Before a crowd of students, faculty and supporters, Savannah Technical College President Dr. Kathy Love made two announcements Thursday morning at the school.
The first? Savannah Tech is embarking upon a $10 million “major gifts” fundraising campaign aimed at expanding its mission in Bryan, Chatham, Effingham and Liberty counties.
The second? The school already is nearly halfway to its goal, with more than $4.4 million raised so far.
“I’ve learned a great deal about capital campaigns through this process,” Love told those in attendance as she announced the goal and the amount raised. “And that is that you don’t announce formally until you’re about halfway there.”
The funds are being raised by the Savannah Technical College Foundation, and Liberty County Commission Chairman Donald Lovette chairs the STC Local Board of Directors.
He said the campaign will help STC better serve students in Liberty County, where Savannah Tech proposes adding a 32,340-square-foot Precision Manufacturing Center — complete with two industrial labs, two machine-tool labs and four classrooms — to its Liberty Campus.
About $1 million in funding for the center project was to come from a proposed renewal of SPLOST recently voted down by taxpayers, and Lovette said the measure will reappear on the ballot in November. In the meantime, the capital campaign will help bring more services to Liberty.
“This will help us provide the labs we need,” Lovette said. “We need the best so when our students are done, they can go on into the workforce and be successful.”
The proposed labs also are closer to home for residents in Liberty County, Liberty County Development Authority CEO Ron Tolley said.
“It’s tough for someone in Hinesville to do the 80-mile round trip (to Savannah Tech’s main campus),” he said, noting the campaign will be “beneficial to the entire region, including our Liberty County campus with the addition of the advanced manufacturing cluster and the various programs that will come out of that. I know our industries are very interested in and supportive of the Liberty County campus.”
One reason for such support might be numbers.
“One of the problems we have is there are some people with skills our industries are looking for, but there aren’t nearly enough,” Tolley said. “We need to be able to expand the number of people coming out of the programs with those skills. And you can get some of those skills now, here at the main campus, but not yet out at the branch campuses — not to the extent we need.”
Savannah Tech’s campaign will focus on five areas, Love said: precision manufacturing, health sciences — the school will offer an associate’s in nursing and expand its offerings in Liberty County, making it one of the few along the coast — culinary arts and heritage tourism, technology, and student support, such as scholarships.
Other plans include the addition of biology and chemistry labs in both Effingham and Liberty.
Thursday’s announcement festivities also included students, who spoke about the impact STC had on them.
Also speaking were various STC supporters, including Dick Eckberg, a former United Parcel Service executive who is chairing the campaign. The auditorium in which Eckberg spoke bears his name.
“In my opinion, Savannah Tech is probably the greatest asset this community has,” he said. “People from all ages, all walks of life go to Savannah Tech to learn skills so they can become a contributing member of society. Not only do they learn skills, but they also learn the dignity of work. Graduates are helping to make our society a better place.”
Students part of effort
Among the students featured by Savannah Tech in its campaign are two from Liberty County, Kelvin Conyers and Amber Slotts.
Conyers spent two decades as an Army medic before enrolling in nursing at STC’s Liberty Campus.
“One of the main reasons I chose Savannah Tech was its reputation of job placement,” Conyers said. “The LPN program was an avenue to expand my medical knowledge in the nursing field and to make myself even more marketable in the civilian sector.”
Conyers also represented STC in the Nurse Assisting at Skills USA postsecondary state and national competitions, earning a gold in Georgia and a bronze in the national competition.
He plans on becoming a registered nurse and then a physician’s assistant.
Slotts, who works as a machinist trainee at Firth Rixson forgings, initially applied for the school’s aviation program, but a waiting list and a dean’s suggestion led her to the school’s machine-tool program.
“I immediately became very interested when I realized the enormous need for machinists in today’s economy,” Slotts said. “I also began to explore the wide range of careers available to me as a machinist. I could do whatever I wanted.”
Slotts helps make landing-gear components for aircraft and helicopters. She hopes to work as a programmer and, eventually, as an engineer.
“The best programmers and engineers have machined,” Slotts said. “They have a stronger knowledge of the process.”
Both credited STC for its role in their success.