UNION COUNTY — An already memorable day got even more memorable when the Union Campus of Spartanburg Community College received a check for $135,000 from the Timken Foundation of Canton, Ohio Thursday afternoon.
The check was presented to Spartanburg Community College President Henry Giles Jr. on behalf of the Timken Foundation by Timken Tyger River Plant Manager Bob Hart during Thursday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony formally opening the SCC Union Campus. Hart said the funds, which are allocated to help SCC purchase equipment for the Mechatronics class at the Union Campus, are part of the Foundation’s commitment to supporting communities in which the Timken Company has a presence. He pointed out that over the past five years the Foundation has allocated funds in Union County in support of the Miracle League, the Bonham and Buffalo fire departments, Union County Arts Center, Salvation Army, Union County Carnegie Library, Union County School District, Union County Stadium, and the Cross Keys House.
In presenting the check, Hart not only emphasized the Foundation’s support for the community through grants like the one awarded for the SCC Union Campus, but also the importance of the SCC Union to the future of Union County. Hart pointed out that the manufacturing industry is experiencing growth and undergoing changes that are creating and will continue to create job opportunities for communities like Union County. He said the key to Union County benefiting from this ongoing development is the creation of a trained, skilled workforce that can fill those jobs and meet the needs of manufacturers for workers who can grow and change with the industry. Hart said that with its Mechatronics program the SCC Union Campus can play a decisive role in creating the the workforce Union County needs to attract those manufacturers and the jobs they are creating.
Giles thanked the Timken Foundation for the grant, calling it “a godsend for us.” He said that the funds will be used to help purchase equipment for the Mechatronics program at the SCC Union Campus. Giles said the equipment, which costs approximately $500,000, will be the same kind used in the Mechatronics program at SCC’s main campus in Spartanburg. He said it is the same kind of equipment which is used by manufacturers such as Timken and Gestamp and that learning how to understand and use it will prepare students at the SCC Union Campus to be ready to go to work for such manufacturers after graduation.
Thursday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrated the formal opening of the Union Campus of Spartanburg Community College. The facility was originally called the Union County Advanced Technology Center when it opened its doors seven years ago. It was the result of a collaboration between Spartanburg Community College and USC Union, the first such collaboration in the history of South Carolina. Since July 1 of this year, however, it has been the Union Campus of Spartanburg Community College, one of five SCC campuses in the Upstate.
In his remarks during Thursday’s ceremony, Giles pointed out that Union County has been part of SCC’s service area the college opened in 1963. While it has served Union County for more than 50 years, Giles said that it has not been until now that SCC has had a permanent, physical presence in the county. He said the programs offered at the Union Campus will help prepare students to not only get good-paying jobs, but to get them within the community itself.
“Union has always been a part of the college’s service area since the college’s beginning in 1963,” Giles said. “However, not until this year has the college had a permanent location in Union to offer a full array of programs, other than the Associate of Arts and Associate of Sciences degree programs. Currently, we are concentrating on two programs — Mechatronics and Welding.
“Both of these programs prepare graduates for careers that are and will be in high demand,” he said. “Graduates completing the programs should be able to obtain high paying jobs right here close to their homes. This will help Union residents to be able to live and work within their community.”
Among those participating in Thursday’s ceremony was SC House District 42 Rep. Mike Anthony who spoke of the SCC Union Campus’ critical role in developing what he called the county’s “human infrastructure.” Anthony said what while there is a lot of talk about the community’s physical infrastructure such as roads, bridges, and utilities, there is an even more important infrastructure. He said that infrastructure is the people of a community, which he said has to be developed, maintained, and upgraded like its physical infrastructure. Anthony said that the programs offered through the SCC Union Campus will enable the county to develop its human infrastructure to its full potential and enable the county to successfully compete for jobs and other economic development in the years ahead.
Also participating in Thursday’s ceremony was Union County Supervisor Frank Hart who said the SCC Union Campus is a testament to what can happen when a community comes together.
“I do believe this is truly one of those red letter days for Union County,” Hart said. “What we are here today to celebrate is the result of a coordinated effort of a lot of people which involved the community college, local government, the delegation, and private industry. It is an example of what we can achieve when we are all pulling in the same direction.”
Hart pointed out that the SCC Union Campus is designed to develop the county’s greatest resource, its people.
“We have many great resources in Union County including land and infrastructure such as water, sewer, gas, utilities, and industrial sites but our greatest resource is our people,” Hart said. “This campus is an investment in our people which will pay dividends for our community for generations to come. This campus will play a key role in developing the skilled workforce we need to support our existing industry as well as fueling the future economic growth and development of our community. This campus along with our Community Scholarship program will provide opportunities for our kids and access to higher education which was not previously accessible.
“Today I am proud of our community and the steps we are taking to improve the quality of life for all of the citizens of Union County, he said. “Working together, we are building a better Union.”
City of Union Mayor Harold Thompson also spoke during Friday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony, discussing how the campus reflects the community’s commitment to education and importance of the facility to the future of the local economy.
“This facility represents the value we place on education and we hope that it will help serve as an anchor in our community and one that we can continue to be proud of,” Thompson said. “I join others here in the city and the county in understanding how critical this facility is to economic development and the future of this community.”
Thompson praised Spartanburg Community College for its commitment to Union Count and its willingness through its Union Campus “to take on a great responsibility to deliver programs as your students lead lives of economic opportunity and become leaders in this community and in the nation as well.”
Also speaking at Thursday’s ceremony was SCC Union Campus Site Coordinator Kathy Jo Lancaster who described the campus as “alive and vibrant.” She said the education the students receive is designed to not only educate them, but also to integrate them into the economy they will be working in after graduation.
“Our students not only receive classroom and lab instruction, but they are advised, they are tutored, they engage in creative activities, and they are integrated into the next generation of jobs, what we refer to as STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics,” Lancaster said. “Our students are prepared to compete for high-tech, high-demand, and high-paying jobs in fields such as advanced manufacturing, health care, information technology, and logistics.”
One of those students is Earl Petty who is studying Welding and seeking an Associate Degree in Applied Science. He was the final speaker before the ribbon-cutting, and he spoke about the convenience that the SCC Union Campus provides him and his fellow students with.
“I have been a student at Spartanburg Community College at the Union Campus since 2014,” Petty said. “I took dual credit welding classes while I attended Union County High School. I attended this campus full-time my senior year. The location made it easy for me to get my education while continuing to co-op at Sammy Smith’s garage. I am fortunate to have a boss who puts my education first and allows me to work around my college schedule.
“Having the opportunity to take the courses I need in Union is very convenient,” he said. “I encourage everyone to take advantage of the opportunities available at this campus. There are so many skilled labor jobs that need to be filled and Spartanburg Community College can help you obtain those skills so that you can get a good job.”
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.