Gadsden State to build manufacturing center

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Photo: Pictured is a 3D rendering of the Advanced Manufacturing Center building to be built on the East Broad campus of Gadsden State Community College. (Courtesy of Gadsden State)

Gadsden State Community College soon will be home to a new 50,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art Advanced Manufacturing Center that will be constructed on the East Broad Campus.

Gadsden State President Kathy Murphy made the announcement July 28 during an event held at the Beck Field House on the Wallace Drive Campus. She was joined by Alabama Community College System Chancellor Jimmy Baker; State Rep. Ginny Shaver; Dr. Alan Cosby, Superintendent of Etowah County Schools; Michael Gaines, division leader at Honda Manufacturing of Alabama and Alan Smith, Dean of Workforce Development at Gadsden State.

“Every day is a gift and a blessing, but today is also a defining time for us,” Murphy said. “This will impact the community, our service area and the great state of Alabama. This facility will change the lives of those in our communities for good and forever.”

The Gadsden State Advanced Manufacturing Center was identified as a needed project through the ACCS ASPIRE 2030 initiative. ASPIRE stands for “Achieving Systemwide Potential through Increased Resources and Engagement” and is the result of a statewide bond issue passed by the Alabama Legislature in 2020 to provide funding for facility upgrades and new construction for all levels of education in Alabama.

The decision to focus on the Advanced Manufacturing Center was determined by committees comprised of Gadsden State employees as well as partners in K-12 education, government, business and industry, nonprofits and economic development organizations.

“ASPIRE 2030 called on us to be creative, innovative and aspirational,” she said. “It required us to think outside the box. Then, we burned that box so we don’t put ourselves back in it.

“Gadsden State is proud of the engagement we had with local business and community partners in determining that we had a critical need for an Advanced Manufacturing Center that will provide our region with training in several high-demand, high-wage fields.”

The AMC is among various infrastructure projects that will move forward in the next few years through Public School and College Authority funds for capital improvements at Gadsden State and other state community colleges. Baker previously made workforce center announcements at Snead State Community College in Boaz and Northeast Alabama Community College in Rainsville.

“I have a strong interest in funding a way to make sure the Alabama Community College System is moving our communities forward,” he said. “I believe the community college system is the best vehicle to bring about change in the state of Alabama.”

Cosby said the new center would greatly benefit the Etowah County Schools by providing programs for students interested in technical fields. He said the Etowah County Career Technical Center has record enrollment for the fall, and the AMC will help it with space issues. Transportation to the AMC will be provided by the school system for students who want to enroll in programs offered at the facility.

“This facility allows us to expand opportunities to our kids that might not otherwise have,” he said. “We have the workforce walking the hallways of our schools, and we want them to be trained at Gadsden State so they can enter the workforce and earn a good living.”

Gaines said Honda hires current students and graduates of the Federation of Advanced Manufacturing Education program at Gadsden State. FAME is a successful collaboration between Gadsden State, East AlabamaWorks and area industry partners that provides students the opportunity to receive an education as well as paid hands-on training. FAME is currently housed at the Ayers Campus in Anniston, but the AMC will allow the earn-while-learning program to expand to Etowah County.

“It’s always exciting to talk about the growth in our state, especially when it comes to education,” he said. “The Advanced Manufacturing Center will provide advanced training that’s now required in modern manufacturing. It will develop new manufacturers and new manufacturing leaders.”

In addition to FAME, the AMC will include high-tech laboratory space for programs such as Mechatronics, Industrial Automation, Precision Machining, Mechanical Design Technology, Additive Manufacturing and Electronics Engineering.

“This facility will provide a modern, state-of-the-art space for students to train for extremely high-tech careers that are in high demand and have high wages,” Smith said. “It will allow us to expand capacity to serve more students and provide specific training in an effort to support workforce development and economic development needs. It will give us the ability to increase training capacity by modernizing our facilities and creating a training center for technical dual-enrolled students, traditional college students and students who need non-degree, short-term training.”

Shaver participated in the program by presenting a commendation from Gov. Kay Ivey, who could not attend due to scheduling conflicts. Sen. Tommy Tuberville, Congressman Robert Aderholt and Congressman Mike Rogers also did not attend but they did submit videoed messages that were shared during the event.

Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood has been selected as the architect on the project. A groundbreaking date for this project will be announced soon.

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