SOUTH PORTLAND – Southern Maine Community College announced its plan for a new campus at the Brunswick Naval Air Station on Tuesday, and asked voters to support a bond issue to fund the expansion.

SMCC President Jim Ortiz rolled out plans for the new campus, which is designed to boost economic development in composites, engineering, manufacturing, heavy equipment and health science.

Ortiz told a crowd in the Campus Center that SMCC is the fastest growing community college in New England, and one of the fastest growing in the country. He said many of its programs are beyond capacity, including its nursing program, which has a three-year waiting list.

This year, SMCC has turned away an estimated 3,000 students for lack of space. Ortiz said the Brunswick campus would extend access to 2,000 more students.

“Enrollment projections look like they are going up,” Ortiz said. “At the base, SMCC will be able to expand capacity and serve more students without the expense of building new buildings.”

The centerpiece of the new campus would be the Advanced Technology and Engineering Center, a joint venture between SMCC and the University of Maine, which would offer associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering.

The center would offer the state’s first degree in composites, as well as degrees in applied engineering and precision manufacturing.

The fate of SMCC’s new campus hinges on Question 4 on the June 8 ballot, which asks voters to support $23.75 million in borrowing for community and economic development. A “yes” vote would give SMCC $4.75 million to renovate the buildings at the naval base, which is closing down.

Gov. John Baldacci and other state officials spoke in support of Question 4.

“The work going on at the campus will be a magnet, attracting private-sector companies interested in research and development, particularly in composites, precision manufacturing, engineering and advanced energy technology,” Baldacci said. “This work will help Maine develop and grow its alternative energy sector.”

State Sen. Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick, said the goal in redeveloping the military property is to create as many jobs as possible.

Dana Connors, president of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, said the bond would help strengthen the state’s economy and provide a good education to students.

“This holds such incredible promise and hope for our future,” Connors said. “This base offers incredible opportunities for the state’s economic future. It won’t happen if we don’t invest and give it a chance.”

 

Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at: [email protected]