Polk State College celebrates the opening of its Polk State Clear Springs Advanced Technology Center. The 47,000-square-foot building located east of Bartow stands not only as a high-tech training hub, but also of what can be accomplished when a community comes together to turn a vision into a reality.
In 2008, Clear Springs, a land company headed by chairman Stan Phelps, donated $12 million and 20 acres of land to the Polk State College Foundation. The gift was the largest in the history of the Florida College System, and served as the impetus for a years-long wave of giving.
"Our vision is creating high-paying jobs for Polk County," Phelps said. "Having the Advanced Technology Center, which will create a more highly trained workforce, will be a huge help in bringing employers into the area. We are delighted to help Polk State College because we know in doing so we are helping the people of Polk County."
Polk State Corporate College Director Rob Clancey envisioned a state-of-the-art learning center, where students would have access to real-world equipment and distance-learners would feel as if they were right there in the classroom. The College received $2 million in donations, including a $1-million process training unit from Rockwell Automation, a leader in industrial automation; Endress+Hauser, a supplier of measurement and automation equipment; TriNova, a provider of measurement and process services for a variety of industries; and AMJ, the Florida division of TriNova.
The PTU, a massive piece of equipment that involves tanks and valves and pipes, is exactly the same kind of equipment that students will use when they go to work in plants that process liquids, be it orange juice or wastewater.
From the Refrigerating Engineers & Technicians Association, the College received ammonia cooling equipment, which like the PTU will allow for applied, hands-on learning.
In addition to the $2 million in donations, the College received nearly $250,000 in support from area employers and individuals.
"This facility is going to take the training at the Corporate College — and the level of our local workforce — to the next level," said Doug Wimberly Sr., president of Lakeland's ButterKrust Bakery. "I've relied on the Corporate College for training my employees. I believe in what it does for Polk County."
The Advanced Technology Center will help graduates gain a 20-yard head start in their 100-yard dash to success.
The Center, in addition to housing the Polk State Corporate College, will house high-tech degree programs such as Engineering Technology and Supply Chain Management.
The building will serve more than 7,000 students annually.