Gwinnett Tech included in bond proposal
Package includes $18M for life sciences building

LAWRENCEVILLE - Gwinnett Technical College President Sharon Rigsby Bartels said she is hopeful that a $93 million bond package included in Gov. Sonny Perdue's budget proposal will help her school build a much-needed life sciences building.

The bond package, which focuses on new construction and equipment needs in Georgia's technical colleges, includes $18.65 million for the design and construction for what Gwinnett Tech says will be its flagship building.

Gwinnett Tech has sought funding for three years for the construction of this building, Bartels said. She said she has spoken to legislators several times about the need for a life sciences building, and she will continue to maintain communications with the delegates as the proposed budget moves through the House and Senate.

"The health industry in Gwinnett County is the fast-growing industry," she said. "We can tell just by looking one exit down (Ga. Highway) 316 to Gwinnett Medical Center. There are a lot of jobs available now, and there will be even more as the new tower opens.

"We feel the timing is critical," she added. "We absolutely have to get people into the pipeline and fill the vacancies. ... It's so important because of the sheer size of the industry and the vacancies that exist today, not even counting the growth tomorrow."

Gwinnett Tech needs the new building to expand the number of health science programs it offers, Bartels said. The school has to reject about 6,000 people each year who apply to those programs.

Kyle Brogdon, the spokesman for Gwinnett Medical Center, said the hospital has long had a shortage of qualified clinical staff, and there are always a lot of vacancies for nurses. When the hospital's tower opens in 2009, there will be an even greater need for educational opportunities in the community, as about 700 jobs will be created, many of which will be clinical, Brogdon said.

The proposed $18.65 million would cover the design and construction costs of the 78,000-square-foot life sciences building, and if the money is approved, the building could open in the fall of 2010, Bartels said. An additional $4 million would be needed to equip and furnish the building, she said.

Bartels said she is optimistic about the chance to construct this building.

"The fact that it's on the list now is a very good sign," she said.

Perdue said in a news release that the projects he is proposing to fund will help the state's technical colleges keep pace with demand and will help the Department of Technical and Adult Education continue to provide excellent lifelong education and training for all adult and corporate citizens.

"Improving education and growing our economy are my top priorities," Perdue said. "Meeting the increasing needs of our technical colleges across the state is an investment in both."