MCC Training Ctr. Expansion?

Meridian, Miss. If things go as planned, by the start of next year work will begin to expand the Meridian Community College Workforce Development Center.

"Currently we have on an average about 15 classes going on at night, and we don't have enough space down there to accommodate all of those classes," says Joseph Knight, who is the Assistant Dean of Community and Business Development at MCC. He says the college is currently applying for a $2 million federal grant to curb costs for expansion.

The current proposal is to more than double the number of classes that are being offered by adding 16 more classrooms, and additional areas that will provide space for things such as laboratories.

Last year the MCC Workforce Development Center served more than 300 businesses, and trained more than 11,000 people. If money was currently available to build the proposed 16 new classrooms, administrators say that all of those rooms could be filled immediately.

A promotional video about the training provided by the center was shown to supervisors Monday morning. It provided business testimonials about the benefits of the center.

Meanwhile, if the grant is approved, MCC will still have to provide an additional $4 million to pay for the $6 million project.

"Without having talked to the rest of the board, I feel real positive that the board will support it," says Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors President, Josh Todd.

"We have to have a skilled workforce in order to improve our area," says Knight. "Another impact of that is that the baby boomers are now retiring, and we've got to replace those skilled jobs."

With the application deadline set for October, MCC officials expect to find out whether the money has been awarded by late December.

The grant that's being sought is from the Economic Development Association. If awarded, Knight says he's optimistic that MCC will be able to come up with the additional $4 million that's needed for the project, even if it has to borrow some of the money.