LAWRENCEVILLE -- This year, Gwinnett Technical College had to turn away 6,000 people interested in studying health care and life sciences.
Gwinnett Tech serves 500 students through 10 health science programs. On Thursday, officials broke ground on a building that will allow the school to educate an additional 3,000 students a year.
"The Life Sciences Center is a project that will benefit both our community as well as our school," Gwinnett Tech President Sharon Bartels said. "... This is the beginning of a massive economic development and community development project in our community."
The Life Sciences Center will allow Gwinnett Tech to expand both student capacity and program offerings. When the building is complete in the fall of 2011, Gwinnett Tech will have more than 140,000 square feet of learning space devoted to health care and life sciences education.
The center will be a 78,000-square-foot, three-story facility that will house 13 classrooms and lecture halls and 12 high-tech labs.
Ron Jackson, the commissioner of the Technical College System of Georgia, said it's critical that health care and life sciences programs grow to meet the need in the community.
"That industry -- life sciences -- is an industry that not only is hiring but is critical to the welfare of our community," Jackson said.
Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce President Jim Maran said opening this building is as critical as bringing open-heart surgery to Gwinnett.
"Life sciences education and the life sciences industry are at the heart of the Gwinnett Chamber's Partnership Gwinnett economic development initiative," Maran said. "Expanding quality health care is a need we all share and a need we absolutely can't ignore."
With the opening of the Life Sciences Center, Gwinnett Tech plans to add new programs in bioscience, nursing, cardiovascular technology, diagnostic sonography and health information technology.
"There's nothing more important that we can be doing for our community today," said Sean Murphy, the board chair of the Gwinnett Tech Foundation. "This is a tough economy to try to be doing something like this, but these students can't wait."