Referendum passage provides direction for Western Technical College
Published on Friday, November 09, 2012
Western Technical College officials eagerly awaited the results of their $79.8 million referendum question on Election Night. By 2:00 a.m., enough votes had come in to determine that it was going to pass. The final total had 54 percent of voters supporting the referendum and ultimately the college’s plans for the future.
“We are extremely grateful for the community support,” said Western President Lee Rasch. “We know we have our work cut out for us, but we’re ready to roll up our sleeves and prove how our vision will benefit the entire region.”
With or without the referendum, Western was planning to move to a year-round academic calendar, offer expanded evening and weekend programming, and develop more short-term and advanced certificates.
“We were ready to move forward with these things, but the facilities will allow for more capacity more quickly,” said Rasch. “We project we will serve an additional 1,000 students by the year 2020.”
According to an economic impact report prepared by NorthStar Consulting Group of Madison, assuming an additional 300 graduates per year will stay and work in the Western district, there will be an economic impact of over $6 million in 2020 that will rise to over $97 million by the year 2034.
According to Dr. David Ward, Ph.D., an analyst with NorthStar Consulting Group who co-authored the report, the results of the study are very impressive. “The economic impact of increasing the number of Western grads in the district’s counties will be significant. As the number of graduates rise, the gain in income will be spent in the district. That spending will fuel indirect and induced spending, which multiplies the impact of the earnings gain of Western graduates,” said Ward.
“We’re excited to get started on these projects and start giving back to the region,” said Rasch.
Next spring, Western will start with the three projects that don’t require relocation of programs: construction of the Urban Landscaping and Agriculture Center on the former Ivy Motel site at 7th and Vine Streets, the addition to the Diesel and Heavy Equipment Technology Center in the Industrial Park, and the parking ramp in the current parking lot at 8th and La Crosse Streets.
While these projects are underway, college officials will be working with faculty to plan interim locations for several programs during the Kumm Center and Coleman Center remodels and the construction of the Integrated Technology Center. For example, Welding and Wood Tech programs will need to be moved off campus while the current Applied Technologies Center is gutted and two stories are added.
“We have some locations for those two programs in mind,” said Mike Pieper, vice president of finance and operations. “We hope to keep it close to downtown La Crosse so it’s not too inconvenient for our students.”
The college anticipates that all six projects will be completed by 2016. The public is encouraged to monitor the progress on the website www.westerntc.edu/Vision2020.
“It will continue to be business as usual for Western during the entire process,” said Rasch. “Western is this region’s college and it’s our responsibility to respond to the needs of our students and local industry. Our priority remains getting people into work.”