September 26, 2012
By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer
The Harvest Foundation will contribute up to $8 million toward construction of a high-tech educational building for the New College Institute (NCI) on the Baldwin Block in uptown Martinsville, officials announced Tuesday.
Construction is expected to start in the spring. The total cost is estimated at $10 to $15 million, said NCI Executive Director William Wampler.
Harvest’s pledge is contingent on the New College Foundation raising an additional $6.5 million from other sources.
Of that, $5 million is being sought from the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission. Wampler said he is optimistic that the commission will approve a $5 million grant for the building Thursday because the commission’s education subcommittee recently “acted favorably” toward the institute’s request for the funds.
It is “very common” for the tobacco commission to fund efforts to improve higher education, he said.
That will leave NCI’s private fundraising arm, the New College Foundation, to raise about $1.5 million. He said it will “aggressively pursue” grants as well as private donations.
A little more money may be needed, however, depending on the cost of technology to be installed in the building, he said.
Depending on the building’s actual costs and how much money is raised, Harvest might not need to contribute the full $8 million “challenge grant,” officials said.
Harvest’s contribution will come from a $50 million challenge grant put forward in NCI’s initial phases of development in the past decade to match state funding for the institute, they said.
Artist renderings have been developed for the roughly 50,000-square-foot building, but no blueprints exist yet, Wampler said.
The building is to be erected on the vacant block that borders West Church, Market, Fayette and Moss streets and is named after the late local physician and philanthropist Dr. Dana O. Baldwin. Wampler said NCI will find a way for the building to pay homage to Baldwin.
Construction could take up to 36 months, Wampler said, adding that grading and other preliminary work at the site could start as soon as November.
The facility is to be home to advanced manufacturing, futuristic health care and entrepreneurship programs NCI is developing. It also is to have a “grand hall” where local events can be held, plus offices for NCI staff members. The Martinsville-Henry County Visitors Center and the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. (EDC) also are to move there.
NCI is working with the EDC to make sure area residents have skills they need to do jobs available in the region, Wampler said.
Industrial-style bays in the building will have technology so that faculty and students can use equipment and computer software to manipulate and interpret data for engineering design in advanced manufacturing, information supplied by NCI shows.
Wampler said the tobacco commission is “very excited” about how NCI aims to align its advanced manufacturing program with technology used in a Rolls Royce plant in Prince George County that makes aircraft engine parts and a nearby industrial research facility, the Commonwealth Centre for Advanced Manufacturing (C-CAM).
Students in NCI’s program will train on equipment that is “fairly close” to devices that Rolls Royce workers use, Wampler said.
He hopes Rolls Royce and C-CAM can exchange interns with NCI, he said.
The building will be “a very large expenditure,” Wampler said, “... but we’ve got to do it” to ensure people are trained for local manufacturing jobs of the future.
NCI’s “next generation” health care program is planned to start next spring. It will train people to use the most up-to-date health care technology, such as remote equipment that monitors patients after they leave a hospital in hopes of preventing a return visit, Wampler said.
The institute’s goal is to provide such training to at least 250 people in the next few years, he said, noting that predominantly rural areas of Virginia like Southside have shortages of health care workers.
Entrepreneurship courses are to be offered in every academic major. Even if students do not start their own businesses, their experiences in the classes in solving real-world issues should help them in other jobs, and employers today want their workers to have such skills, according to Wampler.
Wampler said that after the building is finished, NCI will leave the Pythian Building, where its administrative offices are, and Jefferson Plaza, where some of its classrooms are. The King Building next to the former courthouse and science labs on Fayette Street will continue to be used by NCI, he said.
He acknowledged that some people have asked why, amid close cooperation with PHCC, the institute does not put its new facility at the college.
“We want to maintain a presence uptown” since NCI already has facilities there, Wampler said.
Also, he said he understands that PHCC is running out of space on campus.
NCI offers local access to courses needed to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees conferred by various universities statewide. Officials have said the institute’s ultimate goal is to become a branch campus of a university.
That remains an eventual possibility, Wampler said. But for now, university partners are reluctant to go that far due to economic constraints, he said.
If NCI is successful at meeting other goals, such as training enough people to fill jobs at local high-tech industries, the move toward becoming a branch campus might be hastened, he indicated.
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