Spartanburg Community College celebrated the grand opening of its multimillion-dollar Center for Advanced Manufacturing and Industrial Technologies (CAMIT) at the Cherokee County Campus in Gaffney on Tuesday.
The $9 million state-of-the-art educational facility is the college's third building on the Gaffney campus and will provide students with hands-on training for highly technical careers in automated manufacturing, automotive, industrial electronics, machine tool, mechatronics, welding and heating, ventilation and air conditioning.
Many of the college officials, state dignitaries and leaders in manufacturing who attended the center's groundbreaking last December were at the grand opening and ribbon cutting Tuesday, including Sen. Harvey Peeler Jr., R-Gaffney.
Peeler was part of a group of individuals who saw a need for a technical college presence in the county to train the workforce for highly skilled jobs.
“Today we do celebrate a vision, a vision that we had to be able to train our people to meet the demands of the companies in our area, a vision that lives would be changed through educational opportunities,” he said. “It is our job to continue to encourage our citizens in Cherokee County to take advantage of this facility, to take advantage of what the Cherokee County campus of Spartanburg Community College has to offer.”
Established in April 2007, the SCC Cherokee County Campus offers 100 certificates, diplomas and associate degree programs. SCC President Henry Giles Jr. said it is hard to believe that in 13 years the college has opened three buildings.
“For us to ask the Cherokee County Council for $160,000 to open this building and provide classes for citizens was a very difficult task to ask for,” he said. “But they stepped forward and made the right decision to open the facility and allow us to grow and develop.”
Cherokee County Council Chairman Tim Spencer said the county signed a contract with SCC to build a campus in the county on Dec. 2, 2002, and that they never dreamed 13 years ago that SCC would continue to add to the Cherokee campus.
“This building is going to make a big difference,” said Daryl Smith, executive director of SCC Cherokee County campus. “A large group of people has come together to give back and help those who have needs in Cherokee County.”
Jim Cook, executive director of the Cherokee County Development Board, joined project leaders in applauding the tools and technology the center will provide to the workforce. He said the facility will restore the pride of younger generations and give them a sense of purpose.
“Imagine being a ninth-grader in this county and the 'wow' factor they will experience when they see this building for the first time on this college campus,” Cook said. “This facility is a portal to adventure and a gateway to success. Our young people can look forward to and eagerly anticipate entering the workforce with the skills they need for an exciting career.”
The new facility represents the dedication that leaders have to educating and training students, said Gregory M. Tate, Spartanburg County Commission for Technical & Community Education chairman.
One of those students is Anita Whitney, a Union woman in her 50s, enrolled in the mechatronics technology program at SCC. Whitney has a four-year degree in mathematics from Columbia College and spent 15 years climbing the corporate ladder at a software company, but said she decided she did not want to do that the rest of her life. Her son and his friends sparked her interest in mechatronics and after she visited the robotics and other labs at SCC, she said she signed up right then and attended her first class last summer.
“There are diverse age groups here and every student has a unique story,” Whitney said. “I have classmates that are right out of high school, middle-aged men and women and even one lady who is 70 years-plus.”
Whitney expects to graduate in December and said she hopes to get a full-time job at Michelin, where she is currently part of the company's Technical Scholar Program. Whitney said she is thankful for the the center's facility and that the Cherokee campus really needed it.
“I have been truly blessed and humbled by the experience that I have been given,” she said. “SCC has given me a new hope and an unbelievable opportunity.”
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