New College Institute’s first building will pay homage to the past
A new building at New College Institute in Martinsville will be decorated with exposed brick from the area’s old factories. “We want to pay homage to the past … but move forward to what we hope will be a thriving economic future,” says Leanna Blevins, NCI’s associate director and chief academic officer.
The 52,000-square-foot building in uptown Martinsville will be the first created for NCI, established in 2006 to make college-level courses available to students in Southern Virginia. The institution partners with colleges and universities to offer bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees and other special programs.
The new building, set to open in May, will house the regional governor’s school, classroom space, administrative offices, a grand hall and an advanced manufacturing high-bay lab with at least $1.5 million worth of equipment.
NCI officials hope that a focus on advanced manufacturing will help drive economic development in Martinsville, which lost thousands of manufacturing jobs in the 1990s, partly due to offshoring and a changing industry. The city consistently has the state’s highest unemployment rate (14.8 percent in May).
On the third floor would sit the Martinsville and Henry County Economic Development Corp. “We believe that EDC will be able to show [business] prospects just how seamless the approach is and how serious this region is to provide a workforce that industry tells us is needed,” says William C. Wampler Jr., the institute’s executive director and a former Virginia state senator.
The total cost of the NCI building project is $18.7 million, Wampler says. According to the Martinsville Bulletin, around $17 million has been raised or pledged so far, including a $700,000 state grant.
The building is not the only new feature at NCI. The institute also plans to offer health-care workers noncredit courses in telemedicine. The program would train 250 students on using digital equipment to remotely monitor at-risk patients and reduce unnecessary hospital readmissions.
Also slated to start this fall is NCI’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation . It’s modeled after Virginia Commonwealth University’s da Vinci Center for Innovation, which advances innovation and entrepreneurship through interdisciplinary collaboration.
In the next couple of years, NCI also hopes to increase enrollment in its Academy for Engineering & Technology (AET), which prepares high school students for high-tech careers.