Wednesday, July 21, 2010

OTC's GED Program recognized for advances

Ken Bryant, Chief GED® Examiner at Ogeechee Technical College, recently received notification that the Official GED testing center at the College was one of only three small-sized centers in Georgia to have the largest growth in the number of GED test-takers between calendar years 2008 and 2009. Kim Lee, Director of the GED Testing program for the State of Georgia, stated in her notification to Bryant, “your accomplishment and commitment to GED testing is significant and an inspiration for others to follow.”
Bryant is responsible for coordinating Ogeechee Tech’s GED testing and operates the Assessment Center located on the College’s main campus. “This is an honor and I appreciate being recognized for this accomplishment,” stated Bryant. OTC president, Dr. Dawn Cartee, stated, “We are very proud of Ken and all the good work he does. Our success in the growth of test-takers for the GED examination is primarily due to his hard work and dedication to this program.”
The GED test, or General Educational Development test, offers those who have not completed high school the opportunity to prove their level of knowledge and receive a GED certificate which is the equivalent of a high school diploma. “Students leave high school for a variety of reasons. One misconception is that a student who seeks a GED has failed or been expelled, and often those are not the reasons at all,” stated Bryant.

For information on GED testing at Ogeechee Tech, call Ken Bryant at 871-1693.

Statesboro/Bulloch County: Good Timing

Growth in retail and construction

Todd Manack is driving his SUV slowly past Statesboro Crossing, a two-year-old retail center just south of the downtown area of the Bulloch County seat. For Manack, the estimated $250-million investment that created Statesboro Crossing is evidence of the value of timing and persistence in the chancy world of real estate development.
“The significance of all this investment to me is that if we had not closed on this property when we did, and if we had not tied up the lease deals when we did, it absolutely would not have happened,” says Manack, president of Manack Signature Properties, agent for the sale of the 50-acre site on which Statesboro Crossing sits. “The window [of opportunity] was closing.” In the period between the 2007 closing with Atlanta-based Ewing Southeast Properties and the fall of 2008 grand opening of anchors like T.J. Maxx, Hobby Lobby and Books-A-Million, the recession and attendant credit crunch that occurred would have slammed the window shut, he says.
“The recession deepened beyond the point where I think the big-box companies would have not felt comfortable pulling the trigger on this project,” Manack says. “Yet, having said that, since they’re here, as far as I know, they’ve all been very successful.” Manack says the 175,000 square feet of retail space is responsible for 400 jobs.
It’s easy to see how in 2007 national retailers would have had an interest in Statesboro and Bulloch County. At that time, new privately owned residential construction had jumped from $68 million in 2005 to $101 million, and bank deposits had risen 50 percent, more than double the state growth in that category, according to data collected by the University of Georgia’s Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development.
By 2008, steadily rising annual retail sales cracked the $1-billion mark for the first time, due in large part to that huge economic engine humming sweetly on the campus of Georgia Southern University (GSU), whose 19,000 students and 2,000 staff and faculty members offered the continuing promise of a robust customer base for community retailers. With GSU just finishing a decade of record growth and a projected increase of 1,000 students in the fall enrollment, the university is scouting for sites to expand its accommodations.
Enrollment Growth “We’re going to be aggressively trying to acquire facilities around us already in existence and make them Georgia Southern residency halls or build new residency halls,” says Dr. Brooks Keel, president of GSU. “The good news is, even in bad economic times, we have the opportunity to build residence halls through issuing bonds and using revenues generated by the students to pay for those. We don’t have to rely on state budgets.”
Further demand for housing comes from the two-year-old requirement that freshmen students live on campus during their first year of classes. “And there are a lot of juniors and seniors who want to live in the residency halls as well,” Keel says. “We have to get into a lottery system to do that.”
In the fall of 2009, the University System of Georgia approved GSU’s request to offer a Ph.D. in Log-istics/Supply Chain Management, a nice fit for a campus located just 53 miles from Savannah, whose port traffic, trucking and rail lines make it a logistics center for the state and buttresses the university’s mission, Keel says. The logistics advanced degree is the only one of its kind offered in Georgia.
