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Board Advances Facility Expansion Plans

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NEWS RELEASE

November 15, 2011

Fox Valley Technical College Poised to Serve Increased Needs

Board of Trustees Adopts Intent Resolution for Public Referendum


After extensive research and community feedback from both random and targeted polling data, the Fox Valley Technical College Board of Trustees formally adopted an intent resolution on Tuesday to move forward in shaping the scope of a comprehensive facility expansion project. The intent resolution is the first step for FVTC to formally proceed with its community in meeting the needs of area employers and an unprecedented enrollment growth of 30% during the past three years.

The Board of Trustees voted 9-0 in favor of adopting the intent resolution. The action paves the way for the Board to hold several public hearings and to conclude additional detailed planning in time for a public referendum vote in April.

“The Board of Trustees at Fox Valley Technical College supports the college’s plans to serve the ongoing needs of area employers and a diverse growing student body,” says Bill Fitzpatrick, chairperson of the FVTC Board of Trustees. “Today, more than ever, organizations are relying on a generation of workers who possess advanced skills that match the needs of a new economy. The facility expansion plan that was presented to our Board reflects a great deal of diligence and vision by members of the college leadership team, and the constituent survey results indicate a reaffirmation by the community that the concept is not only feasible, but necessary for the economic vitality of the region.”

Fitzpatrick cited the results of two community public surveys as significant factors in the Board’s decision to move forward with the plan. One survey of more than 500 likely voters revealed that 60% would vote yes on a $65 million referendum to expand a variety of FVTC in-demand programs. Fewer than 30% opposed the idea in the same survey.

Another survey pointed to 89% of likely voters having a positive view of the college, while less than 1% expressed an unfavorable view. In addition, about three-quarters of respondents indicated that they, or a family member, have taken a class at one of FVTC’s campuses or regional centers throughout its primary service district of five counties in northeast Wisconsin. “Based on the solid majority of survey participants, the Board recognizes the community’s understanding of the college’s rationale for expansion,” Fitzpatrick states. “Most people are aware that a struggling economy drives enrollment for technical education and training, and that the college is well positioned to prepare people in our communities for the skilled positions needed in this region.”

Preliminary estimates prior to the Board meeting projected a range between $65 and $85 million for the facility developments. The next step for the Board is to refine the breadth of the projects with specific costs. The estimated impact on taxpayers for a $65 million referendum would be about $1 a month for owners of property valued at $100,000. For an $85 million public investment under the same estimation, the cost to a taxpayer would be around $1.50 a month.

Dr. Susan May, president of Fox Valley Technical College, underscores the importance of the college’s commitment to financial stewardship through industry partnerships and an ongoing return-on-investment to taxpayers. “Fox Valley Technical College has enjoyed a longstanding relationship with its communities for more than 100 years,” May says. “The cornerstone of our partnerships with employers and constituents stems from the college’s ability to measure its impact.” May cites a commitment to high graduate placement, making education and training both affordable and accessible, and helping the region’s workforce sustain necessary skills to strengthen their job performance as examples of FVTC’s value to the local economy.
 
The overall expansion plan addresses current and future industry growth in the New North. For more than a century, Fox Valley Technical College has established several industry partnerships to address a variety of space, equipment, and technology needs, but there are many unmet demands that are critically necessary as the community looks toward economic recovery. These demands have created capacity issues regarding enrollment and continuing education for one of the state’s largest technical colleges, now serving nearly 53,000 people a year.

May adds that Fox Valley Technical College’s core mission hasn’t changed over the years, and this focus has orchestrated a need to manage programmatic demands with some growing pains. “Fox Valley Technical College has listened to its employers and students’” she notes. “The college’s responsiveness is due to its close ties to the evolving educational and training needs in our district, and the expansion plans address both current and future needs.”

FVTC has established a niche in landing jobs for its graduates. Historically, 90% of Fox Valley Technical College graduates earn jobs within six months of graduation. With the recent addition of its JobSeekers Network (JSN), nearly 200 displaced workers have also found new careers because of a fresh approach to job searching, and the number of JSN participants of all ages continues to grow. “JobSeekers Network is yet another example of how the college has innovatively applied its mission to stay aligned to changing times,” adds May. “This service is another way we work closely with area employers. In this case, we are helping the workforce find pre-qualified talent that matches their unique needs.”

