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Look inside Lee Technology Center: Open house planned Thursday

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Wilson Community College will welcome the public to an open house and ribbon-cutting for two refurbished buildings at the Lee Technology Center at 10 a.m. Thursday.

The 10-acre site at the corner of U.S. 301 and Ward Boulevard was a gift of the Lee family, who operated an car dealership at the site for decades.

Thursday’s event, from 10 a.m. to noon, is to celebrate completion of a $1.6 million contract to put uniform facades on the old Ford building and the old Nissan building. Daniels and Daniels Construction of Goldsboro completed the job.

In addition to the facades, offices were converted to classrooms inside the old Ford building.

“We are excited to let people see,” said Tim Wright, president of Wilson Community College. “This is a great facility, and we already have two workforce-related programs that have been holding classes in these two buildings for a year and a half now. We had just not done the exterior work to update the looks of the buildings.”

Except for the addition of some horizontal sun shades on the old Nissan building, the cosmetic work is complete.

BUILDINGS R and W

Visitors will notice upon entering the old Ford building that a series of framed items including paintings, newspaper articles, aerial photographs and even a letter from Henry Ford are on display.

“This is basically showing our appreciation to the Lee family,” said Jessica Bailey, the college’s director of marketing and public relations. “This is going from the inception of the Lee dealership to what it is going to look like now.”

“Lucky for us that John (Lee) and his family did what I think was the best thing they could have done, which is donate this piece of property to the Wilson Community College,” Wright said.

The old Ford building, which houses the automotive program, will now be referred to as Building R, and the old Nissan building, which houses the applied engineering program, will be Building W.

There are five buildings on the site, and the next project for the college is to investigate whether it will be feasible to use a couple of them to house the HVAC and electrical programs.

“We are looking at whether we will renovate them or raze them and put up new buildings,” Wright said. “We are looking at what is most cost-effective for the kinds of buildings that we need.”

Wright said he’s also excited about the possibility that if funding is available, the new Wilson Academy of Applied Technology building could be added to the Lee Technology Center.

“It will be the perfect place for the WAAT high school building,” Wright said.

Wright said WCC intends to add a building construction technology degree program at the Lee Technology Center either in fall or spring. The WCC Small Business Center is moving into the Ford building space as well.

SKILLED WORKFORCE

The Lee Technology Center’s vocational education emphasis is in line with nationwide trends to build a skilled workforce right out of high school.

“This is a nationwide as well as statewide and local challenge,” Wright said. “We are not different here in Wilson County in any way except maybe that we have a little bigger challenge because we are lucky to have so much industry in Wilson County, so maybe our need for a skilled workforce is a little greater than some other rural areas.

“Luckily, community colleges are built to do exactly that, workforce development.”

The changes at the college campus at the corner of U.S. 301 and Ward Boulevard are part of an overall improvement of that side of the city.

“We are glad to be a part of the revitalization of this whole side of town,” Wright said. “Obviously other folks think that as well. That’s why we got that TIGER grant and have that revitalization work going on down the 301 corridor here. And, of course, we are going to hold down one corner of that and we are happy to do so. We look forward to being a part of the 301 corridor here in Wilson County.

The ribbon-cutting is scheduled for noon, with light refreshments to follow and tours of the facilities after that.

For more information, call Jessica Bailey at 252-246-1271.

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