“Workforce development is one of the main reasons universities exist,” Keel says. “I sometimes think that we in the hallowed halls of academe don’t like to think of us as training workforce, but that is what we do.”
GSU provides another form of workforce development as the source of more than 6,700 regional jobs tied directly and indirectly to the campus. “Georgia Southern is responsible for about $700 million annually in economic impact on the region, and has been for the last four or five years” Keel says.
Dr. Dawn Cartee, president of Statesboro’s Ogeechee Technical Col-lege (OTC), has recently been leading the scramble to find space for her institution’s rising enrollment, a demand she links to recent economic conditions.
“We’ve had double-digit enrollment increases for the last four quarters,” she says. “Our goal for this fall is 3,000 students; a couple of years ago we were at 2,100. It’s not that surprising in this economy. But it has been a challenge with growth coming so quickly [and] trying to do some creative scheduling. We’ve put a large number of classes online, offering more in the evenings and expanding to the weekends, possibly, just utilizing our facilities to the maximum potential.”
But help is on the way with the recent approval of a 25,000-square-foot, $6-million expansion of the college’s crowded health services building. The construction process on that addition has begun, and it is expected to be open in January 2012.
A program unique to OTC is opening a career path long closed to the Southeast Georgia region’s population – funeral services professional. Ogeechee Tech’s associate degree in Funeral Services Education is opening opportunities for students that heretofore seemed unreachable, Cartee says.
“We have the only public funeral services program in the state,” she says. “Others in the state are private, and our tuition in that program is a fraction of what you pay to a private school.”
Specialty Foods Andy Oliver is another Statesboro businessman who benefited from fortunate timing when the national economy began coming apart in the fall of 2008. “When the bottom fell out in October of ‘08, we had basically made all our sales for the fourth quarter of that year, so we didn’t feel the economic effect of that time,” says Oliver, president and owner of Braswell Foods, a 64-year-old Statesboro producer of some 300 different products, including jams, jellies, salsa and sauces.
“In fact, we had one of our best years that year. This past year we were up five percent in sales, but that’s after three or four years of double-digit growth. We’re a small company in the scheme of things, but in the specialty food business we’re probably one of the largest. “
The Braswell label can be found in the catalogues of companies like the high-end retailer Williams-Sonoma and other kitchen-connected shops and marketers. With annual sales in excess of $20 million and 100 employees, about 15 percent of Braswell Foods’ raw materials come from the orchards and fields of Georgia, including the brand’s signature and earliest product, pear preserves.
“The best kind of pear preserves to make is with a hard baking pear,” Oliver says. “Well, the rest of the country does not grow a hard baking pear. Essentially, Georgia is the only place in the country where you can get a really hard pear. “They are great for cooking because they don’t dissolve to mush.”
Oliver tries to use Georgia-grown products whenever possible to save on shipping and handling costs. Keeping suppliers close, he says, is also a matter of pride. “People don’t realize Georgia is about the second or third largest blueberry-producing state in the country,” he says.
Although few of Braswell Foods are made from Bulloch County crops, agriculture there does produce $54 million in annual farm gate revenues, providing an important contribution to the local economy.
“Agriculture is big business here. We’re still a leading agriculture county in the region and the state,” says Bulloch County Commission Chairman Garrett Nevil, a retired banker. “And that economic sector is quite diverse. Fortunately for us, agriculture here has been good over the last couple of years, helping our economy during these tough times. Braswell Foods has done some very successful marketing and is now nationwide and probably worldwide.” And out of this world, too, according to Nevil. “Did you know one of the astronauts requested Braswell’s products be sent to the Space Station?” he asks. “I think it was the pear preserves.”
Already a regional trade center, Bulloch County has also secured the right to enjoy a similar title for its medical services, says Bob Bigley, CEO of Statesboro’s East Georgia Regional Medical Center. “Since 2005, our admissions have grown 33 percent, surgeries have grown 35 percent, ER visits have grown 25 percent and births have grown 21 percent,” says Bigley, as he shares the latest study on the rising demand for his hospital’s services.
