HANCEVILLE, AL—Wallace State Community College held a groundbreaking ceremony for a new $7.7 million Technical Education Center for Welding and Entrepreneurship on Friday. The new facility will be located on the north end of campus behind the School of Nursing and Center for Science.
“This groundbreaking today is a sign of more groundbreakings to come from new industry that will locate in this area as a result,” said Congressman Robert Aderholt. “Having this here is no small thing, and I look forward to being invited back to the opening.” The college has set a goal of opening the facility in April 2020.
“Today is a win for everyone,” said Matthew Woods, member of the Alabama Community College System Board of Trustees. “When I see the plans for this building, I see lives being changed, families achieving their dreams, opportunities for new and expanding businesses.”
“Thank you to all those who work every day to make Wallace State the success story that it is,” said Representative Randall Shedd.
Alabama Community College System Chancellor Jimmy Baker said, “I am on a campaign and I can’t think of a better place to kick it off than right here” – a campaign to provide opportunities and assistance so that every citizen of this state can move forward, be successful, and enjoy the benefits of a good life. “Every area of this state is worthy; every citizen of this state is worthy,” he said. The key is expanding and improving the Alabama Community College System. “No other organization has the interest of everyone.”
The new Wallace State welding facility will allow the program to grow from 6,500 square feet of cramped classroom and lab space with 51 welding booths, 18 of which are in mobile units, to a 19,445 square feet state-of-the-art facility better equipped to serve a program with approximately 80 students and growing enrollment.
The new space will include 62 welding booths; ten virtual welding simulators; six pipe fitting stations; a destructive and non-destructive testing lab, which includes magnetic particle testing, penetrant dye testing, macro etch testing and ultrasonic testing; three robotic welding and resistance welding cells; an additive manufacturing cell; and a CNC automation and programming lab for plasma cutting, fiber laser cutting, and water jet cutting; and an overhead crane for safety training in rigging and crane operation.
“This state-of-the-art facility will expand the breadth and depth of competencies to be developed in our graduates,” said Dr. Karolewics. “It will allow us to expand our emphasis on industry recognized credentialing and certifications through our partnership with NC3, and move us one step closer to finalizing our partnership with Lincoln Electric to become a Southeastern Authorized Training Center.” Lincoln Electric is the world’s largest manufacturer of welding equipment, welding consumables and automation.
“The love for Wallace State runs deep in me and my family,” said Senator Garlan Gudger, whose father served as longtime Dean of Students at Wallace State and mother was the first business instructor. Gudger recounted growing up at WSCC and learning early welding techniques while visiting the welding program on numerous occasions with his father. These skills he continues to use in his architectural salvaging business today, he said.
The facility will also house a new Entrepreneurship Center and Technology Incubator, which will contain seven incubation pods, an ideation station, along with shared conference and workspaces.
“We have sought funding for this venture for at least eight years, and finally, with the help of Congressman (Robert) Aderholt and Senator (Doug) Jones, we were fortunate to secure a $2 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration,” said Karolewics.
The Entrepreneurship Center and Technology Incubator is projected to create up to 98 jobs and a $25 million investment in payroll revenue for this community over the next eight years.
“Through Wallace State’s involvement in establishing Technology Village Cullman, we look forward to serving as a launching pad for new technology products in our Technology Incubator. This building affirms our strategic emphasis not only on workforce development, but also on community and economic development,” Karolewics said.
Cullman Mayor Woody Jacobs praised the partnership that made the Technology Village possible. “Wallace State understands teamwork. We do a lot of projects together,” he said. “Partnerships are what make Cullman what it is.”
Lance Self, founder of ZeroRPM, started his company as Wallace State’s first incubator client. “ZeroRPM began as an idea in a garage that would surely have failed without the support of the State of Alabama, Cullman Economic Development and Wallace State,” Self said.
The event concluded with a symbolic turning of dirt, which on this occasion was held indoors due to inclement weather. “Even though it is rainy outside today, the sun is always shining on Wallace State,” said Mayor of Hanceville Kenneth Nail.
Wallace State welding instructors and students were recognized during the event. The Wallace State Jazz Band provided entertainment.
More images from the event – https://www.flickr.com/gp/wallacestate/BR47g0
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