The new $9 million Center for Advance Manufacturing and Industrial Technologies (CAMIT) on the Spartanburg Community College campus will be a state-of-the-art facility, where students get hands-on training for highly technical careers.
College officials, state dignitaries and leaders in manufacturing attended a groundbreaking ceremony on Thursday. They explained how important the center is for training students to enter careers such as mechatronics, radiation protection and industrial electronics, but it was Jeffrey Gettys' story that received a standing ovation.
Gettys, a student at the Cherokee County campus, has a 3.9 grade point average and is only three classes away from graduation. He's also been sober for seven years.
Gettys told the crowd that he started smoking marijuana at age 14 and taking methamphetamines at 15. He quit school with no plans of graduating because he was “young and dumb.”
After 12 years of doing drugs, he said he hit rock bottom when “by the grace of God,” he realized he was on a dead-end street. At the time, he had been awake for 30 days and not eaten much during that time. He entered rehabilitation for three months, taking the first step to get his life on track.
His mother talked him into getting his GED, which he did with honors, and went on a tour of the Cherokee campus and met Darryl Smith, the campus director.
Smith explained programs offered there, and financial assistance available.
Enrolled in the mechatronics degree program, Gettys said his education is of utmost importance to his future.
After Gettys' speech, Spartanburg Community College President Henry Giles said Gettys is a shining example of what the campus does for students, and why it's so important Giles credited the work of Sen. Harvey Peeler (R-Gaffney) in securing $4.3 million from the state toward building the center. The college has committed the remaining funds in capital costs, and through grants.
Peeler said he was part of a group of individuals who met nine years ago and saw a need for a technical college presence in Cherokee County to train the workforce for highly skilled jobs.
The 27,000-square-foot center will be the third on the Spartanburg Community College campus in Cherokee County and is set to open in fall 2015.
Cherokee County Council Chairman Tim Spencer vowed council's support for the center, which he called vital to ongoing economic development success of the county.
Cherokee County Development Board Director Jim Cook said in the late 1990s, having blue-collar, hardworking employees was sufficient for the county's economy, which was largely based in textiles.
Textiles are still strong in the county, he said, but “it's not your grandfather's mill anymore.”
Having a facility with plenty of laboratory space where students can get hands-on training is key, he said.
John Milko, plant manager of the Timken plant, said the company supports the center for current and future students.
The SCC Cherokee County campus serves 550 students. The CAMIT will serve 100 students during day classes, and another 100 in evening classes.