Supporters of Bainbridge State College thanked state leaders, including visiting Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, on May 23 for securing a $3 million expansion of a classroom building and saying the state-supported project is an opportunity and an investment.
Lt. Gov. Cagle said it took vision to create Bainbridge State College, and it took investment for it to evolve into a regional economic engine.
“We have the opportunity to continue to invest and continue to build something here that is going to make a difference, not just for us, but for generations to come,” the lieutenant governor said.
Lt. Gov. Cagle and other state and local leaders gathered at the Charles H. Kirbo Regional Center to celebrate River Birch Hall’s expansion.
The building’s present 8,260 square feet will more than double with an additional 10,000-square-foot expansion. The project’s funding had been recommended by the Georgia Board of Regents and survived budget battles within the General Assembly this year.
Bainbridge State College President Richard Carvajal said the presence of Lt. Gov. Cagle, state Sen. Dean Burke, state Reps. Gerald Greene, Darlene Taylor, Jay Powell, retired Rep. Gene Maddox and several local officials demonstrates the wide support for the project.
“There is no question that we would not be here today were it not for the amazing leadership of Lieutenant Governor Cagle, Governor Nathan Deal, our University System Board of Regents, Speaker David Ralston and all of our local legislative delegation,” Dr. Carvajal said.
When Sen. Burke came to Cagle and said, “‘We need this investment in Bainbridge.’ I said you sure do. You do because we need to not only invest in generations to come, but we need to invest in an economic engine that will fuel this economy right here in this region. And you are it.”
Sen. Burke said Georgia is not only competing on a national economy, but a world market.
“We can’t have regional ideas anymore. We have got to have world-class ideas,” Sen. Burke said. “Institutions like this are what it’s going to take. We’ve got to have the workforce that can do the jobs that the 21st century is going to require, and that’s going to take a lot of investment in tax dollars.”
Reps. Greene, Powell and Taylor each spoke of how BSC is vital to the region and how the local delegation worked together to secure the expansion’s funding.
“I was very proud to go to work and fight for this, and it was (a fight),” Rep. Taylor said. “When they start that budget process, you better keep an eye on it.”
Rep. Powell said BSC has a vital role in ensuring rural southwest Georgia’s growth, and complimented Sen. Burke’s work in securing the necessary funds for the expansion.
“If we send our best and brightest somewhere else to be educated, more than likely they are not coming home. But if we can educate them here, more than likely they are going to stay here,” Rep. Powell said.
Rep. Greene, whose district includes BSC’s Blakely Site, said the college is a shining example in southwest Georgia.
The expansion is an opportunity
Lt. Gov. Cagle said the expansion is an opportunity to make those investments that are going to yield the dividends for the future.
River Birch Hall’s current classrooms are used by BSC’s paramedic and other health sciences programs. Once completed, the renovated hall will include several additional state-of-the-art classrooms, computer labs, faculty offices and a student gathering space.
“While all of our academic disciplines will utilize the space, the area that will likely benefit the most will be our health sciences programs. Our region needs more quality nurses, and this project will certainly help us achieve that goal,” Dr. Carvajal said.
Dr. Carvajal said the need for such strategic investment at Bainbridge State College is critical. He cited a 2010 University System study that found BSC had the lowest net square footage per student FTE (full-time equivalent) of any USG institution.
“Since the opening of the last large capital academic building on this campus all the way back in 1983, the college’s enrollment has grown by well over 300 percent,” Dr. Carvajal said. “In the last decade, the college has self-funded numerous building and expansion projects to try to keep pace with that growth. But our legislators, Lieutenant Governor Cagle, and all of our state leaders understood that, despite those efforts, we simply could not meet the educational needs of southwest Georgia without state support.”
In addition to meeting the long-term classroom needs of BSC, this addition provides the college with the swing space needed to house its administrative offices while it completes a second phase of a two-part plan. In the second phase, the college hopes to construct a new 60,000-square-foot academic building that will house all new science labs, space for the college’s new agribusiness program and all-new simulation rooms to support the BSC nursing program.
“We certainly look forward to working with our Board of Regents, local legislators and all our state officials during next year’s session to hopefully fund this additional project, which is one of the final buildings in the existing USG capital pipeline,” Dr. Carvajal said.