for high-tech training center at M-DCC to get boost from state
Sherri C. Ranta
Miami-Dade Community College expects to receive $5.2 million within months from the state to establish a high-tech training center that business leaders and educators say will prepare a local workforce for one of South Florida's blossoming industries.
The Emerging Technologies Center of the Americas, or ETCOTA, is planned for 40,000 square feet at the school's Wolfson Campus, two blocks from the soon-to-be completed Technology Center of the Americas at 50 NE Ninth St., in the center of what city officials hope will become a booming telecom and information-technology district.
Planners involved in the project said they hope to start receiving the state money in July, pending the governor's final approval of recently passed legislation.
Architects are completing designs and construction is expected to begin in early fall. The expected cost is about $7.92 million. M-DCC Wolfson President Dr. Jon Alexiou said the college will probably seek the remainder next year from the legislature.
The Beacon Council, Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, Governor's Information Technology Task Force, Senate Information Technology Committee and companies associated with the Technology Center and its network access point endorsed the training center before seeking funds during this year's legislative session.
College Board of Trustees Chairman Roberto Martinez said officials are "extremely pleased" with the funds. The allocation reflects the legislature's and the governor's interests in the state's role as a player in the telecommunications and information technology industries, he said.
"On its merits, it's pretty much a no-brainer on how worthwhile this program is to the state of Florida. It's good for education and good for economic development," Mr. Martinez said.
Dr. Alexiou is expected to step down as Wolfson Campus president this summer and become director of the center.
Plans call for converting 40,000 square feet of a first-floor parking garage - which was built with a conversion in mind - into 22 classrooms and labs equipped with 350 individual workstations.
Dr. Alexiou said the center will offer training the college now offers at other locations along with new courses. The center will offer associate of art and associate of science degrees as well as continuing education and certification training for work on SYSCO, Nortel, Oracle, IBM, Microsoft and Novell systems, for example.
"We'll offer courses for digital communications technicians, website developers, electronic specialists, database administrators, software application specialist and fiber optics specialists," he said.
M-DCC officials visited similar centers across the country as they began planning the center - including the Northwest Center of Emerging Technologies located near the headquarters of Microsoft Corp., in Bellevue, WA.
The Rev. John White, pastor of Greater Bethel AME Church, 245 NW Eighth St., also supported the center being built just blocks from his Overtown church. He joined a delegation to Tallahassee to lobby for the project.
Mr. White said the training center will help bridge the "digital divide," giving residents opportunities for training that will raise their quality of life.
M-DCC President Dr. Eduardo J. Padron said community colleges emerged as big winners in the legislature this year. "When you look at funding, including capital outlays, the percentage increase for community colleges is 4.7%, compared to 2.7% for state universities and 2.3% for public schools."
M-DCC, the largest community college in the US with 129,000 students, had requested a 12.6% increase, he said, to make up for "significant underfunding in the last several years."