ONEONTA, ALA.—Wallace State Community College, the City of Oneonta and Blount County celebrated the groundbreaking for a new 20,000 foot Wallace State-Oneonta facility on Thursday. Oneonta Mayor Ross Norris welcomed Governor Kay Ivey to the event, during which she presented a grant for $2.3 million for the project.
“This is a great day for Alabama,” said Governor Ivey. “By 2020, 62 percent of all the jobs in Alabama will require a postsecondary degree or certificate. Today, only 37 percent of our workforce have such a credential. Today, we celebrate a commitment to educate future generations…and I am especially proud to begin this project in rural Alabama,” she said.
By some estimates, the grant announced Thursday was the largest single grant ever given to Blount County. “There is nothing that benefits a community more than higher education,” said Mayor Ross Norris. “It is a game changer. This grant, and this facility, bring new energy to our community, and will generate economic development for years to come.” City Manager Ed Lowe has called the project “an economic miracle” for Oneonta, contributing to revitalization downtown and increased traffic from students and out-of-town visitors, with a measurable increase in sales tax collections.. Having a college in Oneonta will attract new investment, he said, and “our existing industries are also seeing an advantage from having workforce development locally.”
“What an absolute pleasure it is to arrive at this day, the culmination of five years of planning,” said Wallace State President Vicki Karolewics. “Wallace State is indeed honored to call Oneonta home, and to work hand in hand with City of Oneonta and Blount County representatives to expand workforce and economic development.” The education and training provided through Wallace State’s new Oneonta facility “will lead to generational change and prosperity for Alabama,” Dr. Karolewics said. “I am grateful to have a Governor who understands the needs of rural Alabama.”
Wallace State’s enrollment at its Oneonta Center, having served more than 640 students to date, is growing at a pace that exceeded expectations. In addition to associate degree academic transfer programs of study, a new welding program in Oneonta is already anticipating the need to expand due to demand. Dr. Karolewics also announced two new programs. An Apple App Development program, the result of a partnership between Apple and the Alabama Community College System, will begin next year. And, through a state partnership with the Manufacturing Skills Standards Council (MSSC) announced recently by Governor Ivey, Wallace State as part of an Alabama Community Colleges System initiative, will begin offering Certified Production Technician (CPT), Certified Logistics Associate (CLA) and Certified Logistics Technician (CLT) training in January. Courses in Engineering Technology and Emergency Management Services have already begun and Visual Communications will be added soon. A Vet Tech program is also being considered.
“If you had to pick a president to help you along the way and to achieve what you must achieve, you couldn’t have picked a better one,” said Alabama Community College System Chancellor Jimmy Baker, referring to Dr. Karolewics. “My only regret is that I can’t clone her.”
Baker thanked Governor Ivey for her support of education. “It makes a difference when you work every day in education to know that she goes to work every day committed to education,” he said.
The new Wallace State-Oneonta facility is expected to open in Spring 2019, and will house the college’s academic programs. The existing facility, located at 728 2nd Avenue SE in Oneonta, was intended to be a temporary location when it opened last year. However, with faster than expected growth and increasing demand for services, the college now expects to turn that facility into a career training facility for health and applied technologies programs.
Priority registration for spring semester will begin November 13. For more information about Wallace State, visit www.wallacestate.edu.
Link to photos from the Governor’s Office: https://flickr.com/photos/97349413@N04/sets/72157688096064234
Link to additional event photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/wallacestate/albums/72157686351983912
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