Wallace State hosts grand opening, announces $48.8 million in capital investments

Aug 21, 2023Gail Crutchfield
Welding Technology Center ad Innovation Center Grand Opening

Hanceville, AL — In what college President Dr. Vicki Karolewics described as an historic day, Wallace State Community College celebrated the grand opening of the $8.8 million Center of Welding Technology and Innovation Center and announced new plans for almost $49 million in capital investments to build or renovate three buildings on the Hanceville campus.

“Our theme for today is rightfully entitled Building the Workforce, because as one of Alabama’s most ambitious colleges, that is our mission — to build the workforce of the future,” Karolewics said.

The 30,000-square-foot Center for Welding Technology and Innovation is the largest training center in the Southeast. The Welding Technology Center includes seven robotic welding stations; nine virtual welding simulators; 81 welding booths; 20 grinding booths; a fabrication area with two welders, a plasma CNC table, and pipe welding equipment; and three state-of-the-art classrooms with built-in cameras, microphones and speakers to allow hosting online classes.

The event was held in one of the six pods in the Innovation Center that will be used to incubate businesses.

“We began incubating entrepreneurs over a decade ago, and we are proud of the hundreds of jobs created by ZeroRPM, Sequence Health and DB Technologies in this community,” Karolewics added. “This Innovation Center project is projected to create 98 jobs and $25 million in revenue for our area within the first eight years.” 

Karolewics outlined the three capital investment projects. One is the $4.2 million expansion and renovation of the Machine Tool Technology building. She expressed her appreciation to partners such as HAAS Automation who have been critical to enabling Wallace State to produce the most advanced machinists in this region.

New building projects include a $9.6 million facility for Automotive Technology to accommodate the transformation of the automotive industry to electric and autonomous vehicles. Dr. Karolewics thanked partners Mercedes Benz, Nissan North America, Cullman Electric Cooperative and Tennessee Valley Authority. Benton Nissan donated a Nissan Leaf to the Advanced Automotive Service Technology program, as Mercedes-Benz has done in the past. This is the college’s first electric vehicle for training. The Cooperative and TVA have committed $44,000 for two electric vehicle chargers, with another planned in the future.

The largest building project is a $35 million STEM Gateway Building, which will house all the college’s first -year students in mathematics, English, humanities, speech and chemistry, as well as the Culinary Arts program, a digital learning center and tutoring center.

Welding Grand Opening Gov. Kay Ivey

“It’s an honor to be a part of this history making day,” said Gov. Kay Ivey. “We are literally standing on ground zero in the campaign to equip new Alabama workers and those who are choosing to reenter the workforce with skills to succeed.”

Ivey pointed the need to increase the state’s labor force. While the state’s unemployment rate is the lowest in state history at 2.1 percent, there are 50,000 unemployed Alabamians and 120,000 open jobs in the state.

“Providing pathways for them to join the workforce is a major priority,” Ivey said. “Alabama’s 24 community colleges are on the front lines in delivering the training many of these workers need to get to work.”

Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth“We’re investing in the future of our students,” said Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth. “The purpose of education is to get our people ready for a job. I believe everybody’s got a God-given ability, everybody’s got a passion. The purpose of education is to get them ready for a job.”

“What a great day for Cullman County,” said Sen. Garlan Gudger, Jr. “Wallace Sate is the crown jewel of the community college system. This administration, the teachers and support staff continue to find the right formula that makes the state of Alabama and the students that leave here prepared for the state-of-the-art jobs that they have the opportunity to obtain once they leave this campus.”

Sen. Garlan Gudger Jr.

Rep. Danny Garret noted the auto industry is investing $260 billion dollars in the development of electric vehicles. “If the market takes us there, we certainly want these manufactures who come to Alabama to stay here. We want them to expand here. We want Alabama to be in front of that issue. So as that market shifts, it’s important that we stay ahead of the curve and I see that happening here today,” he said.

Rep. Danny Garrett

Other speakers included industry partners Jason Schmidt of Lincoln Electric and Dale Benton of Benton Nissan and WSCC Robotic Welding student Annah Reese.

Annah ReeseReese said she hopes her niece and nephew follow in her footsteps and choose Wallace State. “I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that this is a school not only dedicated to student success, but always finding innovative ways to improve the quality of student development,” she said. “A school where they can invest their goals and ambitions and not only be guaranteed to thrive in their study of choice, but also be taught by people who have an abundance of care and consideration for their students.”

Registration for the Fall 2023 semester in underway. Regular and Mini Term I classes began Aug.18, with registration continuing through Aug. 24. Flex Start terms begin Aug. 25 and Sept. 1. Mini Term II classes begin Oct. 19. For more information, visit www.wallacestate.edu, call the main campus at 256.352.8000 or come by Lion Central in the lobby of the James C. Bailey Center Monday-Wednesday 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., or Friday 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Lincoln Electric

Benton Nissan Nissan Leaf


See Video of event: https://youtu.be/9uI2lHS5dig

See photos from event: https://flic.kr/s/aHBqjARtsD


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