As it turns out, the governor missed out.
Sure, Sonny Perdue’s probably been to a number of technical school campus openings. But I don’t think he’s been to one that was greeted as fervently or happily as the opening of the Savannah Tech campus in Effingham on Thursday.
Savannah Tech, Department of Technical and Adult Education and local officials finally got to show off the building they had been years in the making and that’s actually been open for nearly four months.
Former state lawmaker Herb Jones noted the push to open the campus spanned five STC presidents, three or four DTAE commissioners and three governors.
“But we’re here,” he said.
It hasn’t come easy and not without a great deal of begging, pleading and arm-twisting. Former state representative and current state DTAE board member Ann Purcell has been the biggest advocate and cheerleader for a local tech school campus, and her enthusiasm bubbled over Thursday.
“We have an opportunity to continue our mission in this county,” she proclaimed, a mission to provide opportunity for the citizens of Effingham County.
The state coughed up money for planning and design of the school in 2001 and eventually put forth $2 million for the school. That was enough to build a 7,000 square foot building — the STC Effingham campus is 16,000 square feet. Local leaders got another $1.4 million in 2004 for the building.
“We’re already running out of room with our enrollment,” Purcell declared. “Isn’t that great?”
But it simply wasn’t matter of “build it, and they will come,” DTAE Commissioner Ron Jackson said. In fact, there’s no lower feeling than building a new campus in a community and having it greeted with enthusiasm at the start, only to have sit empty and neglected. Enrollment at the Effingham campus already stands at 172.
“It says there is a need for this campus,” Jackson said.
At STC’s Effingham building, students can learn new skills, prepare for new jobs and in some instances enroll and take classes while still in high school. The Effingham County school system also will be building a career academy next door to the STC Effingham campus.
The campus also will have a CDL track, which will come in handy as STC President Dr. Bix Rathburn noted the dozens of trucks that roared down 21 during the ceremony. And it’s also right across the highway from the future home of EFACEC. The prospect of the campus helped lure the Portuguese electrical components manufacturer, Effingham Industrial Development Authority CEO John Henry remarked, adding that economic development is a community effort and not solely the domain of one entity.
“There’s no slowing us down now,” he said.
Especially when all the players and all the entities work together. Bringing about the STC Effingham campus was the result of the IDA, school system, county, state and other local governments on board and headed on the same track. Sometimes, that’s no easy feat.
But when that train gets rolling, it’s hard to stop it from being successful.
“I used to hate Effingham County,” state Rep. Buddy Carter said of his time as the mayor of Pooler.
Why did he loathe his neighbors so much? Because so many west Chatham residents were flooding across the county line. He’s far less resentful now.
“The best times lie ahead for us,” Carter said. “When you talk about what is ahead for Effingham County, it is limitless.”