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College merger will be beneficial for companies

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Bridgemont Community and Technical College and Kanawha Valley Community and Technical College leaders said Tuesday the pending merger of the two schools will provide significant benefits to local employers.

"The primary focus of this new institution is going to be on the delivery of service to business and industry in the region," Kanawha Valley Community and Technical College President Joseph Badgley told members of the South Charleston Economic Development Authority.

Badgley and his Bridgemont counterpart, Dr. Beverly Jo Harris, told local business leaders the combined schools will be better equipped to provide a diverse range of training programs for local companies.

"It's just a real efficient model and a real comprehensive model that we're excited to work on," Harris said.

Earlier this year, the state Legislature passed a bill merging the two schools.

Montgomery-based Bridgemont has traditionally focused on providing degrees in technology fields, while Kanawha Valley has focused on health care training.

The two presidents said they had worked for years to make sure their programs didn't overlap. But with recent budget constraints, officials decided it was better to streamline the approach.

"It was decided that the best approach to delivery for comprehensive community college services for this region of the state is to look at having one single multi-campus community college that serves us better," Harris said.

"What you will see in this one new combined institution will be a very strong, comprehensive community college that will be able to deliver health programs in the Montgomery area, technology programs in the South Charleston area and really create a dynamic flow of opportunity for our students," she said.

In addition to their existing campuses, the combined school will also oversee the $15 million Advantage Valley Advance Technology Center currently under construction in the West Virginia Regional Technology Park.

The center is designed to house a wide array of short-term training programs for local manufacturing, chemical and technology firms.

South Charleston Mayor Frank Mullens said surveys have shown the average age of a worker in the Kanawha Valley is 53. With the average age so high, he said employers soon will face having to replace significant portions of their trained workforce.

"These colleges are absolutely essential in having that happen," Mullens said.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin is expected to appoint a new board for the combined community college by July 1.

The board will help develop administrative policies for the combined school, as well as pick a name for the school, which will officially launch Jan. 1, 2014.

Also during Tuesday's Economic Development Authority meeting, Mullens said the city's sanitary board would meet next week to review bids from engineering firms regarding the city's proposed sewer line expansion.

The city has proposed extending the sewer line all the way to the Lincoln County line. The potential expansion, estimated to cost around $20 million, would extend service to about 500 Kanawha County residents as well as 500 Lincoln County residents living in the Alum Creek area.

Mullens said the sewer line expansion is crucial to the city's potential annexation plans.

He said South Charleston is almost completely surrounded by other cities, and that leaves the Corridor G area as the only place for potential growth.

"I have a vision of South Charleston going to the Lincoln County line at some time, but we have to do it in baby steps," Mullens said.

"Having the proper infrastructure is crucial development; we've got to have the sewer line out there if we're going to grow and progress and move forward," he said.

Contact writer Jared Hunt at business@dailymail.com or 304-348-4836.

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