Editorial: Bonding bill a big win for Riverland, area

Published 7:54 pm Wednesday, May 30, 2018

After what many have called a somewhat unproductive legislative session, we had a sigh of relief Wednesday when we heard that Gov. Mark Dayton approved the capital investment bill, more commonly known as the bonding bill.

Though not all of our area’s requests were included in the signed bill, we were pleased to hear a $10.2 million project for Riverland Community College made the cut.

Leaders of the college have worked on getting funding for this project for a handful of years now, and it is one we think will not only benefit the college but also the entire community.

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Plans call for relocating the college’s truck driving and collision programs from the Austin campus to Albert Lea and integrating them into shared spaces with auto diesel programs.

The college’s Gateway Building will be demolished, more than 7,000 square feet of additional space will be built and the HVAC system will be updated.

After the Albert Lea project is completed — and when the college receives additional bonding funds down the line —the food and agriculture programs will expand at the Austin campus.

Having all of the automotive and truck driving programs at the Albert Lea location will strengthen this campus as a regional hub for students seeking this kind of training. Expanding the food and agriculture programs will in turn in the future strengthen the Austin campus.

Part of this round’s bonding funds will also go toward upgrading equipment at the Albert Lea campus, giving students state-of-the-art machines to learn from that will ready them for the workplace.

We applaud the college’s leaders for their insight and willingness to work with area businesses, find out what job needs they have and then to press forward to make the talks become a reality.

This will be one part of the solution to the ever-increasing job crisis that is becoming a reality as more and more Baby Boomers are retiring and there is a lack of skilled workers to take their place.

We look forward to seeing this project completed, and we thank those city, business and Riverland leaders who lobbied at the Capitol for its inclusion in the bonding bill.

Thanks also to the governor and the Legislature for making it a priority.