EMCC Communiversity to be an asset

Staff Writer

The two-story structure under construction between East Mississippi Community College’s Golden Triangle campus and the PACCAR plant is easily visible to passing motorists traveling along U.S. Highway 82. It will be a large-scale workforce training center that will offer credit and non-credit courses to students seeking careers in advanced manufacturing. 

“The style will be very modern,” Pryor Morrow’s Michael W. Taylor, the architect of record for the Communiversity, “We were told EMCC wanted something that would impress visitors. As much as we all like traditional architecture, it doesn’t really impress people from other countries."

He said the campus that will house EMCC’s “Communiversity” won’t conform to the traditional square-block, brick-and-mortar architecture prominent throughout the Southeast.
“For this project, our goal was to really step up our game with a level of architecture that is on par with the rest of the world,”  Taylor said.

The modern theme dovetails with the building’s purpose. The Communiversity, officially known as the Center for Manufacturing Technology Excellence 2.0, will house credit and non-credit courses related to training students for careers in advanced manufacturing. The facility will boast state-of-the art equipment needed to prepare students to work in high-tech industries.

According to EMCC President Dr. Thomas Huebner,  Automation and Control, Electro-Mechanical Technology/Mechantronics and Precision Machining and Manufacturing are just a few of the programs that will be offered at the new, 145,638-square-foot, $42 million facility that is expected to open in late 2018 or early 2019.
“This facility will prepare students to work in high-tech industries right here in the Golden Triangle,” Huebner said. “We are committed to providing our local industries with a highly qualified workforce and our students with the skills needed to excel in today’s automated manufacturing environment. PryorMorrow has done an outstanding job in creating a unique building that will be visually striking and will, at the same time, help us meet the educational needs of our community partners for many years to come.” 

Heubner said the main building will feature curved lines and a wall of glass that faces outward, with a large open space inside for exhibits by local industries to showcase their products. Students from area schools will be able to tour the building and learn about the technology that goes into making the various products.

He said there will be classrooms, computer labs, and office space on the second floor, with student lounge areas scattered throughout the building.
“Common spaces will have different elements that will enhance the space and really reinforce the idea of technology and collaboration,” Taylor said.

 Taylor said much of the student training will take place in 21 high-bay laboratories designed to allow the easy access for the setup and removal of heavy machinery like that used by area manufacturers. Most of the bays will be housed inside two, single story wings that will intersect the main building at 45-degree angles.
 “We worked pretty hard on making things as transparent as possible,” Taylor said. “We jumped on every opportunity we could to put glass inside so you could see activity going on in the different rooms. When the building is being used to its full purpose, it is going to be buzzing with activity. No matter where you are at, you will be able to look into classrooms and see people learning. The idea is to make the whole facility stimulating and buzzing with activity."

Taylor said the project was fun for us because this was the first time in a long time we could really step out of the box and do something exciting. He said he thought it would draw a lot of attention because it is different than what is around this area.

Last year, U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran and the Appalachian Regional Commission announced the award of a $4.6 grant to construct six high-bay classrooms in addition to the 15 already planned. This was the second grant by the ARC, which has provided $10 million for the project. Other funding partners for the $42 million facility include the Mississippi Legislature and Clay, Lowndes and Oktibbeha counties. The Golden Triangle Development LINK has also been instrumental in the project.
Speaking at the official Communiversity groundbreaking in December of 2016, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said one of the truly unique aspects of the project has been the level of cooperation among the various agencies.

“What the Communiversity is going to represent is government at all levels, cities, counties, state and the federal government, all coming together to help create an environment that will produce the workforce of tomorrow,” Reeves said. “That is something in which we can all be proud.”