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Blue Ridge Community and Technical College opens new technology center

June 19, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Well before the ribbon was snipped Wednesday for Blue Ridge Community and Technical College's new technology center, Gov. Joe Manchin was asking questions about the status of the school's next major capital improvement project -- a new campus.

College President Pete Checkovich only would say afterward that the property being considered for a new campus site is "right up the road," north of the school's technology center at 5550 Winchester Ave.

"We're in the process of having a piece of property appraised right now," Checkovich said.

He expects the assessment to be done by the beginning of next month.

The property's location is different than acreage previously identified just outside of Martinsburg near City Hospital west of Interstate 81.

"We've expanded our options in the last couple months," Checkovich said.

The school's options do not include expanding its presence at the technology center site at the former World Kitchen/Corning Glass Works, now known as the Berkeley Business Park, Checkovich said.

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"(The owner) won't sell," Checkovich said.

In April, Checkovich and Ralph Shockey of The Shockey Companies based in Winchester, Va., signed a 10-year lease agreement for the school's new tech center, which now houses two work-force training programs. The school does have an option to lease more space as part of the agreement, which amounted to a $1.5 million deal.

One of those programs, made possible by a partnership between the college, Allegheny Energy and the Utility Workers Union of America Local 102 to launch the Electric Distribution Technology program, was the focus of Manchin's visit.

"You finish that course, you pretty much have a job waiting for you," Manchin said before speaking to a sizable crowd on hand for the ribbon-cutting ceremony and reception.

The technology center also is housing the school's Cisco training program, which coordinator Tony Early said will benefit area businesses in need of workers to administer and design networks for communication technology.

Cisco Systems Inc. is "kind of the Microsoft of the networking" side of technology-based communications, Early said.

Enrollment for both programs is about to get under way, with an introductory course for utility line workers slated to begin July 14.

The college is holding an open house at the technology center for interested students Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Aside from startup financial support, Allegheny Power employees and retirees are expected to provide the college with technical and curriculum assistance as well as instruction.

Already challenged to fill vacancies in the region, Allegheny Power President David E. Flitman said the company could see as many as 10 percent of the 750 line workers opt for retirement in the next four or five years.

Filling those jobs to maintain the company's utility services for 1.6 million customers is "absolutely critical," Flitman said.

Students at the technology center will have an indoor and outdoor utility pole "park" to get hands-on experience, in addition to classroom instruction.

In the indoor park, two lines of poles will be used, one staggered for equipment installation and the other for climbing in the indoor park. A substation next to the outdoor pole park also is being eyed for future training, officials said.

More information about Blue Ridge Community and Technical College is available at www.blueridgectc.edu/about.htm.

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