Northeast's Technical Education Complex on track to open in January 2020

Rick Wagner • Updated Jun 24, 2019 at 12:56 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — Northeast State Community College’s Technical Education Complex has risen from a groundbreaking in October to a topping out ceremony in April, its form taking shape in the skyline with other campus buildings and the adjacent Tri-Cities Airport.

What’s more, NSCC officials say it is on schedule and set to open for student use the spring semester of 2020.

“To my knowledge, it is on schedule maybe even ahead of schedule,” said Sam Rowell, vice president for economic and workforce development for the Blountville-based school.

“We plan to be in the building at the start of the spring semester,” Rowell said. “It’s come up really quickly.”

Rowell and NSCC President Bethany Flora were interviewed recently about the progress of the building, which at almost $30 million is the state’s largest community college building project to date. But Rowell said that the more than 114,000-square-foot facility is a bargain for the college, the region and, most important, the students.

“We still to this day are about 50 percent AAS and AS degrees, technical degrees,” Rowell said. “It means a lot to the faculty and staff and the college, but also for the students.”

The structure will include classroom and lab space for the business technology and advanced technologies programs, with a design that will facilitate collaboration among disciplines. It also is in a highly visible section of campus to showcase technology instruction, something that has taken place in two 1966 buildings.

Since 1966, Rowell said, industry and technology have changed and the new building will reinforce that NSCC has also changed its technical programs.

The ground floor will house classrooms, lab space and faculty offices for Advanced Technologies. It will have lab space for instruction in computer numeric control machining; welding; HVAC/electromechanical; electrical and wiring; magnetics and motors; and programmable logic controller/mechatronics. Entertainment Technology, part of the Business Technologies division, will also have a lighting and sound lab, recording studios and a sound editing room on the first floor.

The top floor will be home to Business Technologies and will feature lab space for business, computer programming, PC maintenance, cyber security, networking, accounting, professional office administration, entertainment technology and an entrepreneurial center, as well as faculty offices and classrooms.

Flora said it is hard to over-emphasize “how important it is for workforce development and economic development for the region.”

In a recent meeting with a manufacturer looking to come to the Tri-Cities, Flora said the new building was a major selling point in how the area can help attract and keep business and industry, and Rowell said it is centrally located and next to the airport to showcase what is happening in technical education.

However, Flora said that the university parallel program, which helps move students to four-year schools to earn a bachelor’s degree, also was a selling point to the manufacturing official, especially when she told him NSCC students had transferred to Yale and Columbia University.

“His eyebrows raised up. We are committed to that,” Flora said of preparing folks for the workforce as well as higher education in four-year schools and beyond.

WHO: Ohio-based Messer Construction Co. is the contractor. John Fisher, of Fisher Associates of Greeneville, is the lead architect.

WHAT: Technical Education Complex.

WHEN: Groundbreaking Oct. 30 after a delay because of funding issues; topping out on April 11; to be finished in late 2019 and open for business in late January 2020 for spring semester. The date of the ribbon cutting is to be determined.

WHERE: Northeast State Community College’s main campus in Blountville, adjacent to Tri-Cities Airport.

WHY: The two buildings used for technology now are old and outdated, going back to the opening of the school in 1966 as a technical school. They are to be demolished after operations are moved to the new building.

HOW: The construction cost of the $29.8 million building and a little more than $6 million to outfit it is from the state of Tennessee, except for about $3.98 million in grants and local fundraising. It was initially delayed because of funding issues on the local level.

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