig­i­nal Cen­ter for Man­u­fac­tur­ing Tech­nol­ogy Ex­cel­lence, which was built in 1997, EMCC Vice Pres­i­dent of Work­force and Com­mu­nity Ser­vices Dr. Raj Shau­nak said. About 3,600 non­credit stu­dents are served each year by Work­force Ser­vices, in ad­di­tion to those en­rolled in for-credit cour­ses.

“We do a lot of spe­cial­ized train­ing for peo­ple look­ing for a ca­reer change,” Shau­nak said. “They may have a bach­e­lor's de­gree and are mak­ing $10 an hour at a re­tail out­let and we can pro­vide them the train­ing they need for em­ploy­ment at one of our lo­cal in­dus­tries earn­ing $16 to $18 an hour.”

The de­mand for work­force train­ing has risen as new in­dus­tries, such as Steel Dy­nam­ics, Inc., Bal­dor Electric Com­pany, Stark Aerospace, PACCAR En­gine Com­pany, Aurora Flight Sciences and Yoko­hama Tire Man­u­fac­tur­ing Mis­sis­sippi, mi­grated to the Golden Tri­an­gle area.

Aurora Mis­sis­sippi Di­rec­tor of Com­mu­nity and Pub­lic Af­fairs Greg Ste­wart, who also serves as a Lown­des County rep­re­sen­ta­tive for EMCC's Board of Trustees, said the suc­cess of the orig­i­nal CMTE helped sell the idea of CMTE 2.0.

Part of that suc­cess can be at­trib­uted to the col­lege's will­ing­ness to adapt train­ing to suit in­di­vid­u­al­ized in­dus­try needs, Ste­wart said.

“From a cor­po­rate per­spec­tive, one of the first things I fa­mil­iar­ized my­self with when I came here for Aurora was train­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties that EMCC was pro­vid­ing to some of our em­ploy­ees. That train­ing is what helped us be able to bring up the fa­cil­ity and do it ef­fec­tively. We are con­tin­u­ing to in­ter­act with EMCC as we add staff and train peo­ple.”

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