Just how great is the need for relocating Lanier Technical College?
“It really hasn’t changed” since opening in 1966, said Tim Evans, vice president of economic development at the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce.
Fortunately for the college, the state budget approved this week included $10 million in bonds and $865,000 in state general funds to purchase property and design a new campus in Hall County.
With enrollment growing and local manufacturing businesses expanding, Evans said the time has come to revamp the college.
“That facility just doesn’t have the capability to do in the future what Lanier Tech needs to be doing for the existing industry and the workforce,” he added.
State Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, said Lanier Tech has been underserved in recent years, playing second fiddle in terms of its facilities and location.
But the college’s mission remains just as important.
“Lanier Tech is ... a jewel for the entire region,” Miller said. “I think this is an appropriate use of our resources and will pay dividends for years to come.”
Real estate executive Frank Norton Jr. of The Norton Agency in Hall County said he believes the technical college will have a number of locations to choose from that could be the future campus location.
“I think there are a variety of sites,” Norton said. “I don’t know the specific requirements for Lanier Tech, but I think they will have 10-12 different options throughout the county that would most likely serve their needs.”
Norton said he believes the needs of the college’s new property will include and are not limited to accessibility, sewer usage, utilities, location, basic geography and land size.
“I think it’s an exciting prospect that they have in front of them,” he said.
Hall County Commission Chairman Richard Mecum said managing the county’s growth over the coming years starts with ensuring a trained and skilled workforce.
With manufacturing companies like Kubota expanding and hiring, workforce training provided by Lanier Tech serves as a critical economic development tool, Mecum said.
“It’s a good thing all the way around,” he said.
County officials have worked closely with Lanier Tech, local industry, high schools and the chamber of commerce to grow enrollment and educate young students about the good-paying career paths available with vocational training.
And state lawmakers passed a bill this year that allows high school students to jointly enroll at Lanier Tech while receiving credit toward a diploma and college degree programs.
“It’s clear that for workforce development needs, people need more than a high school degree today,” Evans said. “They need skills.”
Lanier Tech President Ray Perren commended Deal for his support and vision for the college. The college did not request the funds for a new campus from legislators, but the funds were allocated for this purpose.
“We always try to be conscious of growing our campuses to meet our students’ needs,” said Alison Tyrer, executive director of communications for the Technical College System of Georgia. “They are the future workforce of the state, so we appreciate the governor and the legislature’s attention to that. We’re excited about the opportunity for Lanier Tech.”
Relocating and growing Lanier Tech is critical to meet certain workforce needs, particularly in Hall County and the Northeast Georgia region.
The welding lab, for example, is located in a converted maintenance building, and there is no room for expansion, Evans said.
“You can’t put any more welding stations in that building.”
The $10 million in state funding to relocate Lanier Tech is just a drop in the bucket of what it will cost to do so, however, something akin to seed money.
“That’s not enough to do the whole thing,” Evans said, but it could help to pay for design and site acquisition.
“We’re certainly excited about what it means for the business community,” he said.