CONTACT: Rebecca Eidson, Public Relations Director, Tri-County Technical College
864-646-1507 (work) or 864-245-8059 (cell),

Editor's Note:

The Tri-County Technical College Commission voted unanimously at its July 27 meeting to move forward with a recommendation for a location for a future Oconee County Workforce Development Center that will include a campus for Oconee County residents.  The next step is to submit the recommendation to the other two governing bodies -- the Oconee County School District Board, and the Oconee County Council. Both boards meet August 18.

July 20, 2015

Highway 11 Site Recommended for Oconee County Workforce Development Center

Partnership between Tri-County Technical College, Oconee County School District, and Oconee County will create a unique center for technical education, work-based learning, and economic development. Next step is approval by governing bodies of each entity. 

PENDLETON, SC -- A team representing Tri-County Technical College, Oconee County, the School District of Oconee County, and local industry is ready to move forward in recommending a location for a future Oconee County Workforce Development Center.

The Oconee Industry and Technology Park, located on Highway 11 in Westminster, is the recommended site for the new center, which will co-locate an Oconee Campus of Tri-County Technical College, a new Career Center for high school students, adult education and county economic development offices.  Several sites were reviewed by the team.

"We have the opportunity to create a dynamic center where education, economic development, workforce training, and industry come together in ways we have yet to imagine," said Galen DeHay, senior vice president of Tri-County Technical College and a member of the project team. "In addition, co-location will save money through shared infrastructure, labs and equipment."

The next step is to submit the recommendation to the governing bodies for all three partners, which includes the Tri-County Technical College Commission, the Oconee County School District Board, and the Oconee County Council.

Initially, the project focused on a campus in Oconee County for Tri-County Technical College. Earlier this year, the School District of Oconee County joined the conversation as they began planning for the construction of a new Career Center.  "When the school district came to the table, an entirely new set of options and opportunities became possible through the co-location of both facilities," said DeHay.

Steve Hanvey, assistant superintendent for the school district, also serves on the project team. "Co-location benefits the students and makes good economic sense," said Hanvey.  "Generally speaking, Career Center students can use the facilities during the day and Tri-County can use the equipment in the afternoons and evenings. It's expensive to train technicians on cutting-edge equipment.  Rather than purchase similar equipment at two locations, we can share some of the same equipment and labs."

"We also plan to locate our Adult Education program at the Center, which makes it easier for those who want to earn a GED and get trained for a good job," added Hanvey.

The Oconee Industry and Technology Park was chosen as the top site because of its size and proximity to the four public high schools in Oconee County. "There is enough land to build the type of Center needed to meet all of our current and potential future needs, and it is the most centrally located of all sites considered," added Hanvey.

Scott Moulder, Oconee County administrator, agrees that cost savings can be realized through shared roadways, curbing, water/sewer, parking, and other amenities. "Co-location saves money for everyone. It eliminates redundancies and duplication of effort," he said.

"We will move our county economic development offices to the Center which will strengthen our partnership with the college and the school district," added Moulder. "We have all the makings of a first-class economic development team to support existing industry and attract new industry to the county."

Once the project is approved by each governing body the next step will be to commission a pre-design study. The study will generate a master plan for the site, cost estimates, generalized floor plans, and phasing options. All parties will collaborate on funding options and cost sharing.

"Our project team believes this project is feasible, the site is ideal, and we should pursue next steps. A pre-design study will provide additional information for consideration, such as project details and projected costs," added DeHay. "

No timeline has been established for construction. "That would be jumping ahead.  We need to take one step at a time, and our first step is getting all parties on board with the concept. We need formal approval to move forward with a pre-design study," said Moulder.

Beyond reduced costs, a co-located facility will support the new career pathways model created by Tri-County Technical College.  "The Career Pathways to Success program enables students to achieve a Tri-County credential by the time they graduate from high school," said DeHay. "It gives them a head start on college, allowing them to complete an associate degree within one year of full time study after high school."

According to DeHay, students can move seamlessly between high school classes, college classes and work-based learning in one high-quality, integrated educational experience at the same location.

Larry Smith, plant manager for Schneider Electric and a member of the project team, believes the center will be attractive to prospective industries because of the potential for shared space, on-site workforce training, and a ready pipeline of prospective employees - all in the same location.

"The project makes perfect sense, and the Center will certainly be a selling point when recruiting companies to locate in the park," said Smith. "Industries will have the opportunity to groom future employees by providing internship and cooperative education experiences on site for high school and college students. Students literally can walk from the classroom to the workplace and immediately apply what they have learned in a real-world setting."

"We have the opportunity to create a model for the rest of the country," added DeHay. "I don't know of another community college that has taken advantage of this type of opportunity.  This project is a win-win for everyone."