GREENVILLE — Nearly one year ago, the first shovel was planted firmly into the ground of the former Montcalm County 4-H Fairgrounds to make way for an historic endeavor undertaken by Montcalm Community College (MCC).
After months of construction, community input, government assistance and many donations, the MCC Greenville Campus officially expanded Thursday with the opening of the new Bill Braman Family Center for Education, named after the former MCC Trustee and pioneering fruit farmer and located at 1315 Yellow Jacket Drive.
With its large windows displaying the occasional glimmer from a sun that bounced from cloud to cloud, more than 100 spectators attended Thursday’s ribbon cutting affair under tents in the shadow of the new facility.
“A few years ago we bought the farm, or the fairgrounds, as we might say,” MCC President Robert Ferrentino said. “Today, it looks a little different in terms of our vision for what MCC Greenville can be. It’s a new jewel.”
The building is the latest MCC facility since the construction of the Stanley P. Ash Building in Sidney in 2006, and the newest in Greenville since the completion of the Stanley and Blanche Ash Technical Learning Center in 2001.
According to Ferrentino, the $5.4 million facility will feature technology labs for advanced manufacturing applications, increased health-related training options, renewable energy studies, flexible classroom configurations for access to university-level programming, create an increased emphasis on noncredit career training, offer dual enrollment options for high school students and provide cultural enrichment offerings.
As a primary donor in MCC’s Creating Futures, Strengthening Partnerships capital campaign, Bill Braman was on hand for Thursday’s opening event, along with his wife and children, and was pleased to see a community recovering from various hardships now able to boast about a new college facility.
“Our future and prosperity as a community depends on our ability to increase the educational level of the present and future workforce to meet the demands of today’s economy,” he said. “This new facility became a reality through partnerships and conglomerations. It’s a result of many individuals and organizations working toward a common goal to create a brighter future.”
Ferrentino made it clear Thursday as to why the building was not a luxury, but a necessity for MCC and the surrounding communities.
“Why build this building?” he asked. “After all, in recent times we have faced the worst recession in years. Wouldn’t it have been better to just hunker down and ride out the storm? The answer to that question was and still is, a resounding no. It would not have been better.”
Ferrentino pointed to changes in education and the present-day workforce as primary reasons for needing a new facility to help advance education opportunities in the Montcalm County area.
“We don’t live in the same world that our fathers, mothers and grandparents lived in,” he said. We don’t live in the world where a middle class existence was an almost guaranteed outcome based on one’s hard work and dedication to their trade. That world is gone.”
Ferrentino said the keys to earning that life today can be achieved with help from the new Bill Braman Family Center for Education.
“The prosperity that we long for comes about in different ways,” he said. “Advances in technology, health care, manufacturing, business, communication, and many other aspects of our society, call for a better educated workforce. If that vision was to become reality, action was needed, and hunkering down was not an option.”
Having first opened to 360 students in 1966, who studied and took classes in local high schools, MCC has come a long way in nearly 60 years, a point MCC Board of Trustees Chairwoman Karen Carbonelli reflected on.
“It’s been a long journey since that original 360 students enrolled,” she said. “MCC has served 75,000 students in our nearly 60 years of existence, and that’s pretty impressive.”
Carbonelli, along with fellow guest speakers MCC Foundation President Tom Kohn, Rep. Rick Outman, R-Six Lakes, and Sen. Judy Emmons, R-Sheridan, thanked Braman and his family for his generous donation which helped to make the new facility on the Greenville campus a reality.
“How fitting that we now have this beautiful building and you’ve been committed to our community for so many years,” Emmons said to Braman. “Bill, you were an outstanding fruit farmer. We’re just grateful that you committed to our area, saw the need, and we can’t thank you enough.”
The facility will open to students this autumn at the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year.