Lanier Technical College may not be the forerunner for development in North Hall along Ga. 365, but the opening of its new campus in the area this year does fit in well with what’s already established.
The nearby Gateway Industrial Centre business park, for example, presents a direct link between the school’s mission and the working world where it’s realized.
Lanier Tech even partners with companies like Kubota Manufacturing, which is located in the Industrial Centre.
Ray Perren can stand tall after overseeing the construction of the $150 million, 335,000-square-foot campus.
“I’m feeling very good ... especially when you think of the scope of what we did,” he said.
The school has seen a 16 percent increase in enrollment over the last year as the promise of its new campus came to fruition. More than 3,000 students now attend classes on the Hall campus. Lanier Tech also has campuses in Dawson, Forsyth, Barrow and Jackson counties.
Located on 95 acres, more than double the size of the college’s former location, construction of the new campus began in September 2016.
Lanier Tech’s main campus had been located off Mundy Mill Road in Oakwood since the 1970s, with classes first beginning in 1966 and held in local schools, churches and civic buildings.
The campus is the first newly constructed technical college campus since the formation in 2007 of the Technical College System of Georgia, which includes 22 colleges.
The new campus includes six buildings for technical education instruction, including an economic development and campus support building, instructional building, and an administration building and student center.
It also includes a 40,000-square-foot conference center with a 20,000-square-foot ballroom that will seat 750 “banquet style” and 1,500 people “theater style.”
The new campus offers Lanier Tech’s 45 existing programs, but the space allows for targeted expansion, Perren said.
The welding program is growing rapidly in enrollment, for example, and plans to enlarge the culinary arts program will include a full commercial kitchen for student lab work.
New programs include construction management and marine engine technology, which will open in the fall.
“We’re just thrilled about that new program,” Perren said.
The campus is also developing outdoor instructional space, including a commercial truck driving range and a burn tower for fire science instruction, plus a race car driving pit.
It gives students “as close to real world experience as they possibly can get,” Perren said. And a nursing program, which has featured licensed practical curriculum since the school’s founding in the 1960s, is now growing to an associate degree.
The new campus also serves as a model for growth at other state technical colleges.
Perren said he has been called upon by West Georgia Technical College about its plans for growth.
“We’ve been working with them to guide them along,” he added.
Though settled into its own future, Lanier Tech’s focus is unchanged.
“Our mission remains workforce development,” Perren said.
Lanier Tech graduated more than 1,400 students last year, a school record.
And for three consecutive years, 100 percent of graduates are working in their field of study within 12 months, or are continuing their studies.
The new campus can ultimately accommodate more than 5,000 students.
Perren said he expects the college to also help spur continued commercial and residential growth in North Hall.
“When we built the campus in Oakwood, there was nothing there,” Perren said by comparison. “Fifty years later, you see what it is.”