“We’ve added a new vascular lab to be able to do interventional vascular procedures. We’ve just added our second cardiac catheter lab as we received approval to do interventional cardiology, and last week we started doing our first coronary stents.” Big-ley expects his hospital to do more than 1,200 cardiac catheters this year. “What we’re finding is that as we’ve added more advanced clinical services, people realize they don’t need to drive to communities farther away to receive healthcare,” he says. “And the continued strength in the local economy and the increasing market share from the surrounding counties is supporting our growth. We have more patients coming to us from contiguous counties than we’ve ever had.”
School Construction The current malaise in the national economy has produced bargains for Statesboro’s Dr. Lewis Holloway, superintendent of the Bulloch County School System, who is presiding over an unprecedented spurt of new building construction. Two new high schools were completed in the past year, and now under construction are a middle school and high school and two new elementary schools to help serve the system’s 9,400 students.
“Right now our construction cost is about $94 a square foot, when two or three years ago we were spending $140 a square foot,” Holloway says. “Our district is growing about 250 students per year, and with these buildings we think we’ll be able to accommodate our students out about 10 years on this growth cycle. But most of this construction is not about accommodating growth. Most of it is about replacing facilities that were 60 years old and needed to be replaced with more energy-efficient materials. We also added 10 classrooms at three schools to replace portable buildings.”
The savings in construction costs have contributed to improvements in teaching technology and allowed some novel approaches to the learning pro-cess at two elementary schools now being built.
The schools will feature floor art of the solar system in the hallways, models of the planets, their names, distance from the sun and size, all drawn to scale – well sort of.
“If we took the largest planet, Neptune, and made it as large as we could, eight feet in diameter, then Venus, proportionally, would be only four inches and Earth would be eight inches,” Holloway says. “We also wanted the planets to be proportional [in distance] going down the hallway, but we found out that would require a hallway that was over 20 miles long. We didn’t have a school quite that large in our plans.”
Adjustments were made to get the solar system inside the school hallway. “We want to make these schools like a museum, so that anywhere a student is standing in the building outside their classroom there will be things to look at, learn from and be awed by.”
The school system’s new buildings and other improvements totaling more than $42 million are being funded by the general Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) and an education SPLOST, both derived from county retail sales, a fact that underscores the value of stores, especially to Peggy Chapman, president of the Statesboro-Bulloch County Chamber of Commerce and Development Authority.
“The retail sales carry an important role in funding our infrastructure and are so important to things like improvements in educational facilities and technology,” Chapman says. “But I think there is another factor in such growth that is sometimes overlooked: Entrepreneurs have invested heavily in this community. You take Talbot’s, the high-end women’s shop that was opened here by an entrepreneur. We have high-end hotels brought here by local investors, and local entrepreneurs have opened restaurants and developed housing for university students. I think our local folks have invested back in the community, and that allowed other investors to see their investments would be well placed, and that is part of how Statesboro Crossing was born.”
For Statesboro mayor Joe Brannen, the retail growth here has kept the wheels of progress turning through difficult economic times. “Statesboro Crossing’s impact on our retail growth has been huge,” he says. “It has impacted our tax base in a positive way, and that’s only going to grow over the next few years. All of that means a lot to our city now, but I think the best is yet to come.”
Community Snapshot
Local Leaders
Peggy Chapman President Statesboro-Bulloch County Chamber of Commerce and Development Authority 912.489.9115
Joe Brannen Mayor of Statesboro 912.489.8661
Garrett Nevil Chairman Bulloch County Commission 912.764.6245
Population (2008 estimated) County, 67,761; Statesboro, 27,158
Per capita income County, $22,110; Georgia, $33.499
Unemployment (March 2010 preliminary) County, 9.5 percent; Georgia, 10.4 percent
Top Employers Georgia Southern University, Bulloch County Board of Education, East Georgia Medical Center, Walmart Super Center, Briggs & Stratton
Sources Development Authority of Bulloch County, Georgia Department of Labor, U.S Census Bureau

