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Trident Tech ready to build $79M aeronautical center

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The S.C. Aeronautical Training Center, to be built at Trident Technical College's Rivers Avenue campus, is expected  to open in 2019. (Rendering/Provided)

Trident Technical College has been given the final go-ahead for the S.C. Aeronautical Training Center, and school officials expect to break ground this fall.

The State Fiscal Accountability Authority approved the project last week, and Trident Tech has raised the $79 million needed for construction and equipment, Trident President Mary Thornley said Wednesday during the S.C. Aerospace Conference and Expo in Columbia.

The 224,000-square-foot center will have classrooms, shops, labs and open bays to accommodate aircraft, large aircraft parts and training aids. (Rendering/Provided)In a few years, thousands of students will attend classes and undergo training at the new aviation center to prepare for jobs in the state’s booming aerospace industry, Thornley said.

The 224,000-square-foot center will accommodate up to 5,400 students each year. More than 100 faculty members and professors will teach an aerospace curriculum.

Raising $79 million

  • State funding: $48.4 million
  • Charleston County: $18.75 million; $337,000 for road work
  • Trident Technical College: $8.13 million
  • U.S. Economic Development Administration grant: $2 million
  • North Charleston: $1 million
  • Federal Perkins grants: $471,560
  • Private donations: $202,000
  • Total: $79.3 million

Source: Trident Technical College

The training center’s new campus, located within Trident Tech’s main North Charleston site off Rivers Avenue, will house the primary building, a central energy plant, a paint hangar and a ramp.

The facility will have classrooms, shops, labs and open bays to accommodate aircraft, large aircraft parts and training aids. It is set to open in fall 2019.

“We are all set to break ground on this facility,” Thornley said. “We want to build a South Carolina Aeronautical Training Center because we don’t want to just import talent, we want to develop it.”

When Boeing Co. made the decision to expand Dreamliner production into the Lowcountry in 2009, Thornley said, plans began to take shape to improve Trident Tech’s existing offerings and create an aerospace training center.

“We had courses spread across five buildings and two campuses,” Thornley said. “Not impactful. Not efficient. Not enough capacity.”

Since then, the college has worked to get state approvals and raise money. Thornley said she hopes the training center will help create a workforce pipeline for aerospace companies and advanced manufacturers in the state, as well as provide high-paying jobs for S.C. residents.

Curricula and training will cover composites, robotics, mechatronics, avionics, welding, assembly, engines, painting, tooling and sheet metal work, among other topics.

“We have a decade to do what Washington state had 100 years to do — create an aeronautical culture,” Thornley said in a statement. “The S.C. Aeronautical Training Center will not only allow us to meet the demand for skilled workers, but will help spark an interest in the next generation of South Carolinians to pursue a career in the aerospace field.”

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the groundbreaking time frame and the square footage of the project. Work is expected to begin on the 224,000-square-foot center this fall.

Reach Liz Segrist at 843-849-3119.

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