SHERIDAN — The morning of Aug. 20, 2013, Sheridan College President Dr. Paul Young was in his office early. By 7 a.m., he was in the college’s Tech Center waiting to greet faculty as they arrived to begin preparations for the new semester. About 10 hours earlier, Young learned that SC’s general obligation bond effort to support the Technical Education Center construction project had failed.
He knew the faculty would be disappointed.
“I really hadn’t come up with a plan for what to say. It was a pretty difficult moment,” Young said. “I had told these folks we would be successful and here we were the morning after, defeated.”
When the first faculty arrived, Young told them the college wasn’t giving up and that one way or another they would move forward.
Almost immediately afterward, the phone began to ring. Supporters disappointed by the failed vote were offering private gifts for the project. Over the last two years, the college has invested $2 million toward the $15 million project — $1.5 million from Whitney Benefits and another $500,000 from an anonymous donor.
Now, the $6.5 million match from the state of Wyoming, required to move forward with the Technical Education Center project, was approved during the recent legislative session. The state dollars were matched by a gift Whitney Benefits pledged to the college in 2014.
“We once again owe our deepest thanks to Whitney Benefits,” Young said. “Because of their willingness to meet the state match, along with the $1.5 million they also gave, the Tech Center project remained a priority.”
Young gave special credit to Gov. Matt Mead, who included the project in his original budget proposal last December, and to state Sen. Bruce Burns, R-Sheridan, a member of the Appropriations Committee who, according to Young, made the project a priority throughout the budget process.
“This was a tough budget session and I am thankful that our legislators and the governor see the value our community colleges bring to Wyoming,” Young said. “Especially at a time like this, it is important to continue to invest in projects that enhance our ability to provide employable skills to Wyoming students.”
Now, Young said, the college is “full-speed ahead.”
“The students studying in this space learn high-tech skills, and we hear from employers every day about the need for more graduates,” he added. “It was never an option to give up on this project. I am so proud that we persevered. This is a big win for the citizens of Sheridan County, and I am thankful for everyone’s support over the last two and a half years.”
The $13 million dollar expansion and renovation of the Technical Education Center could begin as early as this fall, according to SC Facilities Director Kent Andersen. The project includes a complete remodel of existing space and 25,000 square feet of new space for technical programs, including machine tool technology, diesel technology, welding technology and construction technology.
The center will be the focal point of Sheridan College’s new South Mall, situating it immediately adjacent to two parking lots and next to the Thorne-Rider Campus Center. The project also includes an 11,200-square-foot construction tech facility located on the southern end of the campus, large enough for students to build modular homes.
The project will also create updated space for an electronics lab, a components lab, several tooling facilities and expanded construction classroom and lab space. The addition will add a new entrance on the west side of the building, near the South Mall of Sheridan College. It will also expand the diesel shop with a new wheeled lab and dyno space, as well as a new welding lab.
College officials currently project construction to begin in late 2016 and to be completed December 2017.