Governor, Georgia Leaders Break Ground on Georgia Northwestern Expansion
“Education should lead to employment,” said Georgia Governor Nathan Deal at Georgia Northwestern Technical College’s Whitfield Murray Campus (WMC) Expansion Groundbreaking Tuesday. “We have accelerated the number of programs whose participants will have a job waiting for them. This is what education should encompass. We’re preparing people for the careers that are already available right here at home.” And, after the ceremonial shovels moved the first mounds of dirt, the construction of what many believe will help fill the skills gap between Georgia businesses and the workforce of Northwest Georgia is now officially underway.
“This has been a long time coming,” said Joe Yarbrough, Chair of the Technical College System of Georgia Board of Directors. “For more than a decade, there has been a skills gap between what our companies here in Whitfield and Murray County need and what our workforce was able to provide. Now, Georgia Northwestern will have the facility in place to help bridge the gap. The people of our region can get the skill sets they need for the careers already out here waiting on them.”
No one is more aware of this need than those who represent the taxpayers of Whitfield County, Georgia. With the rumors of a possible expansion of the Georgia Northwestern campus beginning to circulate in 2016, the Whitfield County Board of Commissioners voted to put its full support behind the project. Gifts in-kind toward site development and a commitment of $1,054,000 were both approved by commissioners last year. “We did this because we want to help our citizens obtain and retain higher paying jobs,” said Lynn Laughter, Chair of the Whitfield County Board of Commissioners.
This highly-anticipated expansion all started with a gift from the Whitfield County Board of Education three years ago. The donation of 21 acres of land from Whitfield County’s school system is the cornerstone of what will soon be an 80,000-square foot facility on the college’s Whitfield Murray Campus on Maddox Chapel Road in Dalton, Georgia. The new facility expected to offer programs such as chemical technology, engineering technology, machine tool technology, computer information systems, industrial systems, and logistics will be leading the way in helping train the people of Murray and Whitfield counties to fill vacancies in the companies of Northwest Georgia.
Now, with Phase II of the Dalton, Georgia-based campus set to open in either late 2018 or early 2019, the venture of bridging the workforce to the region’s companies actually began when the campus first opened in 2010. Whitfield County Schools agreed to share space with the college at its Northwest Georgia College and Career Academy. After the college outgrew the space allotted them by Whitfield County Schools, it wouldn’t be long before they’d move into their first new exclusive WMC building. And now, seven years later, the second phase of what will soon be one of the college’s larger campuses has begun.
With just one exclusive building in place at the WMC, the 2016-17 academic year saw the campus student body size swell to 1,000 students. “With this expansion, the campus will be able to accommodate up to 4,000 students,” said Pete McDonald, Georgia Northwestern Technical College President. Handling this growth in this amount of time takes cooperation from all parties. “In politics, for whatever reason, it is hard to put partnerships together,” said Governor Deal. “This has been a partnership.” Two months ago, Governor Deal signed legislation approving $18.7 million to pay for the expansion. The funding was part of the State of Georgia’s 2018 Fiscal Year Budget approved in Atlanta in May.
With the flooring industry among those really feeling the gap when it comes to finding skilled workers, Technical College System of Georgia Commissioner Gretchen Corbin feels the region has the right person leading the charge to change all of that. “To make a project like this campus expansion happen, you have to have a champion. We have had a champion in Joe Yarbrough.” said Corbin. Yarbrough, a resident of Dalton, Georgia for more than 45 years, has served as a Chairman, Vice President, and President of some of the largest manufacturing names in Northwest Georgia.
Administrators and officials are also anticipating more growth among high school students as a result of this latest project. GNTC is among the best in the state of Georgia when it comes to enrolling and educating the area’s teenagers by way of the “Move On When Ready” (MOWR) program. This is a state initiative which allows Georgia’s high school students to earn college credit at no cost to them or their families, while still attending their high school. Growing the GNTC site, a campus which currently sits next door to the Northwest Georgia College and Career Academy, will help expose more students to the program.
Georgia Northwestern Technical College’s Whitfield Murray Campus is one of six campuses the college offers in Northwest Georgia. The others are located in Catoosa County, Floyd County, Gordon County, Polk County, and Walker County, Georgia. Currently, GNTC offers more than 200 programs to nearly 6,000 students on-campus and online. GNTC has offered programs across the region for more than 50 years. Georgia Northwestern Technical College provides quality workforce education to the citizens of Northwest Georgia. Students have the opportunity to earn an associate degree, diploma, or a certificate in business, health, industrial, or public service career paths. This past year, 14,151 people benefited from GNTC’s credit and noncredit programs. With an annual credit enrollment of 7,956 students, GNTC is the largest college in Northwest Georgia. GNTC has an additional enrollment of 6,195 people through adult education, continuing education, business and industry training, and Georgia Quick Start. For more information about GNTC, visit us at GNTC.edu or contact a Student Help Center on any one of our six campus locations at 866-983-4682. For information online, visit the college at GNTC.edu, as well as on GNTC’s Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Google+, WordPress, and YouTube channels. GNTC is a unit of the Technical College System of Georgia and an Equal Opportunity Institution.
# # #
Assistant Director, Marketing and PR