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5/28/13: Poloncarz, ECC Announce Plans for New Academic Building


Science, Technology, Engineering & Math Building to be Located on ECC North Campus

ERIE COUNTY, NY— Today, Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz was joined by Erie Community College President Jack Quinn, Erie County legislators, members of the Erie Community College Board of Trustees, students, and concerned citizens to announce plans to construct a new Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math (“STEM”) building on the Erie Community College (“ECC”) North campus. The announcement follows the completion of a study, conducted by JMZ Architects and Planners, P.C., which analyzed the College’s space needs and provided recommendations for ways to more closely align its programming with regional workforce needs.

“This new STEM building concept is the result of careful planning and focus on the skills needed for students’ success, as well as the skills that regional employers demand,” said Poloncarz. “I would like to thank our partners at ECC, SUNY, and the Regional Economic Development Council for their vision and dedication throughout this process, as we all sought a result that would provide the most benefit to all involved. Today you see the culmination of that process, with a new state-of-the-art building that will provide a top-notch education and training in fields that are in demand and projected to grow locally. Advanced manufacturing, Health & Life Sciences, and other sectors that have long sought qualified workers will benefit greatly from the programs here at ECC, as will our economy, as today’s students become tomorrow’s workers here in Buffalo-Niagara.”

The space study, titled “Program Needs Analysis and Space Utilization Assessment”, examined a number of factors surrounding ECC academic programs with a special emphasis on how well the College was addressing the work force skills gap in the region. Additionally, the study scrutinized ECC’s enrollment, effective utilization & strategic expansion of campus programs and space, and the quality & size of the College’s academic and technical spaces. The study was conducted in close consultation among JMZ, Erie County, ECC, and the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council (“WNYREDC”) in order to ensure results that better conformed to the workforce needs of the Buffalo-Niagara region.

“Today’s announcement marks a milestone in the history of Erie Community College to educate and train the evolving workforce in western New York,” said Quinn. “This report will be a valuable blueprint in charting the future development of the college and strengthening its position as one of the leaders of regional economic development. Joining forces as full partners with Erie County government and the Regional Economic Development Council  provides the ‘1-2-3 punch’ that will help fill the estimated 5,000 manufacturing jobs expected to be available in the Buffalo-Niagara region by 2020.”

Major findings of the study include:

  • More graduates in STEM programs will be needed. It is estimated that 5,000 manufacturing jobs will need to be filled in the Buffalo-Niagara region by 2020. While the region currently has a growing “skills gap” in advanced manufacturing, technology, and health care, most degrees awarded to students in the region are in liberal arts, business, education, and health.
  • STEM education extends opportunity to Buffalo Niagara workers at all levels. There will be a demand for professional with advanced degrees, workers with advanced training, and skilled labor with two-year degrees or certificates.
  • Industries such as manufacturing, trade and transportation, and utilities are expected to lose 20 percent of their skilled labor (or approximately 15,000 employees) to retirement by 2020 as the Baby Boom generation ages.
  • ECC has existing programs in place that correlate with projected growth sectors of the economy. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census show that the Advanced Manufacturing, Health & Life Sciences, and Tourism sectors are poised for growth in the Buffalo Niagara region.
  • Advanced Manufacturing and Health & Life Science careers require STEM-focused academic programs. 
  • ECC does not have the amount of space to accommodate STEM and advanced technical programs; ECC must be more competitive to attract the regions potential students and to support the needs of local employers; ECC’s current science and nursing labs are in need of renovation and expansion. New construction will provide modern and attractive facilities, technology, and pedagogies.

Major recommendations of the study include:

  • Construct a new STEM building at ECC North campus. The $30,000,000 building, designed for future expansion, would house facilities for programs such as biology, biomanufacturing, chemistry, engineering science, medical lab technology, medical assisting, nursing, physics, and respiratory care.
  • ECC North Campus is the best location for the new STEM building for several reasons. These include: STEM complements existing programs at North Campus; there is currently land available at North Campus; North Campus has the highest enrollment of the three ECC campuses, with 51% of its students coming from Buffalo; and a new STEM building would advance North Campus as a state-of-the-art higher education institution, which could attract additional students who might have chosen to attend other nearby colleges.

BACKGROUND: In 2011, Erie County, ECC, and SUNY agreed on a $30,000,000 capital budget to    construct a new academic building to support program growth and the alignment of academic programs with regional workforce needs. New York State agreed to provide $15,000,000 of the funding while Erie County and ECC each will provide $7,500,000. At that time, there was no information available to determine what academic programs would occupy the space, what the adequacy of existing space was, or which campus the new building would be best located on.

In 2012, the Poloncarz administration and ECC agreed that a detailed space needs analysis was imperative to define the space and program needs of ECC as a whole. Also in 2012, the WNYREDC was developing the Buffalo Billion Investment Development Plan. As that Plan took shape, collaboration between Erie County, ECC, and the Buffalo Billion stakeholders revealed the important role that ECC will play in the Buffalo Niagara region’s economic advancement through improved and expanded programs needed to address the skills needs of regional employers. In September 2012, Erie County and ECC jointly retained JMZ Architects and Planners, P.C. to conduct their study; the cost of the study was shared between Erie County and ECC.

ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND: On May 2, 2013, the Western New York State Regional Economic Development Council announced that working with its partners, including ECC, New York State plans to create a Regional Workforce Advancement Center (“RWAC”) in the City of Buffalo. The RWAC in Buffalo also is designed to fill important gaps in the continuum of training and education in order to create a fully integrated workforce training system for the 21st century. The Buffalo based programs will focus on advanced manufacturing training linked directly to job opportunities. The ECC North campus, where ECC’s current high tech, advanced manufacturing, science and health care programs are primarily located, will focus on one year certificates and two year degree programs. There will be full compatibility among the programs with stackable certificates from the RWAC programs standing on their own or providing credit towards one year and two year degrees. It is expected that ECC faculty will help support the RWAC and that students will be able to move seamlessly among the programs at the two institutions. Other partners in this continuum are the BOCEs programs, science and technology programs at high schools, and in charter schools, technical training schools, the four year colleges and universities and the various entities that provide funding for training such as the Workforce Investment Board, the NYS Department of Labor and the Erie County Department of Social Services.