St. Charles Community College broke ground on a new Regional Workforce Innovation Center in Wentzville that should benefit Warren County, Missouri Governor Mike Parson says.
A huge crowd came out to celebrate at what is currently an empty field in Wentzville on a bright but windy October Wednesday.
It was so important that even the Mars Rover dropped by.
The Rover, along with Missouri Gov. Mike Parson and scores of other politicians and dignitaries from the region were at the empty field to celebrate a ceremonial groundbreaking for St. Charles Community College’s new Regional Workforce Innovation Center.
The center, which is expected to open the first building on what will be a 55-acre campus in 2025, is the centerpiece of the college’s new campus.
“This is only one building and you’re starting a whole new campus,” Parson said. “If you have a campus here, you think about all the people who are going to be coming here every day. Students, teachers, all the people who are going to work here, it’s going to drive the economy here.”
And when Parson says “here,” he doesn’t just mean the new site along Interstate Drive near the David Hoekel Parkway interchange on Interstate 70. He means the region – St. Charles, Warren, and Montgomery counties.
“You’ll see people move here, you’ll see homes being built because of this campus that’s here,” Parson said. “So it’s a great opportunity for the local levels.”
Parson also said workforce development is critical to keeping Missouri competitive – and it’s working. He said two foreign companies are looking at establishing their business in Missouri.
“Two nights ago, I was with a company and we were trying to get a $1.5 billion business to come here,” he said. “The only reason they are coming here is because of what we are doing in the workforce development portion of our state. … But you have to have these facilities in place for them to come. They’re not looking here if you don’t have it.”
The campus’ new location was chosen specifically because of the benefits it brings to Warren and Montgomery counties, in addition to what it does for St. Charles County.
“We were trying to get as close to Warren County as possible so it would be convenient for students to be able to come to our college,” St. Charles Community College President Dr. Barbara Kavalier said.
The new facility will introduce programs such as battery technology, electric and autonomous vehicles, renewable wind and solar energy, high-tech processes, and robotics. In addition to providing education and training for students, the college will have a “Make-It Center” lab where middle and high school students can explore how certain technology works – and have the chance to operate a robotic arm.
“What a great day it is here for St. Charles County and the community colleges,” Parson said in a television interview with multiple media outlets. “One of the things we stressed 5 1/2 years ago when I first became governor is how much investment we were going to make in workforce development. And I think what a highlight today to be here and to see a new campus. I’m really happy for the community college to do that. And what a location!”
The location was key to landing the new facility. Not only is the new campus located on the extreme western end of St. Charles County, it’s also mere miles from the new American Foods Group plant being built in Warren County.
“There’s some interesting things going on right across the county line in Warren County,” St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann said in his remarks to the large crowd assembled for the ceremony.
He then focused on the future of Interstate Drive.
“We are actually discussing right now the last segment, which will continue that road into Foristell and ultimately connect to Warren County,” he said, providing another link between two of the fastest growing counties in the state.
The entire project should benefit both counties, and other nearby counties including Montgomery, for decades to come, Kavalier said.
“The decisions that we make as administrators or trustees are not about what will happen next week, next year or five years from now,” she said. “They’re decisions about what’s going to happen 10, 15 and 20 years from now. Our vision was to establish a new campus on the western border of St. Charles County with the support of our trustees. It is important for those of us in higher education that we’re cognizant of how the world is changing. But we clearly understand the rapidity at which technology is advancing and that we embrace workforce and technical skills training needed to meet the needs of business and industry and to prepare our students for good jobs and high wages.”
About the author: Jason Koch is the editor of The Warren County Record, and covers local news and government for the newspaper. He has won multiple awards from both the Indiana and Illinois APME and from the Illinois Press Association. He can be reached at 636-456-6397 or at email@example.com