Horry Georgetown Technical College is drawing up plans for advanced manufacturing centers in Conway and Georgetown.
The college’s board approved a $5.8 million budget for the Conway facility this week.
The 30,000-square-foot building will be constructed on a 3.5-acre tract in The Atlantic Center near the WPDE television studio, said HGTC President Neyle Wilson. The Horry County Higher Education Commission donated the land to the college with approval from Horry County Council. HGTC has already lined up funding for the Conway center, which is projected to be finished by the fall of 2016.
Four programs will be housed in the facility: advanced welding technologies, machine tool, robotics and mechatronics. The school already offers the advanced welding and machine tool programs. The others will come on line once the new building is finished.
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“I just don’t have enough space to accommodate the students,” Wilson said. “Those are basic training programs you’ve got to have in order to be able to tell potential manufacturing companies coming here and looking to relocate that we can provide them with the skilled employees they want.”
Wilson said the Georgetown facility is still a few years away from beginning construction, though the college plans to use the same design for both centers.
HGTC is applying for $2.5 million in state money for the Georgetown center, which would be built on the southern side of the current campus. College officials also are seeking about $2 million in federal economic development grants. The remainder of the tab would be picked up by Georgetown County and private donors.
Wilson said the Georgetown building will cost about $7.5 million. The higher price tag, he said, stems from the need to purchase all the equipment for the facility. Conway already has some of the machines for its center.
Brandon Haselden, academic chairman of HGTC’s industrial technologies department, said just adding the Conway center will be a tremendous help. The additional space will allow him to expand from 16 welding booths to 50.
“It’s extremely important from the perspective of what we’ll be able to do,” he said. “Right now, we are at the utmost maximum capacity for welding. We’re teaching every student that we’ve got space for. And the demand is so big, we’ve actually got more students on the waiting list than we do enrolled in the program.”
The new center also will allow HGTC to hold training programs for business and industry.
Like Wilson, Haselden said the Grand Strand needs more opportunities for advanced manufacturing education if the community hopes to compete for industry and move beyond a tourism-dependent economy.
“Everyone’s seeing now that we’ve got to diversify,” he said. “That’s why manufacturing is the buzzword.”
Jim Moore, the president, just called me back. Would you mind adding these paragraphs to the bottom of the story.
When Jim Moore, president of Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corp., talks to out-of-town executives and industry leaders, one of the first questions they ask the economic developer is whether Horry County’s labor pool has skills to make their products.
In the past, one of the advantages Florence County has had over Horry is the Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology (SIMT), which offers high-level industrial training.
Local leaders insist that adding an advanced manufacturing center will improve Horry’s appeal and make the area more competitive.
“[HGTC’s] programs have come so far and they offer a wide variety of training,” Moore said. “With a facility of this caliber right in our very backyard ... it really does give us a leg up.”
Contact CHARLES D. PERRY at 626-0218 or on Twitter @TSN_CharlesPerr.