RCC breaks ground on Center for Workforce DevelopmentMay 3, 2022
Rockingham Community College broke ground on May 3, 2022 for its Center for Workforce Development. The state-of-the-art facility will house Advanced Manufacturing programs, including Computer-Integrated Machining, Electrical Systems Technologies, and Mechatronics, as well as the Small Business Center and Customized Training Services.
The 42,398-square-foot building will also include a 200-seat corporate meeting space, available for use by RCC’s business and industry partners.
“This new facility will no doubt transform the look of this side of campus, but more importantly, it will transform how our college can train our graduates to enter the workforce in the advanced manufacturing field,” said RCC President Dr. Mark O. Kinlaw, from the site across from the Administration Building.
“Rockingham County has seen over $1 billion in new industry investment and current industry expansion in the last two years alone,” he said. “While this is exciting, it places even more emphasis on the importance of the College being at the forefront of workforce preparedness.”
Board of Trustees Chair Scott Barham noted that RCC has been training the citizens of Rockingham County for more than 56 years.
“The College has experienced significant growth in our workforce development in recent years, and the advanced manufacturing programs are currently housed in one of our original 1966 facilities. You can imagine with this increase in demand, space is something that is much needed,” Barham said.
N.C. Community College System then-President Thomas Stith III said RCC’s leadership and vision surpass that of any college in the state.
He cited a recent survey which showed that North Carolina’s community colleges “provide the fuel to the job engine of the state. When we talk about community colleges, and particularly RCC, it’s not just the higher education you provide – whether it’s the newly minted high school student or someone that needs to be reskilled or retrained because of a displacement – we know that we serve a key economic role.”
County Commissioner Chair Kevin Berger said the facility “is one of our greatest recruiting and retention tools for industry. Moving forward, you will notice RCC continuing to enhance and improve facilities and equipment in several areas across the campus, allowing employers to work with the College to adapt the workforce in many fields and expand programs as required.”
County Manager Lance Metzler said workforce development “is the backbone to a strong local economy and lays the foundation for success not only for employees, but for local businesses and the entire community as well.”
The Center for Workforce Development is the primary investment of a quarter-cent sales tax passed by voters in May 2018.
“We knew it was not going to be easy getting voter support,” Kinlaw said. “A bipartisan committee called ‘The Citizens for the One-Fourth Cent Sales Tax to Benefit RCC’ was formed to educate the voters on the importance and intended use of the tax revenue if approved.”
The committee was chaired by former County Commissioner Keith Duncan, and current Commissioner Don Powell. Other members included Tom Schoolfield, Mike Dougherty, Jeff Garstka, Roxanne Griffin, Missy Matthews, Diane Parnell, Allen Purgason, Bonnie Purgason, Ron Tuttle, and Jamie Rorrer (ex officio member). They made presentations across the county and encouraged voters to approve the tax, and the RCC Foundation provided funds to market the referendum.
“Voters approved it, 55% to 45%. This was enormous win for the College and the County. We are very thankful for those who supported the tax and to those who worked so hard on behalf of the College and County to get it approved,” Kinlaw said. “We also appreciate the support of current commissioners, who continue to provide for the tax. The College is now averaging about $250,000 per month from the tax, well above the $160,000 that was projected. Thus far, the College has been able to invest in numerous workforce development initiatives and will continue to do that going forward.”
N.C. Rep. Reece Pyrtle said, “I was proud to be a county commissioner who voted to place the tax on the ballot. We celebrate today because in May 2018 the citizens of this county passed that referendum. This is a big game-changer for Rockingham County.”
N.C. Sen. Phil Berger commended county leaders “for trying the tax again, and the leaders of RCC for knowing what is needed here for the future, and most of all… the people of Rockingham County for recognizing what needed to be done here. It is their vision, their understanding, and their willingness to do what needs to be done that is critically important to the future of Rockingham County and the future of North Carolina, and really for the future of our country.”
Powell said the tax has already paid huge dividends to taxpayers through other renovation projects that have taken place, and will continue with the facility.
“The Center will be a resource for men and women who would like to retool or better themselves in the workforce and better provide for their families,” he said. “It will allow single parents the opportunity to learn a skill or trade to better support their children and families. It will allow our high school graduates the opportunity to expand skills… and earn a certificate or diploma and enter the workforce at a livable wage to experience the American dream.”
As a licensed general contractor, Duncan said people in his field “want somebody to come to work that’s already trained, to roll their sleeves up and get their hands dirty and go to work.” This new facility will make that happen.
RCC Foundation President Bobby Wharton announced a half-million-dollar gift from the Foundation for endowed scholarships for students learning in the Center for Workforce Development. In recognition of this gift, the main lobby will bear the Foundation’s name.
“President George Bush said you may never live long enough to fully understand what effect your decisions today will have on future generations. I believe that history will judge this as being one of the greatest decisions ever made in this county,” Powell said. “The motto for Rockingham County is, ‘You’re in a good place.’ Today, I think you’re in a great place.”