Local and state representatives, as well as those from various organizations and agencies, gathered on November 30 to celebrate the grand opening of the MET II lab at Patrick & Henry Community College, which currently boasts 165 students.
“The grand opening has been years in the making,” Dr. Greg Hodges, president of P&HCC, said at the event that was held at P&HCC’s Martinsville campus.
“In 2017, we opened Building I of our Manufacturing, Engineering, and Technology Complex. We call it ‘The Met,’ which is 50,000 square feet dedicated to what we at P&HCC call the J-O-B Degree.
“MET I is dedicated to the career and education pathways such as mechatronics, robotics, CAD, industrial maintenance, industrial engineering and electronics, and the Racing College of Virginia,” Hodges said.
With the grand opening, “we add an additional 22,000 square feet of space to MET II, which allows us to triple our welding capacity and expand both virtual and robotic welding to produce employees with skill sets that are in high demand in our service region,” he said.
“The local economic payoff is already underway, as we are able to begin instruction in this new facility back in February while renovations were being finalized,” Hodges said. “We now have 165 students currently enrolled in this new building, representing a 50 percent enrollment increase in just a few weeks, with an additional 71 students on the processing list to begin very shortly.”
The success, he said, “is the direct result of one thing: Partnerships.”
Hodges explained that the grand opening of MET II would not have been possible “without the confidence and investments” in P&HCC from its local, state, and federal partners.
“With a total price tag of just shy of $6 million, MET II is opening today because our partners ensured that the vision became a reality for a state-of-the-art facility that provides students with skills and competencies, they need to acquire good paying, high demand jobs in the communities” served by the college, Hodges said, and extended “deep appreciation” to those partners.
At the federal level, P&HCC “received $458,000 from the Public Works Program of the Economic Development Administration for purchase of this state-of-the-art equipment” used in the new lab, Hodges said.
On a regional and state level, Hodges said P&HCC received $600,000 from the Tobacco Commission in renovation funds, and an additional $224,000 in equipment.
Locally, the P&HCC Board invested $1.1 million in local funds, “and finally, and most critically, we want to acknowledge and extend our deep, deep gratitude to the Harvest Foundation, which invested $3.45 million in total project funds,” he said, adding several members of the foundation and its board also were among those attending the ceremony.
Hodges extended his “deep gratitude to the team” at the college, “who have worked so hard to ensure that this facility is, indeed, best in class.
Go VA Region 3 provided funds to add another instructor, Hodges said, and also noted the P&HCC Board has partnered with the college throughout the process.
The grand opening represents 40 percent of the space allocation in MET II, Hodges said. The remaining 60 percent of the building was separated by a door behind the podium.
It represents 30,000 square feet of the building “for which we are now raising funds which will expend current programming and create new programming in areas like precision machining, engine repair, heavy equipment operation, and simulation,” Hodges said.
The renovated space once complete will also create an additional flexible space to accommodate the workforce needs of new businesses and the expansion of current regional employers, he said.
“As with all renovations for our two MET buildings, every square foot will be dedicated to good-paying jobs here in our community,” he added and introduced Mark Heath, president and CEO of the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. (EDC).
Heath said the grand opening “truly is a great day” for the college, but also for the community “as it relates to the community’s overall economic development efforts.
“In today’s economic development world, competition is greater than ever. Communities are investing in sites and buildings, housing, and all manner of place-making to make themselves stand out in a very crowded field,” Heath said.
Workforce training “has always been a key component to any community’s economic development and marketing plan. Especially in today’s tightening labor market, workforce training is first and foremost in the minds of companies and site selection consultants alike,” Heath said, adding that P&HCC “has long been a key team member of the Martinsville-Henry County EDC’s efforts, and today’s announcement only further adds to their importance.”
The EDC, Heath said, “has been bringing clients to MET I for a number of years, and it has added a lot to our economic development success over the past number of years. Now, with MET II’s expansion, Patrick & Henry’s already world-class welding program will only enhance the EDC’s training offerings even more.”
Heath added that “the EDC appreciates all of the hard work on behalf of our community, and we can’t wait to bring our clients from around the world to this world-class facility.”
Dr. David Dore’, Chancellor of the Virginia Community College System, commended Hodges, the team at P&HCC, the partners “who played a key role in bringing this to life. We are in a competitive environment like we have never been before.”
The building, Dore’ said, “really exemplifies the kind of alignment and partnership that we are building across the entire system. I have been in manufacturing facilities throughout the United States, and you have one of the finest facilities in the nation in terms of really being best in class. Everything you do here is best in class and we want to keep that momentum going.”
Dore’ said, “This building and this team exemplifies this notion of getting to yes. Partnerships with industry and alignment will become more and more important to the economic development of the Commonwealth of Virginia.”
He again thanked Hodges and his team “for the kind of alignment that we need across our whole system.”
DeWitt House, senior program officer with the Harvest Foundation, said that P&HCC “is one of the best-kept secrets in our community.”
However, that is changing, he said, adding that the Harvest Foundation’s investment “is what we look at as just one investment in a series of great investments in this community, and what Dr. Hodges and the folks” at P&HCC “are doing to move the workforce forward. We’re looking forward to being partners for a long time to come.”