Grand opening brings together community, business for celebration

After years of planning, discussion, groundbreaking and hard work, the expansion project at Metropolitan Community College’s Fort Omaha Campus finally received its grand welcome from the public on Friday afternoon.
The $90 million expansion includes three new academic buildings: the Career and Academic Skills Center, the Center for Advanced and Emerging Technology and the Construction Education Center.
The grand opening event was held in Innovation Central inside CAET and included a ribbon cutting for each new building and speeches from local dignitaries and other community members. After being moved inside due to excessive heat, the hall was full of eager listeners.
Nate Barry, dean of career and technical education, was the emcee for the grand opening, welcoming visitors to the new buildings and talking about the process of them coming to fruition.
“This started more than seven years ago as an idea,” Barry said. “Today, it is a reality. These are more than just buildings. It’s learning reimagined.”
Roger Garcia, MCC Board of Governors chair, said it was the hard work of not just the BOG, but faculty, staff, business partners and more.
“Today is a celebration of vision, people and purpose,” Garcia said. “We extend our sincere appreciation to all who are involved.”
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts shared his appreciation for MCC’s vision to help educate and prepare students for careers in continually growing workforces.
“Our shared vision for this state is to be able grow this state,” he said. “Community colleges are an important part of making that happen. Thank you all for what you’re doing to be a part of this. These are great facilities.”
City of Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert echoed Gov. Rocketts’ sentiments, saying it was important to have these institutes available for Nebraska students.
“Thank you for your investment in higher education in Omaha,” she said. “MCC helps build a strong workforce. And while Omaha has a very low unemployment rate, we need to help students learn about careers that are high-demand, high-skill and high-wage.”
Chris Rodgers, former MCC BOG board member and current Douglas County Board Commissioner, shared the vision laid out more than a decade ago by staff, the board and more. Millard Public Schools Superintendent Jim Sutfin said how the new buildings offer more opportunities for students in the local area.
Carolyn Lee, director of the Manufacturing Institute, talked about the importance of buildings like the CEC and CAET, as they can be the model for other schools around the country.
“Centers like this are where we can see learning reimagined,” she said.
Joe Lempka, Kiewit Building Group president, said the buildings are learning tools themselves, as they left much of the inner workings visible to learn from. He also thanked MCC for being a great partner to work with while simultaneously constructing all three buildings. Doing this and opening these buildings will help grow a strong workforce, he said.
“They will play a role in the future of our company,” he said. “If you want good wood, you have to grow your own trees. Here a MCC, you have the opportunity to grow your own forest. This could be a game changer.”
The final speaker was an MCC student, Jordan Hopwood. Hopwood is a second-year construction and building technology student. The CEC is a game changer for her on her path to success, she said.
“MCC was my first choice,” she said. “When I walked into the new building, I was blown away it had this much. I realized I have everything I need to succeed. On behalf of the students at MCC, I want to thank you and welcome you to the new buildings.”
Following the speeches and ribbon cuttings, guests were free to roam the halls and classrooms of the new buildings. Many lab spaces had running demonstrations and activities available.