Amid cheers and shouts of “Let’s make millionaires,” ground was broken Thursday, June 7, for a permanent college campus in Leitchfield.
While Elizabethtown Community and Technical College has been offering classes in Leitchfield for several years now, finding space to accommodate the growing number of students interested in higher education opportunities in Grayson County has been difficult.
Planning for a local ECTC campus actually started in January 2011, when college president and CEO Dr. Thelma White approached community leaders about finding more space.
Steve Meredith, Twin Lakes Regional Medical Center CEO, said there was a very brief consideration of using a vacant storefront before the hospital’s board stepped forward with an offer: using the trust left to the hospital by the late Walter T. Kelley.
Kelley and his wife, Ida, founded Clarkson-based beekkeeping supplier Walter T. Kelley Co. When he died in 1986 his estate was left to the hospital, with the stipulation that the money couldn’t be used for 20 years.
The hospital is lucky enough to not need the money to fund operations, Meredith said, and had already decided to use the trust to better the community.
So instead of rented classrooms, in a couple of years students will be attending classes in a $2.5 million, 11,500-square-foot building off Wallace Avenue, just north of the hospital and east of the new county courthouse.
The Walter T. Kelley Campus will include four classrooms, computer and general purpose laboratories, a testing center, conference room, and faculty and administrative offices. Construction is tentatively expected to be finished by mid-2013.
The Kelley Trust will contribute $1 million toward the campus, with the remaining funds to be borrowed. Project architects are Jerry W. Herndon and James Davis, Lexington. Alliance Corporation, Glasgow, is the general contractor.
Dr. White noted that in 2011, 739 Grayson County residents took at least one class at ECTC.
“The facility will provide critical classroom and laboratory space and allow for the flexible scheduling necessary to expand educational programs and services that are offered in Grayson County,” she said.
She termed Thursday a “joyous” day, and said the building’s dedication would be one as well.
Meredith said the ground breaking will probably be one of the most important milestones in Grayson County’s history.
At one point in the Great Recession, the county had a 17.5 percent unemployment rate, Meredith noted. It’s still high, at about 9.4 percent in April, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“To a lot of communities that would have been a death knoll,” he said. Instead the county has fought back, and the educational opportunities the college will present will help residents transition for new jobs and new economic realities.
TLRMC board president Barry Cannon predicted the college campus would have a major impact on Grayson County’s economy.
Citing statistics that workers with college degrees earn more, he noted that currently only about 7.5 percent of Grayson Countians have more than a high school education.
“We’re making millionaires here today,” he said.
Cannon offered a friendly and positive challenge for all: “We stand here by example,” he said, urging people to “buy in, and move this county in a direction that makes us all better.”