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Funding for Coastal Pines lab design recommended | Local News

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Funding for the planning and design of a new training lab at Coastal Pines Technical College is a top priority for the state board of technical colleges.

Coastal Pines President Lonnie Roberts said $2.9 million in funding for the building’s design is the No. 1 recommendation the state board will send to the state legislature and governor’s office as part of the 2022 budget. Roberts, who spoke at Wednesday’s Golden Isles Chamber of Commerce meeting, said recommendations for a project this high on the list “historically” make it through the legislature.

“This is a huge step,” he said. “I feel better than I’ve ever felt about this project.”

Once construction of the 93,765-square-foot Business & Technical Center is complete, it will more than double the size of classroom and lab space at the Brunswick campus.

Classes offered in the $32.4 million building will cover a wide range of high-demand technical job training. Some of the programs were designed after meeting with business leaders to determine their hiring needs.

New courses that will be on the curriculum include advanced manufacturing, aviation maintenance, computer information systems, electrical construction and maintenance, welding and joining technology and air conditioning. In addition, lab space will be available for local companies looking for a place with plenty of room and state-of-art technology to accommodate workers.

“Within a couple of years we hope to see a $32 million addition to this campus,” he said.

Enrollment at the college has increased 10 percent over the past year, with Camden County leading the way thanks to the dual enrollment program with Camden County High School.

“We’re super excited about what’s happening,” Roberts said.

In other business, the chamber:

• Said it will co-host a candidate forum for the upcoming city elections. Ralph Staffins III, the chamber’s president and CEO, said all eight candidates for mayor and the four candidates running for the North Ward City Commission seat have confirmed they will attend.

The forum will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 21 at the Brunswick Library on Gloucester Street.

• Updated members about the upcoming flood insurance rating system that will go into effect Oct. 1.

Donna Davis, the chamber’s vice chair of special projects, said tests have been run on 50 different properties in the Golden Isles and the rates have all increased — some substantially.

Davis recommended property owners get an elevation certificate, which could result in a discount.

The rate increase will be immediate for new home owners after Oct. 1. Existing property owners won’t see an increase until April 1, 2022, she said.

• Was told by Scott McQuade, president and CEO of the Golden Isles Convention and Visitors Bureau, that the lodging industry in the past fiscal year outperformed the next best year by 20 percent.

He described the record tourism numbers as “staggering,” especially considering the hospitality industry continues to struggle with the “massive exit” of the workforce in early August when summer vacation ends for students.

Now, there aren’t enough workers for businesses to sustain a full schedule, he said.

The COVID-19 outbreak has led to some group cancellations and reduction of classes at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, McQuade said.

A reason for the strong year for tourism was aggressive marketing, McQuade said. It will continue to be the plan for 2022, he said.

• Was told the labor market continues to rebound from the pandemic in a recovery Staffins described as “nothing short of remarkable.”

A year ago, the unemployment rate was 16.7% in the Golden Isles. The most recent rate shows a 2.8% unemployment rate in the Golden Isles, which Staffins said is the lowest rate since 2001.

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