Wednesday may have been a cool, overcast and breezy day, but that didn’t put a halt to the festive atmosphere enjoyed by the large group of people gathered near the intersection of Shinn Lane and Highway MM in Hannibal. The crowd was there to observe the official groundbreaking of the Area Higher Education Center, which soon will serve as Moberly Area Community College’s home in Hannibal.
“Today we celebrate,” said Branson Wood, a long-time member of the local Affordable Community Education (ACE) Committee. “We celebrate the building of a community college for the Hannibal area.”
Among those on hand to help celebrate were MACC students.
“I’m thankful for the new building,” said Stephanie Willing of New London, explaining that attending MACC is appealing because it is affordable and close to home.
“The new campus will be amazing for future students at MACC,” said Rosa Newton of Hannibal, a mother of five who describes herself as a non-traditional student.
Among the MACC officials on hand to celebrate was Dr. Evelyn Jorgenson, the community college’s president.
“This is an exciting day. It has been a long time coming. It feels that way to me. I know it must surely feel that way to you from the Hannibal community,” she said. “It’s really going to happen. It’s taken the hard work of so many people to make this happen.”
Among those cited for their efforts by Jorgenson were members of the ACE Committee, the MACC Board of Trustees, and the many contributors and donors.
“Unfortunately it costs money to build a building and so it can’t be done without the support of contributors. The people, businesses, and foundations who have given, we are so grateful and your community will remember you forever. This is going to be here for decades and decades to come. It will change the community. It will educate many of your citizens. It will provide job development and training for the community. We thank all of those who have reached into their pockets and contributed,” she said.
Funding for the MACC-Hannibal Area Higher Education Center is coming from several sources. Along with the donation of land on which the new education center will be located by Drs. Christopher Bieniek and Curtis Burton, cash has come from ACE fund-raising, a FEMA grant, MACC funds, the MACC Foundation and a loan taken out by MACC through the USDA.
Janie Dunning, state director for USDA Rural Development, said the $1 million loan, which has a 0 percent interest rate, would not have been possible without Ralls County Electric Cooperative’s willingness to act as a “go between” and take “responsibility for the loan.”
Page 2 of 2 - That loan must now be paid back.
“We’re quite confident we can do it,” said Wood “We’re delighted we’re going to be able to talk with people and will no longer face the question, ‘Is it really ever going to happen?’ It is going to happen. The ground-breaking has been done.
“The number of people that were here on a cold November day is a good measure of how much the community understands and has supported this. We’re sure it will continue to support this project.”
George Walley, executive director of the Northeast Missouri Economic Development Council, and Roy Hark, Hannibal, mayor, agree that MACC is a vital resource for the community.
“It’s one of the single most important steps our community can make toward keeping people in our community and growing our skilled labor force,” said Walley. “Manufacturers really see the quality of a community as being measured by the presence of a community college. This (new MACC building) is a tremendous step forward.”
“In all of our site visits with the different industries in the community that’s the one thing that we hear - education. We hear about the need to get more education for our young people here,” said Hark. “This (MACC building) is a great opportunity.”
Wendy Johnson, director of MACC’s Hannibal site, says the tentative completion date for the facility is September 2013.
MACC started offering classes in the spring of 1998 at the Hannibal Career & Technical Center with 12 students taking AC/DC Electronics. This fall over 300 students are taking MACC classes in Hannibal. There are also over 120 students from Hannibal taking online classes. That online number does not include students from area towns taking online classes, according to Michele McCall,
MACC’s dean of off-campus programs & instructional technology.