Photo by Lisa Bicknell
Local officials and school board members gathered on Friday, July 23, to cut the ceremonial ribbon marking the grand opening of the new Estill County Area Technology Center. Governor Andy Beshear, center, attended the event, as well as the Powell County Superintendent, left of Superintendent Saylor.
By: Lisa Bicknell
The sun shone bright on Estill County on Friday afternoon as hundreds gathered for the eagerly anticipated grand opening of the Estill County Area Technology Center.
It was so hot the chairs seating guests sank into the newly laid asphalt, but spirits remained high and the overall mood was celebratory.
Superintendent Jeff Saylor said it was “a great day in Estill County,” as he reminded that two summers ago, ground was broke for the Area Tech Center.
Saylor began with thanking community partners for their support. Local partners have pledged more than $500,000 toward the operation of the center.
“It’s unreal the support we have,” Saylor said.
School board chair Donna Isfort introduced current board members as well as former board members who advocated for the nickel tax which supports the building of the center. Isfort also thanked Kentucky’s Governor Andy Beshear, present at the ceremony, for “keeping our commonwealth safe.”
Superintendent of Powell County Schools, Anthony Orr, introduced his Board of Education as well.
“Without the partnership between counties, this wouldn’t have happened,” he said.
Dr. Koffi Akakpo, president of Bluegrass Community and Technical College, was there to announce that BCTC will partner with the Estill Area Tech Center to provide adult education classes as well as educational opportunities to displaced workers.
Community Education Director Teresa Dawes, who helped write the grants that would fund the tech center, said that for 48 years, Estill County students have traveled 40 miles daily for vocational training.
She remembers when Superintendent Saylor was first hired that he proclaimed, “By doggies, we’re going to get a tech center.”
The superintendent credited the community for getting behind the recallable nickel. “Without it, we couldn’t be here today.”
Counting the $14 million budgeted for the Phase 7 renovations at the high school, the school district is expected to spend $35 million for facility construction by the end of next year, Saylor said.
Dr. Jason Glass, Commissioner of Kentucky’s Department of Education, commented, “If we are not careful, this is an example that will give government a good name,” as he referred to Republican and Democratic leadership working together to make the tech center happen.
Superintendent Saylor took a minute to recognize the late Representative Bam Carney who wrote a letter supporting the center.
Saylor also said he was criticized for moving forward without operational funding for the center, but he was convinced that, “with a new building standing there, how could they tell us no?”
Community partners presented the governor with several gifts.
William Hardy, representing community partner Carhartt, spoke of how a partnership was formed between the Estill County community and Hamilton Carhartt 90 years ago with the hopes of providing 18 jobs. He pointed out that Carhartt is now a global industry leader in workwear.
Marcum and Wallace Mercy Health CEO Trina Stocker related how the same community decided in 1959 that they needed a community hospital to serve Estill, Owsley and Lee Counties. She said that not everyone was on board with the idea, arguing that “we have a hospital in Richmond and Lexington.” She reminded that the hospital is now a level four trauma center.
Citizen Guaranty Bank’s Kathy Samples, a long-time supporter of the tech center, said it is “all about the kids.”
Governor Beshear, his shirt soaked with sweat, finally had his turn at the podium. He said he “didn’t expect a bunch of gifts and a sunburn.”
Beshear said the new technology center is about building futures and bringing good jobs, and that it didn’t happen without planning and ingenuity as well as lots of hard work.
He praised a “community on fire” that has shown “grit and determination.”
“The best part—we did it together,” the governor said.
The ceremony ended with an official ribbon cutting, refreshments and tours of the new building.
The ATC will provide training in these areas:
Advanced Manufacturing/Maintenance Mechanic
Diesel Mechanics/Small and Medium Truck Repair
Engineering/Project Lead the Way
Health Sciences/Nurse Aid; and
Informational Technology/Computer Science and Networking.