Oct. 22--Forsyth Technical Community College has sought for eight years to connect learning and training with the blossoming downtown Winston-Salem research park.
That effort hit a pivotal phase Monday with the college's commitment to a $7 millionCenter for Emerging Technologies.
FTCC will take 24,000 square feet of space on the second floor of 525@Vine, one of two 242,000-square-foot buildings being renovated within Wake Forest Innovation Quarter, which is operated by Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.
Forsyth Tech is taking a 10-year lease with the center, which it expects to open in September.
The college is moving its Small Business Center, Corporate Training Center and facilities supporting the biotechnology and nanotechnology programs. It also will have a significant information technology component, in part to capitalize on the presence of Inmar Inc., whose new headquarters will be in the other renovated building.
The investment represents just more than half of the $13.7 million raised from the college's Momentum capital campaign that began in 2005. The campaign's goal was exceeded by $700,000.
Gary Green, president of Forsyth Tech, said the center represents a "signature" accomplishment in terms of connecting the college to the research being done in the park, particularly at Wake Forest BioTech Place.
"We knew how important being close to the innovation would be in terms of the energy there, the potential job opportunities for our students," Green said. "We knew the center would resonate with donors.
"What we're doing is trying to match up the kinds of high-skilled programs that we have with the needs that will occur in the park."
The center will be on the building's second floor, but because of the slope of the terrain, it will have a street-front entrance. Green said the center would have an initial workforce of between 15 and 20 while serving about 1,200 students annually.
"Having a full range of educational opportunities in the Innovation Quarter always has been part of the plan, and it's gratifying to see it coming to fruition," said Gayle Anderson, president and chief executive of the Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce. "It provides formal and informal chances for students to be engaged with cutting-edge researchers, as well as enhancing internships and partnerships among everyone."
Capital improvements and equipment would be paid for with private funds from the Forsyth Tech Foundation.
On Aug. 26, the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners approved taking on $171,257 annually in operating costs for the proposed project. The college had to get the county's support since the county is responsible for paying its operating costs, such as utilities payments.
The college would use state-appropriated funds to cover the lease payments of $300,000 a year for 10 years.
"The center is one of the featured objectives of the campaign," Green said. "We knew the private element of its funding would be inadequate for all of the funding needs, so securing the county and state involvement was critical."
Green said the transition of the corporate training center will free up space on its West campus.
Phase Two of Wexford Science & Technology LLC's involvement in the research park is considered pivotal by local economic and elected officials and by the community. The developer also is handling construction of the new headquarters for Inmar Inc. in an adjacent building.
The projects are being lauded for providing not only life-sciences research space but also momentum for downtown housing, retail and other economic shots in the arm. The 525@Vine building already has the YMCA of Northwest North Carolina as a future tenant.
Eric Tomlinson, president of Wake Forest Innovation Quarter, said having Forsyth Tech on board "brings a whole new dimension to the learn part of the work, learn and play" marketing strategy for the park.
"We're closer to making more announcements about tenants that will further change the complexion of the Quarter involving the innovation of science and the business of innovation taking place here."
Tomlinson said having Forsyth Tech in the northern part of the research park does not take away momentum from its plans for the southern district, which has been slower to develop from an infrastructure standpoint.
The Center for Design Innovation broke ground in February 2012 on an $8 million building that local officials hope will serve as a physical and symbolic anchor for the southern part of the park and downtown.
The building was projected to open in fall 2013, but is now scheduled to debut in fall 2014.
The 27,000-square-foot building will sit on 450 Design Ave. within a 4-acre site off Rams Drive. Tomlinson said he believes construction will begin soon.
The center was established in 2005 as a multicampus research center of the UNC system, the result of a partnership among Winston-Salem State University, the UNC School of the Arts and Forsyth Technical Community College. The center has been operating since 2007 at a temporary site in Winston Tower.
Journal reporter Meghann Evans contributed to this story.
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