ICC announces $1.8M expansion to former River Oaks furniture facility

TUPELO – Itawamba Community College officials on Tuesday announced the largest expansion in the school’s history.
The school has bought the Belden Center from Furniture Brands International, whose local subsidiary is Lane Furniture, and will start classes there in August. The cost was $1.8 million.
Since its establishment 60 years ago, “The college has had only one expansion of its comprehensive campus in Fulton,” President David Cole said during a news conference at Belden Center. That expansion came in the 1960s, in east Tupelo.
Located on 30 acres near U.S. 78 in west Tupelo, the 250,000-square-foot Belden Center once housed the former River Oaks furniture company.
In the mid-1990s, River Oaks employed 1,600 at plants in Belden, New Albany, Fulton, Baldwyn and Booneville, with annual sales that exceeded $120 million. The company filed for bankruptcy in 1998 and the Belden facility has been used by Lane.
Cole called the move both an opportunity and a necessity.
“It was a necessity because we have had double-digit growth almost each year for the last 10 years,” he said. “We are very hard-pressed for classroom and lab and parking lot space. This expands the service of the college.”
All of the non-credit programs within ICC’s Economic and Community Services Division will be relocated to the Belden Center beginning this month. They include Adult Basic Education, Workforce Investment Area, the WIN Job Center and the Mississippi Corridor Consortium’s Toyota training.
“It’s an exciting time,” said James Williams, vice president of Economic and Community Services for ICC.
He noted that the secret to Tupelo’s success is leadership, partnership and high expectations, and “this facility gives us an opportunity to move to the next level.”
The Belden Center will offer “one-stop shopping,” Williams said. “If they need a GED, they come here. If they need a job, they go across the hall.”
When Adult Basic Education classes start in the new facility on Aug. 3, “We will have more space than we’ve ever had,” said Jan West, director of ABE and GED testing.
“And it’s an opportunity,” West said. “We’ve never had classes on this side of town.”

Contact Ginny Miller at (662) 678-1582 or ginny.miller@djournal.com.

Ginny Miller/NEMS Daily Journal