EDITORIAL: ICC's strategic move

Itawamba Community College’s giant leap westward to a prime 30-acre tract in the U.S. 78 industrial corridor near the Belden interchange projects the college’s training and job-enhancement programs into the middle of the job market.
ICC purchased the 250,000-square-foot former River Oaks furniture building on Adams Road looking out on U.S. 78.
The action is an emphatically positive move that will enable ICC’s strong existing curriculum and services to have broader impact on the region’s economy.
President David Cole said Wednesday that ICC’s use of its own $1.8 million to purchase the building created a position of strength from which to seek a $3.7 million federal Economic Development Administration grant, which would be matched with $3.7 million from other sources, probably the state’s executive agencies, to fully convert the building’s cavernous spaces to new uses.
ICC’s use of the building for its community services division, Adult Basic Education, Toyota training, workforce investment and the WIN Job Center begin almost immediately in part would serve an anticipated 1,700 new manufacturing jobs, exclusive of Toyota’s impact, in the next five to eight years, Cole said.
ICC’s fall semester begins in early August, and the program space formerly occupied on the east Tupelo campus of ICC by the Belden Center programs is under conversion to other uses.
The start date at the Belden Center, as Cole calls the newly purchased property, is Aug. 3 – 18 days from today.
Cole, noting that ICC projects a solid 500-plus gain in enrollment, has simply outgrown existing spaces on the Fulton and Tupelo campuses. More than 7,000 credit students are expected in the fall semester, and the college’s non-credit program generates about 30,000 student-clients per year.
The Belden Center, fully operational, will double the college’s Tupelo footprint.
The pursuit of state funds to match the anticipated EDA money (part of the federal stimulus package too often derided by Mississippi politicians) deserves a full and open discussion.
Gov. Barbour, of course, will play a key role in deciding if any money under his control would be applied to the ICC match, but it seems logical that investing available funds to create better jobs and a better-trained workforce would be profitable for the larger economy in the long term.
The legislative delegation from the region, particularly the ICC district (Lee, Pontotoc, Itawamba, Monroe and Chickasaw counties) obviously has a stake in ICC’s success.
The Belden Center occupies arguably the most strategic site any training/educational/service venture could have. Develop it to full capacity.

NEMS Daily Journal