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OCtech breaks ground for nursing building

October 31, 2017

By CHRISTOPHER HUFF
T&D Staff Writer

From left are Rep. Russell Ott, Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, Orangeburg County Councilman Willie B. Owens,
OCtech President Dr. Walt Tobin, County Councilwoman Janie Cooper-Smith
and County Council Chairman Johnnie Wright Sr.

“It is truly a great day in Orangeburg County,” state Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, said at Monday’s groundbreaking ceremony for Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College’s Nursing and Health Science building.

“But more importantly, a great day here at OCtech,” she said.

The 30,000-square-foot facility will feature a large tiered classroom, computer lab, study rooms, skills practice lab and simulation labs with the latest technology to prepare students for careers as health care professionals.

The $12.5 million building is scheduled to be ready for classes in spring 2019.

“One of the things I think is important to mention is that this project, when it was approved by the Commission on Higher Education, was considered a ‘best practice,’” OCtech President Dr. Walt Tobin said.

“The reason it was considered a best practice was because of the variety of funding sources that we received in support of this project,” he said.

The funding includes $6 million from the state; $1.96 million from the U.S. Economic Development Administration; $500,000 from Orangeburg County; $32,000 from Calhoun County; and about $1 million from the OCtech Foundation. The remaining money, about $3 million, came from the college’s capital projects fund.

Lower Savannah Council of Governments Executive Director Bill Molnar said that the Economic Development Administration has several projects in the region.

“This is one that we are extremely, extremely proud of because of the cooperation – not just in the building itself, but in the programs that go into this building afterwards,” Molnar said. “The opportunities here to take students and have them be able to go next door (to the Regional Medical Center) and get the practicum is absolutely fantastic.”

The new two-story structure will be located between buildings K and M, on the side of the campus near the Regional Medical Center.

“This is a pilot program, something we would like to see replicated here in South Carolina and hopefully across the Southeast and the nation,” Molnar said.

Cobb-Hunter commended Tobin, area commissioners and the foundation “for the great job that y’all do in making sure that this institution is ready to meet the workforce needs of the tri-county area.”

She said she was also pleased with what the state has been able to do.

“When we talk about health care workforce, we know that in rural communities in particular, there is a desperate need for training nurses, PAs and all the allied health professionals,” she said.

“But we really want to make sure that we do all that we can to retain those trained workforce people in rural communities,” she said.

She encouraged everyone to recommend OCtech to students considering health care careers.

“We need the help of all of you to make sure that students know what is here right in our own community,” she said.

“It is a very exciting day today as we look behind us and we hear the bulldozers running and we see the beginning of something very special for OCtech and Orangeburg County,” said state Rep. Russell Ott, D-St. Matthews.

OCtech is known as a leader in putting out quality students in the health care profession, he said.

“And I think this building is only going to continue with that trend,” he said.

Orangeburg County Council Chairman Johnnie Wright Sr. said, “We are extremely excited about the opportunity that this building will bring to our region and to our county to open up those educational opportunities to grow our students and hopefully try to keep them close to home.”

OCtech Area Commission Vice Chair Margaret Felder Wilson said the construction of the new facility demonstrates the college’s dedication to the diagnosis and treatment of more chronic diseases using advanced technology.

OCtech Foundation Chair Cathy Hughes said the foundation helped find private funding for the building.

“Now the foundation’s emphasis is shifting to raising funds for scholarships for the students who’ll soon occupy the building by offering naming rights for rooms in the building,” she said.

Contact the writer: chuff@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5543. CLICK HERE to see the original story on TheTandD.com.