Gadsden State breaks ground on AMC

City officials and Gadsden State administrators hoist golden shovels at the ceremonial groundbreaking for Gadsden State's Advanced Manufacturing Center.

Photo: City of Gadsden officials join Gadsden State Community College President Dr. Kathy Murphy to perform a ceremonial groundbreaking on the site of the college’s upcoming Advanced Manufacturing Center. Pictured, from left: City of Gadsden Administrator and Former State Representative Rod Scott, District 2 Councilman Steve Smith, District 4 Councilman Kent Back, Dr. Murphy, Mayor Craig Ford, District 1 Councilwoman Tonya Latham, District 5 Councilman Jason Wilson, District 6 Councilwoman Dixie Minatra, District 3 Councilman Larry Avery. (Emma Kirkemier/Messenger)

Students, employees, alumni, local leaders and community supporters gathered February 21 at Gadsden State Community College for the groundbreaking of the new Advanced Manufacturing and Workforce Skills Training Center. It will be constructed on the East Broad Campus in Gadsden.

Gadsden State President Kathy Murphy was joined at the podium by Lieutenant Governor Will Ainsworth (R-Alabama); Keith Phillips, vice chancellor of Workforce Development for the Alabama Community College System; Goodrich “Dus” Rogers, member of the ACCS Board of Trustees; Senator Andrew Jones (R-District 10); Lisa Morales, executive director of East AlabamaWorks; Dr. Alan Cosby, superintendent of Etowah County Schools and Alan Smith, dean of Workforce Development at Gadsden State.

“This facility will transform the lives of our people in our community for good and forever,” Murphy said. “It’s a day to be thankful and appreciative.”

The Gadsden State Advanced Manufacturing and Workforce Skills Training Center was identified as a needed project through the ACCS ASPIRE 2030 initiative, which provides funding for facility upgrades and new construction for all levels of education in Alabama.

“In this very place, we will build a building that will change lives,” Murphy said. “I believe we all have a calling. I believe we should pull people up. We literally pull people up at our college. Then, we set them up for success through their education and skills training. Then, we push them up to high-wage occupations. And at the end of our journey, when we wrap it up, we are fulfilling our calling.”

Phillips asked the crowd of approximately 200 to consider what would happen if Gadsden State didn’t exist.

“What would this area look like? How would we succeed?” he said. “We’d have almost $208 million missing from the local economy.”

A recent economic impact study stated the College provided $207.9 million in added income during the fiscal year 2021 to the service area, which covers Cherokee, Cleburne, Etowah, Calhoun and St. Clair counties. The study shows that Gadsden State supports 3,555 jobs in the community.

Jones also touted the economic impact study’s findings.

“A student from Gadsden State has a return of $6.90 in higher future earnings for every dollar they invest in their education,” he said. “Who else can provide that rate of return? It’s pretty amazing. We need to make sure our young people understand that they can get a skill or a credential at Gadsden State and make just as much if not more than those with academic degrees. I’m excited about the potential of this new facility.”

Rogers said he, too, looks forward to the completion of the new facility.

“This facility will improve the quality of life in this area,” he said. “It will enhance economic development to the point that it will positively impact people who haven’t been born yet.”

Ainsworth said that 65 percent of Alabamians do not have an associate or bachelor’s degree. He sees the Advanced Manufacturing and Workforce Skills Training Center as an avenue for training those in need of employment or job advancement.

“They can come to Gadsden State and get trained for 21st century jobs,” he said. “As a result, you will have a skilled workforce, which will make it easier for your team to recruit business and industry to this area. This is a great day for Gadsden State and a great day for Alabama.”

As executive director of East AlabamaWorks, Morales said she and her team “wake up to work on workforce development.”

Her organization is a part of a system that recruits, trains and empowers a highly skilled workforce driven by business and industry needs.

“This facility will certainly benefit our region,” she said. “It will benefit our state. It will help us meet our goals. Today is a gamechanger. We look forward to the positive impact today and in the future.”

Cosby said he was pleased with the turnout from Gadsden State supporters at the groundbreaking ceremony.

“I don’t remember something bringing together this many facets and groups of people,” he said. “So many people are coming together and working together to make sure we have a trained workforce. We have people here in Etowah County who want to work. We have people here that will take workforce training and will see things happen that have never happened before. I’m excited about this project and about our partnership with Gadsden State.”

Smith was instrumental in getting support for the facility from city, county and state officials as well as local business and industry. He is grateful for those who supported the idea of an advanced manufacturing facility at Gadsden State.

“Thank you to everyone who listened to me when I asked you for your support,” he said. “This new facility will allow us to make shifts in education and training as workforce needs change. We can provide reskilling and up-skilling for adults. There’s so much we can do.

“This is a big day for me but, most importantly, it’s a big day for our community,” he said. “It’s a historic day.”

Gadsden Mayor Craig Ford made a surprise announcement that the city is committing to $50,000 per year for the next five years as long as funding is available.

“The Ford family has a long heritage here,” he said. “We love Gadsden State.”

Other entities that previously made financial commitments to the Advanced Manufacturing and Workforce Skills Training Center are Etowah County Commission, Etowah County Sales Tax, City of Attalla, City of Glencoe, Rainbow City, Reece City, Etowah County Schools and the Chamber of Gadsden & Etowah County.

The construction cost of the 50,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility is approximately $24 million. It will feature 10 laboratories, seven classrooms, 11 offices, a multipurpose room, 10 tool and storage rooms, a storm shelter, a testing suite, a kitchen and serving area, a break room and six restroom areas. It will also feature glass viewing areas that allow prospective students and industry partners to have laboratory visibility during tours, a safety entrance for students loading and unloading from cars or buses and a digital display with information for job seekers and industry partners.

To make a tax-deductible donation to the Advancing Manufacturing and Workforce Skills Training Center, please contact John Roberson, director of Advancement and Alumni Relations, at 256-549-8377.

Submitted by Jackie Brehm Edmondson, Gadsden State Community College.

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