EDA Grant Opens Doors to Expand Newberry County Center
The project for the new Piedmont Technical College Newberry County Center is one step closer to fruition. Piedmont Technical College recently received a grant award from the United States Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA). The $1.7 million award will assist with construction of the new facility.
“The EDA grant will allow us to provide a flexible industrial space for local businesses for training purposes,” said Jennifer Wilbanks, dean of County Centers.
Wilbanks said the plan is to begin advertising for bids in November, with construction to begin in January.
The project will re-use an abandoned “big box” retail site, a former Walmart store, while providing additional classroom space and jobs-specific training for the college’s Newberry County Center, which is experiencing record enrollment this fall. Enrollment is up 30 percent over the past three years from 476 in 2008 to almost 700 students this fall.
“Due to the physical size of the current Newberry County Center, we’ve been at our maximum student capacity for some time now, so there’s been a limit on the number of students we can accommodate, and the kinds of programs we can offer,” said Wilbanks. “We have plans to add new programs that include health care, industrial training and a dedicated lab for the readySC™ program designed to help strengthen the county’s efforts to attract new business once we have a larger facility.”
In addition to the EDA grant, funding for the project will come from Piedmont Tech as well as the residents of Newberry County. Voters in Newberry approved a penny capital project sales tax by an overwhelming majority in November that will provide approximately $5.78 million for the facility.
The Newberry County Center is second only to the Greenwood campus for enrollment, and since the distance involved in commuting to the original campus in Greenwood can be prohibitive for some students, the college opened the current Newberry County Center in order to bring the college’s offerings closer to Newberry residents.