A second $1 million donation in two days is helping Augusta Technical College rev up its automotive technology program.
The gift from Columbia, S.C.-based Jim Hudson Automotive Group, will help the school establish an automotive service training center in Augusta’s Laney-Walker neighborhood later this year. Jim Hudson operates Acura, Infiniti and Lexus dealerships in Augusta.
On Tuesday, Augusta National Golf Club announced its $1 million to Augusta Tech for the program.
The facility is part of a broader expansion of Tech’s automotive program, following months of discussions with area businesses and employers from area auto dealerships and trucking companies, said Tech President Dr. Jermaine Whirl.
From those talks about employer needs, “it really blossomed into a much broader picture and a broader opportunity,” he said.
The $2 million will cover a “substantial” portion of the cost to build the facility, Whirl said. School officials have identified a piece of property in the Laney-Walker area where the facility will be built, but the specific location has not yet been disclosed.
Current space for the program on the Augusta campus is about 10,000 square feet, which can fit between 75 and 85 students at a time, and the school “just needed more room.”
The program, when expanded, is expected to accommodate more than 1,200 students annually, from full-time students to dual-enrollment students to people already employed in the industry who want to expand their skill sets, Whirl said.
Areas of study will be expanded to cover other in-demand sectors of vehicle repair such as marine technology and autonomous, or self-driving, vehicles.
The program also will introduce “OEM,” or original equipment manufacturer training, so aspiring technicians can earn certifications to work on certain makes and models of vehicles. For example, Whirl said, the closest place for a student to train as a General Motors-certified mechanic is in Greenville, S.C.
Offering training here will help keep talent in the area, he said.
“When you’re exporting talent to another state to get specialization, you’re making the assumption that they’re going to come back,” Whirl said.
Another feature of the new program will educate students on the business aspect of the automotive industry, for people who want to become sales managers, finance managers or owners of vehicle dealerships.
More announcements on the growing program will emerge over the next few weeks, Whirl said.
"We have several partners who have come to the table who are really interested in this project," he said. "It's really been a community effort outside of just the National and Jim Hudson. I would say all of our automotive friends in the community have really jumped onboard."
This article originally appeared on Augusta Chronicle: Another $1 million gift helps Augusta Tech rev up automotive program