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Laura Saunders OTC’s new Director for Admissions

Laura Saunders is Ogeechee Technical College’s new Director for Admissions. Statesboro is now considered home to Laura (she has lived here since 1991), but she has lived in Massachusetts, Kansas, Missouri, and North Carolina in the past. Married to Mark Saunders for 24 years, they have two children, 15 year old Ben who is an avid baseball player, and seven year old Allison, “future world leader” according to Laura.
Laura has a Bachelors degree in Middle Grades Education and a Masters in Public Administration. She worked at Georgia Southern University for a total of 17 years, both in Admissions and as an academic advisor in the College of Education.
Being a baseball mom is Laura’s primary hobby since son, Ben, is on the Statesboro High School baseball team as well as on the Georgia Generals traveling team. “We spend most weekends and many weeknights watching Ben pay baseball, which I love doing,” stated Laura. Laura’s additional hobbies include photography, reading when she has the chance, and her dogs, Jessica and Pepe, and cat Pumpkin.

Welcome, Laura, to Ogeechee Tech!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Rosalind Ivey Retires from Ogeechee Technical College Board

The Ogeechee Technical College Board of Directors recently honored Rosalind Ivey for nine years of dedicated service to the College. A resident of Claxton, Georgia, Ivey was a board member representative from Evans County, which is one of Ogeechee Tech’s service delivery area counties. Ivey is an employee of South Georgia Bank in Claxton, and works with a number of community organizations, including Evans County Cares and the Chamber of Commerce. Dr. Dawn Cartee, president of Ogeechee Tech, presented Ivey with a framed sketch of the Joseph E. Kennedy Building, which is OTC’s flagship building which bears the name of Evans County resident and former State Senator, the late Joseph E. Kennedy. “Rosalind has been a dedicated member of this board and has represented Evans County well. She has worked hard to help improve Ogeechee Technical College and to make it a better place to go to school and work,” stated Cartee. Cartee (left) is pictured presenting the Kennedy Building print to Ivey (Center) while Ogeechee Tech Board president, Dr. Dale Grant, assists.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Ogeechee Tech set to begin Summer Quarter

Ogeechee Technical College begins Summer quarter 2010 on Tuesday, July 6, according to OTC President, Dr. Dawn Cartee. “We anticipate a solid increase in the number of students who will attend our College this Summer, based on the number already enrolled and the trend that has been set over the past several quarters,” stated Cartee. Ogeechee Tech has experienced record enrollment for each academic quarter of the past year.“A challenging economy tends to send people back to school, and part of Ogeechee Tech’s increase can be attributed to that fact, but our ever expanding program offerings, affordable tuition, and accommodating
schedules, both on campus and online, have also created the perfect storm for increased enrollment,” stated OTC’s vice president for Student Affairs, Ryan Foley. Foley’s responsibilities at the College include overseeing the Admissions and Financial Aid efforts. “Our Admissions and Financial Aid offices have been slammed this week as many students try to finish up last minute details in order to be ready to begin class on July 6,” stated Foley.
While Summer quarter typically sees fewer students attending than other quarters, Ogeechee Tech’s year-round schedule keeps a solid number of students in class during the summer. “We are seeing numbers for Summer that we were not even hitting for Fall quarter several years ago. The sustained increase has been a huge help to us in having tuition funds available to offset State budget cuts that we may have experienced,” stated Cartee.Even at this late date students may still be able to enroll for Summer quarter, according to Foley. “We encourage prospective students to come out and at least see if they are eligible to start classes Summer quarter. If they aren’t, they will at least have a jump on Fall quarter,” concluded Foley.

Tom Safrin joins Ogeechee Tech as Criminal Justice instructor

Thomas Safrin is Ogeechee Technical College’s new Criminal Justice instructor. Tom has an extensive history in public safety, including two years in EMS, and 15 years in Law Enforcement with the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office, Savannah Police Department, and Savannah-Chatham Counter Narcotics Team. He worked with the Georgia Public Safety Training Center (GPSTC) at the Southeast Georgia Police Academy in Savannah (at Armstrong Atlantic State University) as a Police Academy instructor, as Training Director at the Georgia Police Corps Program at the GPSTC main campus in Forsyth, and with the U. S. Department of State-Bureau of Narcotics and Law Enforcement Civilian Police in Iraq, including serving as Police Advisor/Regional Operations Commander of the Northern Region.

Tom has a Master of Public Administration with an emphasis in Justice Administration from Columbus State University, a Bachelor of Arts in Criminology from Saint Leo University, and an Associate of Arts in Liberal Arts from Saint Leo.

Tom says that he, “has been married to my wonderful wife, April, for 19 years, and I have three beautiful children, Anthony, age 17, Kyra, age 11, and Meghan, age 7”. Tom’s hobbies include spending time with his family, riding his 2008 Harley Davidson Fatboy, physical fitness/defensive tactics/mixed martial arts, and watching movies.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Ogeechee Tech Funeral Service Education Student Presented GFDA Scholarship

Charles Blewett, a student in the Funeral Service Education program at Ogeechee Technical College in Statesboro, was presented a $1000 scholarship at the Georgia Funeral Directors Association annual conference on St. Simons Island, Georgia recently. GFDA annually presents a scholarship to an Ogeechee Tech FSE student who works at a member firm and who meets the academic criteria set forth by the association. A resident of Effingham County, Blewett works with Thomas C. Strickland and Sons Funeral Homes in Effingham and Chatham Counties. Georgia Funeral Directors Association president, Bryan Evans, of Platt’s Funeral Home in Evans, Georgia, presented the scholarship check and a certificate commemorating the recognition. Ogeechee Tech instructor, Crystal Vinson, was on hand for the presentation.In making the scholarship presentation, Evans stated, “It is an honor to assist deserving students by supporting them financially. We trust this is money well spent by investing in the future of funeral service.” Blewett thanked the assembled group of conference attendees and said that the funds will be put to good use.