Wallace State announces almost $49 million in capital investments

The announcement came at the grand opening of the $8.8 million Center for Welding Technology and Innovation

Wallace State Community College President Vicki Karolewics accepts the keys to a Nissan Leaf from a representative of Benton Nissan as part of the announced new automotive technology building, where students will learn about electric and autonomous vehicles.

Wallace State Community College, located in Hanceville in Cullman County, announced its plans for almost $49 million in capital investments to build or renovate three buildings on its Hanceville campus. The announcement by President Vicki Karolewics came at the grand opening of the $8.8 million Center for Welding Technology and Innovation.

“Our theme for today is rightfully entitled ‘Building the Workforce,’ because as one of Alabama’s most ambitious colleges, that is our mission — to build the workforce of the future,” said Karolewics.

The 30,000-square-foot Center for Welding Technology and Innovation includes seven robotic welding stations, nine virtual welding simulators, 81 welding booths, 20 grinding booths, a fabrication area with two welders, a plasma CNC table, pipe welding equipment, and three classrooms with built-in cameras, microphones and speakers to allow hosting online classes. According to Wallace State, it is the largest training center in the Southeast.

Wallace State, state and local officials plus supporters in the business community were on hand to cut the ribbon at the new Center for Welding Technology and Innovation.

In addition to the opening of the Center for Welding Technology, Karolewics outlined three capital investment projects.

A $4.2 million expansion and renovation of the Machine Tool Technology building will allow the school to provide advanced machinists technology. Haas Automation has partnered with Wallace State on this project.

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A $9.6 million facility for automotive technology will be built to allow students to learn about electric and autonomous vehicles. Benton Nissan donated a Nissan Leaf to the college, its first electric vehicle for training. The Cullman Electric Cooperative and the Tennessee Valley Authority have also committed $44,000 for two electric vehicle chargers, with another planned in the future. Other partners on this project are Mercedes-Benz and Nissan North America.

The largest of the three projects is the building of a $35 million STEM Gateway building, which will house all of the college’s first-year students in mathematics, English, humanities, speech and chemistry, as well as the culinary arts program, a digital learning center and a tutoring center. 

Gov. Kay Ivey, who was on hand for the grand opening, said, “We are literally standing on ground zero in the campaign to equip new Alabama workers and those who are choosing to reenter the workforce with skills to succeed. Providing pathways for them to join the workforce is a major priority. Alabama’s 24 community colleges are on the front lines in delivering the training many of these workers need to get to work.”

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