Lanier Technical College broke ground Thursday on a major expansion that will more than double educational space at its Dawson County campus.
"We're very excited to be here. We think it's a wonderful opportunity for the community, the county and the city of Dawsonville," said Russell Vandiver, president of the college. "It's also a great opportunity for Lanier Technical College and our entire technical college system of Georgia."
Local officials began talking about the need for a technical college in the county more than a decade ago.
Roger Slaton said an invitation to sit on the Lanier Technical College board was a good starting point in fulfilling the county's need to bring technical educational opportunities to the county.
"I believe it was in 2001 or 2002 when Dr. Mike Moye came to see me about serving on the board at Lanier Tech. I told him then the one thing that I would want would be a campus, a presence in Dawson County," Slaton said.
The Dawson campus welcomed its first students in October 2005 in a building owned by the Dawson County Board of Education.
"I was on the board of education and I discussed it with our board, and we said: ‘Why can't we let them have this building,'" Slaton said. "So we renovated it at the expense of $300,000 and leased it to them for $1 a year. That was the beginning of Lanier Tech to me in Dawson County."
Later, when it became apparent the building was too small to accommodate the growing need, the school board, Lanier Technical College and the Dawson County Board of Commissioners each donated $100,000 to purchase adjacent land for future expansion.
"Technical schools create the opportunity for business to come because they know they can get the workers, or at least, retrain the workers," said Mike Berg, chairman of the Dawson County Board of Commissioners. "I'm real proud. (We) took a leap of faith...because we understood the need for business in the community and training for future business employees."
Ron Jackson, commissioner of the Technical College System of Georgia, praised the community for its persistence and willingness to work to bring Lanier Technical College to Dawson County.
"The facts are, the contributions that this community and the leadership that you all showed in this community made the difference for you to actually jump in front of a lot of other communities in Georgia that would like the same thing," Jackson said. "A technical college campus in your community means you've got economic development viability, particularly to attract companies here and to keep companies here."
Programs that will be offered at the Dawson campus include medical assistant, certified nursing assistant, business administration, welding and cosmetology.
Automotive technology and electrical systems technology will also be offered exclusively at the Dawson campus.
Construction on the $5 million expansion is expected to be complete within a year.
Officials anticipate an enrollment of 300 students in the first year at the new location.