Veterans training and education center to be built in Warner Robins

chwright@macon.comJune 10, 2013 

PERRY -- A $10 million education and training center for veterans approved in the fiscal 2014 state budget will be built in Warner Robins, Gov. Nathan Deal said Monday.

Deal made the comments during a dinner at Houston Lake Country Club where Middle Georgia Technical College and local government leaders honored him and Houston County legislators for their work on the center and another Houston County project, totaling more than $25 million in new construction.

“Hopefully, the Pentagon will take due notice that we are willing to spend our own money. We’re willing to be supportive of the military and their families,” Deal said.

The Georgia Military and Veterans Education and Training Support Center, aimed at helping veterans transition into the workforce, is a collaboration between Georgia’s technical and university systems and military agencies. Ivan Allen, president of Middle Georgia Tech, said a groundbreaking is planned for next year.

Allen said Middle Georgia Tech, which is merging with Central Georgia Technical College, is heading the project. He wants to put together a committee of business members to determine the courses and training that will be offered at the 50,000-square-foot building to ensure veterans can “transition seamlessly.”

“The idea will be that we give members of the Department of Defense skills and academic work needed for them to transfer into the private workforce post military career,” Allen said.

Deal said Robins Air Force Base is a major economic booster for the entire state. With federal budget cuts known as sequestration taking effect and talk of a Base Realignment and Closure Commission, it’s important to show dedication to the base, the governor said.

“If the BRAC does come back, we want them to see a community that doesn’t just connect from the outside but is literally connected to the mission of the military,” said state Rep. Larry O’Neal, R-Bonaire. “And more importantly, cares about everyone who wears that uniform and has worn it and is willing and able to get back into the workforce after the military.”

Early on, there was talk the center could be built in any Georgia community. But, Deal said, Warner Robins’ donation of 44 acres of land just northwest of Russell Parkway and Ga. 247 helped push the project through the General Assembly. The land was previously slated for a sports complex.

“That’s something that is difficult at times for the other parts of our state to be able to come up with the resources at the local level,” Deal said. “But here in this county, they have certainly been willing to step up and do that.”

The training center is yet another state initiative to aide its more than 773,000 veterans in finding employment. Others include the Troops to Trucks and Operation: Workforce programs. The General Assembly also recently passed a bill to accept licenses of enlisted military members’ spouses from any other state.

“More than ever, we live in a day and time where the challenge is going to be: are you a place that is welcoming to our military?” Deal said. “I believe we are on a very good path ... of demonstrating to everybody that Georgia is indeed that place.”

The local leaders also thanked their state legislators for a second Houston County project, a new Health Sciences Center at Middle Georgia Tech. It will be built on land Houston Healthcare donated, located across from the college’s Cohen Walker Drive location.

“We believe it will serve a useful purpose in the overall scheme of ... providing the workforce that our state and your community needs to fill the important roles of health care,” Deal said.

Higher education is essential now as the country prepares for a generation that will be required to have more than an a high school diploma, Deal said. But, he said, it won’t do any good unless grade schools prepare them for the next level.

“Your commitment will pay greatly in dividends in improving the quality of life in your community,” Deal said, “as well as ensuring that citizens that call this their home will be able to have those good jobs, will be able to support their families, and will be less dependent on both local government, state government and the federal government.”

Warner Robins Mayor Chuck Shaheen thanked the legislators and governor for working to bring the military training center to the city. O’Neal said he is excited about the message it will send.

“I hope there’s a big American flag flying there, and I hope there’s not a person who drives by there between there and the base that doesn’t get a tear in their eye because of what it says for this community. We do revere and we honor and we care about the folks who wear the uniform in this country,” O’Neal said.

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