By Ty Higgins, Ohio Ag Net
A large sum of funds will be pumped into the renovation of Kettering Hall, a facility that has played a vital role in the landscape of Wilmington College since 1960. The positive effects of this monetary infusion will be felt throughout Clinton County once construction begins.
The facelift will be possible thanks to a $19.7 million loan that was recently announced by USDA Rural Housing and Community Facilities Administrator Tammye Trevino as she was joined at the College by stakeholders representing interests across both public and private sectors. The announcement was part of the USDA’s efforts to strengthen the rural economy.
“We expect the construction to generate about $2.5 million into the local rural economy in Wilmington,” said Trevino. “We believe this type of funding feeds into more job creation, more money that stays in the community that will continue to be a source of wealth.”
The three-story building lacks air conditioning, rendering it essentially unusable during southwest Ohio’s hot summers. While the structure has good “bones,” it is inadequate to meet the needs of the college’s burgeoning Agriculture and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs, which are wholly housed in the facility.
“Why shouldn’t rural America also have state-of-the-art facilities for agriculture,” said Trevino. “This is a huge opportunity for the college, its students and the community as a whole, all benefiting from the multiplier effect these funds will have.”
Wilmington College President Jim Reynolds believes the funds will have a transformative effect on the college’s science and agriculture programs, noting that WC has had great success in preparing its science students for medical, veterinary and other STEM careers. Its agriculture program — one of only two in Ohio — is one of the college’s most popular majors.
“For our students in agriculture this means a larger place to stay,” said Reynolds. “We have over 200 students that major in agriculture. That is about 1 in 5 students on our campus and this upgrade will provide them additional space for their work.”
“For our science students this will allow us to consider additional programs to add in the allied health areas and will create a cutting-edge environment and we are really grateful to USDA for their partnership.”
The 34,100-square-foot building will undergo renovations including the addition of air conditioning, the removal of asbestos-laden floor tiles and pipe insulation, and the installation of LEED-certified efficiencies like a reflective roof, which ultimately will help lower maintenance and operation costs. A two-story, 15,000-square-foot addition is designed to blend in with the architectural design of the original building and neighboring Boyd Auditorium for the Performing Arts.
With a population of nearly 42,000, Clinton County suffered a catastrophic economic blow when a nationally-known delivery firm shuttered domestic operations in 2009. Unemployment reached nearly 19%, the highest in the state, in 2010.
“There has been an incredible partnership between the city, the county and the college,” Reynoldssaid. “Support from the mayor and the county commissioner has been very helpful. We love being a part of this city and this county and we look forward to many partnerships to come.”
The scene is improving in no small measure (the unemployment rate stands at 9.7% today) due to economic progress represented by the college’s steady growth, particularly in its Agriculture and Science degree programs. The Ag program alone has seen a nearly 55% increase in year-over-year enrollment in the past four years.