Aside from helping graduates consistently find good-paying jobs, FVTC also trains around 20,000 employees annually, and that number is climbing due to more trainees participating in public safety-related continuous education workshops and seminars. Training the region’s existing workforce is a large part of what FVTC does to help companies stay competitive and retain their employees.

The Board will now explore the details of a public referendum that could potentially include all or any number of facility-related projects that range between $65 and $85 million. The largest facility concept is the development of a Public Safety Training Center in partnership with the Outagamie County Regional Airport. This effort would provide much-needed space to accommodate increased enrollment in FVTC’s public safety-related programs, while creating the first-ever integrated training platform for fire, emergency medical services, and police training in Wisconsin.

A new Public Safety Training Center would offer high-tech indoor and outdoor rifle and pistol ranges, an emergency vehicle driving range, a multi-purpose “mock” village, forensic labs and crimes scene rooms, an enhanced defensive tactics setting, a live burn tower with various live fire props, and more. The estimated cost of the new center is around $34 million.

Enrollment in FVTC’s Criminal Justice program has increased nearly 60% over the past three years, and the Fire Protection program is currently capped because of capacity limits. The Criminal Justice program is recognized nationally in many areas, like AMBER Alert training, Internet Crimes Against Children, and forensic science, to name a few. Many of the specialized training sessions facilitated by the college bring in law enforcement practitioners from around the country, contributing dollars into the college and the local economy.

According to a recent economic impact study conducted by NorthStar Economics, preliminary data indicates the development of a Public Safety Training Center would support area businesses. The study revealed that the economic impact resulting from the center’s operations will annually generate nearly $12 million for the local economy and create more than 100 jobs a year.

Another conceptual facility expansion option encompasses a Health Simulation and Technology Center to allow more students to use human patient simulators in a virtual hospital lab setting. FVTC has been recognized by the world’s leading manufacturer of human patient simulation technology as one of the top training providers in the nation that uses these real-life innovations. The technology is a model for best practice training in health care, and the new facility would complement FVTC’s high graduation and graduate placement rates in several fields that use this equipment, including dental, nursing, and emergency medical services.

There is also a planned expansion that parallels a momentous surge in careers opportunities and industry demands for diesel service technicians and truck drivers, requiring more training space in the J. J. Keller Transportation Center on the Appleton campus. Adjacent to this facility is the college’s Agriculture Center, where horticulture, outdoor power equipment, and agriculture-related training labs need to be expanded. Increased student enrollments and new programming in these areas are necessitating facility adjustments.

FVTC’s expansion needs are not concentrated to its Appleton campus. In Oshkosh, growth has steadily climbed, in addition to the need for specialized training unique to that part of the region. The Board is considering purchasing land next to its new Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center in an effort to plan for future campus and programming growth in the Oshkosh community.

The FVTC Chilton Regional Center has experienced a 38% enrollment increase during the past three years. Under consideration is the purchase of the current leased facility in Chilton, as well as a small addition to support health care programming in the eastern region of the FVTC district.
 
With all the growth at FVTC, student support services are also impacted. A Student Success Center is being planned to better support coursework in math, science, communications, social science, English Language Learning, and adult basic education, in addition to student advising, library services, and more.

Both May and Fitzpatrick say the cost of borrowing is as inexpensive as it ever has been. “Our Board, our staff, and our community all understand the sensitivities regarding taxes and the economic climate,” May stresses. “We are moving ahead under the direction of the Board to devise a plan that will minimize the burden on the taxpayer, yet at the same time, undergo a significant step in helping refuel the economic engine of our region. We can do what we do best—prepare people with the skills they need to be successful in the career opportunities available in this region.”

NEXT STEPS:

• The Fox Valley Technical College Board of Trustees will continue analyzing the scope of the facility plans to determine priorities and costs over the next few months.

• Public hearings to gather community feedback will be held December 13 in Appleton and on December 14 in Oshkosh.

• In January or February of 2012, the FVTC Board of Trustees will vote on whether or not to proceed with a referendum question for the April ballot. If the Board decides to proceed, the final scope and cost of the projects will be determined at this time.

• A potential public capital referendum across entire FVTC District on April 3 ballot.

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