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ACC hopes to launch regional center for green jobs training

ACC president suggests ACC partner with Guilford, Randolph community colleges for Triad East Center for Advanced Technology in Liberty area

Alamance Community College president Dr. Algie Gatewood is dreaming big again, fresh on the heels of opening the college’s first two bond-funded projects, a Biotechnology Center of Excellence and Student Services Center on ACC’s Graham campus (see related story, this edition).

This week, Gatewood asked ACC’s trustees to endorse, in “concept,” a proposal to open a “Triad East Center for Advanced Technology,” which he termed, in short, TECAT, to train people for jobs at the Toyota battery manufacturing plant that’s under construction in Liberty. The Toyota plant will manufacture EV lithium-ion batteries for electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, the company announced last year.

“This is a great opportunity to capitalize on what’s happening in our region,” Gatewood said Monday night.

The “Triad East” center would be launched in collaboration with two other nearby community colleges: Guilford Tech and Randolph Community College, Gatewood told the trustees Monday night.

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The cost to build a 40,000-square foot regional center of excellence is estimated at approximately $24 million, including land acquisition and site work, based on an analysis that Gatewood provided for the trustees’ discussion.

Ideally, the proposed “TECAT” center of excellence would be built somewhere around Liberty, near the Greensboro-Randolph Megasite and the Toyota battery plant, Gatewood told the trustees. “It’s quickly maturing,” Gatewood said, referring to the construction of the Toyota battery plant.

Noting that the three-county area already has an estimated 55,000 manufacturing jobs, Gatewood said that the TECAT center would create a lasting impact on future workforce preparation. “The ingredients are in place,” he told the trustees. “The only thing we have to figure out is how to put that together.”

However, it’s unclear at this point how construction of the the TECAT center would be funded. There is no provision in state law for county boards of commissioners or trustee boards to use state or local funds to build facilities outside of the counties in which a community college operates, based on the analysis for ACC’s trustees.

That principle also applies to funding an estimated $3.75 million in operational expenses for the TECAT (for the first three years), though annual operating costs could be supported by state funding for full-time equivalent (FTE) enrollment, initially estimated in the ballpark of about 350 students for a given year and during the early stages of operation.

Other preliminary estimates of costs associated with building a regional center of excellence include: $750,000 to complete a comprehensive planning study; $750,000 for advance planning to build the facility; and $3.5 million to equip the TECAT.

The only existing potential source for funding construction of the facility most likely would be via a special grant or another type of appropriation by the General Assembly, based on the information provided to ACC’s board.

“It would be state-funded,” Gatewood explained to the trustees. “This would not be some new model in terms of the state funding centers of excellence; there are others in the state. At some point, we would have to do a joint legislative [funding request].”

As currently envisioned, the TECAT would be overseen by two trustees from each of the three participating community colleges, as well as each of their presidents.

The Toyota battery manufacturing plant is initially estimated to create 1,750 jobs, though that figure could nearly double, to 3,000, in subsequent years of operation, according to the North Carolina Department of Commerce.

No formal vote was taken to authorize ACC’s president to pursue the TECAT partnership.
Instead, the 10 trustees who were present for the meeting enthusiastically gave a “thumbs-up” as evidence of their support.

ACC trustee Dr. Charles Scott, who participated in the discussion by phone, said, “By all means, yes,” he supports moving forward with the proposal. Trustee Dr. Roslyn Crisp was absent.

See other coverage of ACC: 

Contractor selected for Bill and Nancy Covington Education Center:

First two buildings completed with 2018 bond referendum funds now open:

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