Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Alpharetta bid, $4M woo Gwinnett Tech selection.

Courtesy Jonathan Copsey;

October 01, 2012

ALPHARETTA, GA. – Alpharetta's aggressive pursuit of the proposed North Fulton site for a technical college – which included a $4 million contribution as a "pot sweetener" has proved successful.

The state board of the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) has approved the future purchase of 25 acres of land in Alpharetta as the site for a $25 million new satellite campus of Gwinnett Technical College.

This property is at the southwest intersection of Old Milton Parkway and Ga. 400 and will be across the street from the $600 million Avalon mixed-use project. The land in question is owned by Avalon.

Mayor David Belle Isle said the city courted TCSG hard, including having a dinner for TCSG officials in which Alpharetta business leaders from Avalon, Red Prairie, McKesson, Hewlett Packard and others also joined in making a pitch for the facility.

"It's going to look like a good day for Alpharetta, but it is going to be an incredible day," Belle Isle said. "The ripple effect of what this will do for our city will be felt for a long time. Yes, they don't pay taxes, but the economic effect will still be huge."

As a show of good faith and desire to have the project, the city also added $4 million as an inducement to locate the project in Alpharetta. The city did not put any limits on how the city's contribution would be spent, although Belle Isle said the school is not allowed to build structured parking with state funds, and the city's donation could go for that and reduce the parking footprint.

The strings the city did put on its bid would first that it be new construction and not occupying existing office space. Second the city wanted Alpharetta appear in the name of the school.

"We didn't make it a deal-killer, but we would like to have the city's name on it somewhere," Belle Isle said.

The board approved the recommendation from Gwinnett Tech's North Fulton County Site Selection Committee at its September 26 meeting in Savannah. The college opened an Indication of Interest for the North Fulton County Campus Site Selection in May, and this recommendation is the result of that process. Gwinnett Tech's service area was expanded to include North Fulton County in June 2010.

"We believe we've identified an ideal location in our North Fulton County service area for our future campus -- a site that provides both needed capacity and is convenient and accessible for area residents. We now look forward to the next steps in this process and the ultimate approval and purchase of the property," said Sharon Bartels, president, Gwinnett Tech.

Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Brandon Beach said he was "ecstatic" that the search is over and the North Fulton technical college is a step closer to a reality.

"Our concern since we began pursuing this has been to have a quality tech school in North Fulton," Beach said. "It's a good location with access to Ga. 400 and Old Milton Parkway. It will provide a tremendous asset for the business community and the healthcare community," Beach said.

Asked what he thought of Alpharetta's offer to contribute $4 million as part of its offer, Beach said it showed a tangible desire to have the college in its community.

"Anytime a city puts skin in the game, it clearly demonstrates a desire and an incentive to have the facility," he said. "This will be good for all of North Fulton. Gwinnett Tech had a lot of students from North Fulton ZIP codes. Now North Fulton will be bringing in people from ZIP codes from surrounding counties."

The recommended purchase will now be submitted to the State Property Commission for approval, with the transaction ultimately closed by the State Attorney General's office. The expected timeline for both actions to be completed is between six to nine months.

The 25-acre recommended site can support 4 three-story buildings and necessary parking. When fully built out, the campus could serve up to 10,000 students.

Discussions between Gwinnett Tech leadership and North Fulton employers will continue to determine which college credit programs and Continuing Education courses will be offered to support both short-term training needs and future employment demands.

While these discussions are under way, GTC will continue to offer focused training through online degree programs, Continuing Education courses and Adult Education programs in North Fulton.

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