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Construction begins next month on new Lanier Tech campus
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Ray Perren, left, president of Lanier Technical College, talks with Ben Copeland, a member of the board for the Technical College System of Georgia. Copeland attended a meeting of the board Thursday at Lanier Tech and the groundbreaking for a new campus Friday morning.

Lanier Technical College officially broke ground Friday morning for a new $100 million campus on Howard Road, just off Ga. 365 in Hall County.

It was a "monumental event," "a big deal" and a "very, very rare thing," officials said.

Classes are planned to start at the new facilities in January 2019.

Ray Perren, president of Lanier Tech, said grading and construction at the site should begin about mid-October.

The final portion of the financing for the new campus got the approval of the state Technical College System of Georgia board of directors Sept. 8 - a process that won't be complete until the fiscal year 2018 budget is signed next spring.

The TCSG board approved a budget request that includes $52.1 million for the new Lanier Tech campus. The current budget, FY 2017, has $48.3 million in it, and $10 million was included in the FY 2016 budget for land purchase and planning expenses.

More than 100 people gathered last week for the ceremony, including state officials, legislators, local officials and business representatives.

The new campus will nearly double the capacity of Lanier Tech's main campus. It is planned to be six buildings and about 325,000 square feet - what Perren termed "the core of the new campus."

The Oakwood campus, one of five for Lanier Tech, had its first classes meet for the first time 50 years ago this month, Perren said. He pointed out the new campus is the largest capital outlay project to have been done by the technical college system.

Gov. Nathan Deal termed the project "the model, in my opinion, for other technical institutions."

The current campus has about 2,500 students, and the new facility will have a capacity of about 5,000, Perren said.

The campus is about 95 acres. It is behind the RaceTrac gas station and convenience store and across Ga. 365 from the YMCA.

Plans also call for several areas outside and toward the rear of the property for training. Among those are wireless technology, motorsports vehicle technology and commercial truck driving, Perren said.

Deal praised the technical college system for meeting training needs in "an evolving picture, one that is changing rapidly."

He emphasized the state is "not going to waste anybody's money." The current Lanier Tech campus will become part of the Oakwood campus of the University of North Georgia, "one of the more rapidly growing institutions in the state," Deal said.

He pointed to expansion of training at Lanier Tech as needed for the state. He specifically mentioned the commercial driver's license training and diesel mechanics.

Deal touted the state's record in recruiting new jobs. He said the state expects economic development announcements in September that will add 5,000 jobs in the state.

That growth also "brings the requirement that we have people who are qualified to take those jobs," the governor said. The technical college system is a primary place for training, he said.

Deal also said the state's K-12 school system must be part of the process - and must prepare more students for training and education beyond high school.

Since he has been governor, Deal said, the state has added about 550,000 jobs. But he added that during the same time, about 100,000 high school students have dropped out of school.

"We've got work to do," Deal said, emphasizing that education will be his focus for the final two years of his term.

Perren thanked the crowd for being there to "celebrate the birth of our new campus."