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NCI building on its way
Friday, September 28, 2012
By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer
The New College Institute (NCI) now has $13 million of the estimated $15 million it needs to construct a new building in uptown Martinsville, which basically ensures the project will proceed.
“Everybody, get your hard hats,” NCI Executive Director William Wampler said. “We’re ready to get started with construction on the Baldwin Block.”
A $5 million contribution for the building to the New College Foundation, NCI’s fundraising arm, was approved by the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission on Thursday. The vote was unanimous.
Commission member Del. Don Merricks, R-Pittsylvania County, said the entire commission agreed that the building and the programs to be based there “will be the game-changer for the Martinsville-Henry County area” in terms of being able to recruit high-tech companies in the future.
“Everyone on the tobacco commission understands the importance of workforce development for advanced manufacturing,” added Del. Danny Marshall, R-Danville, who also is on the commission.
“If we want to try and attract advanced manufacturing companies,” he said, “we’ve got to have a trained workforce.”
Both Marshall and Merricks also are on NCI’s board of directors.
Earlier this week, The Harvest Foundation pledged up to $8 million toward the building. Getting the tobacco commission funds was necessary for the New College Foundation to receive Harvest’s pledge, officials have said.
Wampler said the tobacco commission and Harvest funds put NCI “in a very strong posture” to begin soliciting bids for a construction contract. Thirteen million dollars should be enough to pay the construction costs, he added.
Dewberry, an architectural/engineering firm in Danville, is “working as hard as they can” to develop blueprints, he said.
Groundbreaking could occur as soon as November with construction starting in the spring, he said. Construction is expected to take up to 36 months.
The New College Foundation now must raise an estimated $1.5 to $2 million, which Wampler said is to go toward equipment and furnishings costs.
He said the New College Foundation has begun a “quiet phase” of raising that money. A more intensive phase will occur later.
Wampler declined to identify any potential donors being solicited.
But “there is a lot of buzz, a lot of excitement” in the community about the building, he said, so he thinks raising the money will not be extremely hard.
“Any gift of any amount is most welcome ... for an investment in the future of Martinsville-Henry County,” he added.
The roughly 50,000-square-foot building is to be built on the vacant block that borders West Church, Market, Fayette and Moss streets and is named after the late local physician and philanthropist Dr. Dana O. Baldwin.
NCI will find a way for the building to pay homage to Baldwin, Wampler has said.
The building is to house high-tech education programs, including advanced manufacturing, and essentially be NCI’s headquarters.
In addition to advanced manufacturing, it will house futuristic health care and entrepreneurship programs NCI is developing. It also is to have a “grand hall” where community events can be held as well as offices for NCI employees.
Also, the Martinsville-Henry County Visitors Center and the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. (EDC) are to relocate to the building.
The EDC’s move there is expected to help local industry recruiters and NCI officials collaborate more closely in preparing the area workforce to do jobs of the future, according to officials.
Wampler said he “worked very hard” to convince the tobacco commission of the need for the new NCI building.
However, Merricks said it was “an easy sell” based on the institute’s track record of success.
NCI provides local access to courses needed to earn certain bachelor’s and master’s degrees conferred by various partner universities statewide. So far, 281 people have earned degrees by attending the state-supported institute, which opened in 2006.
“The success of the New College speaks for itself,” Merricks said.