FULTON, NY – Home for the holidays – as well as every day in between for many years to come.
Cayuga Community College officially kicked off construction at its new Fulton Campus expansion at the River Glen Plaza on Wednesday afternoon.
Today’s (Dec. 14) program celebrated the beginning of construction of the 82,150 square-foot, new Fulton Campus facility in the former P&C Foods store. The college plans for the project to be complete and ready for the start of classes for fall 2012.
A facility that once housed food to feed the body will become classrooms to nurture the mind.
The “Building for Growth: Fulton Campus Transformation” event was held in the LPCiminelli on-site office (former Quiznos storefront).
It was standing room only as the small location was crammed full of CCC officials, county and local representatives from Oswego and Cayuga counties and hordes of past and present CCC students.
It promoted Dr. Daniel Larson, president of Cayuga Community College, to quip, “I wanted all of you to know what the Fulton campus feels like, and that’s why all of you are in this small room.”
“It’s been a long time coming. We are excited to see this project now getting off the ground,” Dr. Larson told Oswego County Today prior to the ceremony.
The expansion will also help jumpstart the local economy by streaming millions of dollars through the community in the form of salaries, equipment, supplies and materials and related spending, he added.
“Snow is not in the air. But, what is here is excitement about the transformation that is taking place,” he told the huge crowd.
For more than two years, the college had been exploring options about how to meet the growth it was experiencing at the Fulton campus. In five years, student enrollment was increasing more than 20 percent, Dr. Larson pointed out. Student population is approaching 1,300.
“I can tell you that with my senior staff about 18 months ago we drove all over Oswego County and looked at just about everything that was available – everything from speedways to buildings that had been vacant for probably 15 or 20 years and everything in between,” he said.
This is going to be the fourth, and probably final, relocation of the campus, Dr. Larson said.
“In the 16 or 17 years that we’ve had a physical presence in Oswego County … we started in two rented classrooms in the Fulton Education Center with about 90 students; then moved to the Holy Family Parish School and then in 2001 moved to our current location. So in 15 years, we’ve been in three locations. The fourth and final location is going to be ‘the’ location,” he said.
This location will serve the college well into the middle of the century, he said, adding that it would be exciting to be around in 50 years to see how the campus had grown.
“In time, there is no reason why this campus shouldn’t have 2,500 students or 3,000 students,” he said.
“Welcome to our new house! Is this cool or what?” exclaimed Jeff Hoffman, executive director of the College Foundation.
Seventy percent of CCC alumni live within 50 miles of either the Auburn or Fulton campuses, he pointed out. On any given day, the CCC Foundation has around $11 million in assets; 9.4 (million) of that is committed to the Fulton project, he added.
In keeping with the season, he lead the crowd in singing “The River Glen Song” (to the tune of Let It Snow), which highlighted the expansion project.
“I have seen many changes in Fulton over the years. I remember when this mall came here,” Fulton Mayor Ron Woodward said. “I never dreamed there would be a college here some day.”
The economic impact of the college will benefit the local business that took a hit when Nestles closed a few years ago and now Birdseye this month, the mayor said.
“It’s going to spur more business opportunities in Fulton,” he said. “The students are going to have needs (that area businesses will be able to fulfill).”
“The education you get here will be paid back,” agreed Oswego County Legislature Chairman Barry Leemann. “Someone mentioned, ‘welcome to our new house.’ You have a home in Oswego County; we want you to know you have a home … we certainly appreciate everything you’re doing for our county.”
“This is a great addition to our county,” said Legislator Terry Wilbur, a 2008 graduate. “As a recent alum and member of the alumni board, I think it is a great step forward. We have a lot of confidence in Cayuga Community College and think it will be a big boost for Oswego County. (The college) continues to keep growing. It’s unbelievable, just unbelievable. I know how cramped it is over on the current location!”
A CCC education is “the best bang for the buck,” he said, referring to the 70 percent of graduates who remain in the area to live and work. “I am one of the ones who stayed here. Right now, with the hard times, factories shutting down, people are looking for a new career. They have to be educated; Cayuga Community College can do that right in your own back yard. I think it’s a great addition and I look forward to working with them.”
Woodward calls the expansion a real shot in the arm for Fulton and the entire area.
“This is definitely good news for the local economy. Hopefully, things will continue to pick up,” he said.
The influx of people to the area will benefit local businesses, he added.
“The fact that so many of their graduates stay in this area is another positive,” the mayor said. “It’s a good sign. I think things will start to pick up.”
“As the associate vice president and dean of the Fulton campus, it has been my honor and I will say a hoot, to work with the faculty and staff,” said Maggie Killoran.
The Fulton campus is “a unique place with a unique culture and an energy that reverberates,” she said.
What makes the Fulton campus so special has less to with the bricks and mortar and more to do with those who work and learn there, she explained.
“This institution, students, faculty and staff is amazing,” said Michael Fochtman, student and president of the Fulton Campus Student Government Organization. “I have a better direction now; I know where I’m going, what I’m going to do. It is because of this institution. All our students feel like that.”
Students were excited to be able to provide input into the construction plans of the new campus, he added.
“The students have taken ownership of this expansion and we appreciate that from the bottom of our hearts. We truly do,” he told the audience.
The current site really is crammed “and we can’t wait for this expansion,” he added.
Following the comments, participants had the opportunity to sign a structural steel beam that will be placed within the building.
They also toured the construction site and viewed architectural drawings to help them imagine the transformation unfolding over the course of the next eight months.
Earlier this fall, the college hired LPCiminelli of Buffalo as the project manager. Demolition and foundation work at the site is already under way.