ALBANY, Ga. -- Although it was already 96 degrees by the end of a mid-morning news conference, the heat couldn't cool the celebratory spirit.
Albany Technical College and Department of Labor officials rejoiced
Friday at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the school's new main entrance, which it will share with the Department of Labor's Albany Career Center.
The entrance -- located at Slappey Boulevard and Industry Avenue -- is next to the new Albany Tech Logistics Education Center, which is under construction and set to open next March. Funding for the new entrance was figured in the cost of the about $5.7 million Logistics Center.
"We're the only career center in Georgia sitting next to a technical college, and we're proud of that fact," said Betty R. White, acting manager of the Department of Labor's Albany Career Center. "The entrance means a lot to us and now gives us better access to both facilities and shared parking; you can never have enough of that.
"This is wonderful. We've been partners a long time," continued White, who has worked for the Department of Labor for 33 years. "A lot of students that attend the school are also our customers, which gives new meaning to one-stop service center because we have so many services that are provided under one roof and this is just one of those services."
Albany Tech President Anthony Parker said the new entrance bolsters the already strong relationship between the school and the Department of Labor.
"This is the front door of the college, the Department of Labor is the constitutional entity for work force development and we're responsible for work force education," he said. "That gives us an opportunity to do one-stop shop for work force development. If they have a client that needs work force skills, they can just send them to us and walk across the parking lot. And if we have a student or graduate seeking employment, we can send them next door."
A bus stop on the left side of the Logistics Center will likely further enhance the main entrance's accessibility. Parker said the center will house Albany Tech's new student center, online learning, library and its culinary arts program. It will also house several food vendors on the first floor.
Parker also mentioned that a traffic light at the new main entrance will likely be needed in the near future to improve safety and traffic flow. He also said that Albany Tech has submitted a special-purpose, local-option sales tax request for a pedestrian bridge to span Slappey from the school's Kirkland Conference Center area across the street.
If the school receives the bridge, Parker said Albany Tech could look at expanding its campus to include more property on the other side of Slappey. He said the need for expansion will become more evident in the future due to some of the college's current buildings needing to be replaced in the next 10-20 years.
Due to the explosive growth of Albany Tech, Parker said discussing campus expansion isn't premature. Since Parker arrived at the school 15 years ago, Albany Tech has grown from 1,000 students to more than 4,100.
"We've become a college town, and if we are going to be a college town we need to provide the room to grow for each of them," he said. "The more we're connected to higher education, the more attractive we become to industry who need well-educated employees.
"We probably have as many educational resources in Albany as they do in Atlanta or Charlotte; they're just spread out within 50 miles of each other," he added. "If we continue to develop ourselves as a higher education region, we have a better opportunity to recruit industries to Southwest Georgia."