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Senator ‘excited’ about NCI’s new building, prospects
Kaine gets status report during visit to Martinsville
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New College Institute Executive Director William Wampler (right) gives an update on NCI’s activities to Sen. Tim Kaine on Monday during a meeting at NCI in uptown Martinsville.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine on Monday said he is impressed with plans by the New College Institute (NCI) to erect a new building in uptown Martinsville, as well as the new academic programs that will be based there.

Kaine, D-Va., pledged to do anything he can to help with the construction, such as by trying to secure federal funding.

The building’s construction is projected to cost about $15 million. Of that amount, The Harvest Foundation has pledged up to $8 million. Another $5 million will be paid by the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission. A fundraising campaign is under way to try and raise the remaining $2 million.

However, NCI has applied to other funding sources, including the federal Economic Development Administration, for money to be used toward the construction and purchasing equipment for the building.

Site preparation for the three-story, 50,000-square-foot building — which will be the first facility built specifically for NCI — has begun on the historic Dana O. Baldwin Block. The building will house programs being developed in advanced manufacturing, entrepreneurism and health care. It also will have administrative offices and public meeting space.

Kaine was lieutenant governor from 2002 to 2006 and then governor until 2010. During that time, he spearheaded legislation to establish a new higher education institution in southern Virginia. As governor, he signed a bill that established NCI in 2006, and the institute opened later that year.

In November, Kaine was elected as the state’s junior U.S. senator. He replaced Jim Webb, who did not seek a second term in the Senate.

Kaine stopped by NCI while he was in Martinsville on Monday. He said he has been keeping up with news reports on the institute’s progress but wanted to see it up close.

NCI Executive Director William Wampler, a former state senator who was in office while Kaine was in Richmond, discussed the institute’s plans with him.

Wampler mentioned that large industrial bays to be installed in the building for the advanced manufacturing curriculum basically will be “a mirror image” of those at the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing (CCAM), an ultramodern industrial research center in Prince George County.

He said the local facility will be “the first physical and virtual hub to extend CCAM to southern Virginia.”

The entrepreneurship program basically will replicate the da Vinci Center for Innovation at Virginia Commonwealth University, Wampler said.

Many area residents have had ideas for new businesses but no access to resources they needed to bring their ideas to fruition, said Leanna Blevins, NCI’s associate director and chief academic officer.

The health care program initially will train medical professionals, including doctors, nurses and first-responders, to use electronic devices to remotely monitor patients’ conditions at home.

Such equipment “helps patients have better outcomes” and can reduce or eliminate repeat hospital visits, Wampler said.

People completing the program will get a certificate from the University of Virginia, he said.

“This is exciting,” Kaine said after learning about the NCI initiatives.

He asked what “the big picture” is for the institute.

NCI provides local access to higher-level courses needed to earn certain bachelor’s and master’s degrees conferred by universities statewide. The ultimate goal is for it to someday become a branch campus of one of its partner universities, but economic factors have slowed that effort.

Because NCI is a small higher education institution right now, though, it is able to add degree programs that students demand and the state needs to attract companies relatively quickly, as well as drop ones no longer needed, officials have said.

But “we are limited by money” in terms of the number of programs NCI can offer since it must pay universities to bring programs there, Wampler said.

Thirteen degree programs either are being offered or now are in the works, NCI’s website shows.


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