COEUR d'ALENE - Before North Idaho College makes a decision on the size, scope and location of a new Professional Technical Education facility, it wants to hear from you.
To that end, NIC has scheduled two public meetings at the end of this month and one more in May to gather thoughts from a broad cross-section of the community.
"We need as much input as possible from the community," said Mark Browning, the college's vice president of community relations and marketing.
Browning said he will facilitate the structured meetings. He will present the findings of a recently released study of the issue and he hopes to hear from employers, students, faculty and the general public.
"Given where we are at now, we want to understand what their needs will be five years, 10 years and 20 years from now," he said, adding that information will be used to determine things like how big the building should be, what programs they should focus on and where to locate the facility.
The study was conducted by RGU Architecture and Planning. (See info box on jump). It provides the NIC Board of Trustees with a variety of options they should consider while planning the project, and it ranks many of the options against the college's strategic priorities.
One of NIC's main priorities is to expand its technical training programs to meet the demands of employers and potential employees.
Browning said many of the technical programs they have now are maxed out, and programs like welding and diesel mechanics, for instance, have waiting lists of up to 100 people. NIC has the ability to train just a fraction of those potential students.
That dynamic can be frustrating for employers seeking to hire more welders, but it can also frustrate potential students who are eager to get trained and into the workforce.
"Students have a huge stake in this," Browning said, adding faculty does as well.
NIC Trustee Ron Nilson, who owns Ground Force Manufacturing in Post Falls, is very interested in the project. Nilson was instrumental in raising the money to build the Kootenai Technical Education Campus, known as KTEC, a professional technical high school on the Rathdrum Prairie.
As a large employer in need of a technically trained workforce, Nilson has very strong opinions on how NIC's technical program should be built out and where it should be located, but he said he could be pursuaded to change his mind if the community input is compelling.
Nilson doesn't agree with many of the conclusions in the RGU study, and he feels the board should continue on its track to locate the new facility on land the college bought near KTEC eight years ago. The study recommends building the facility on the existing Coeur d'Alene campus to take advantage of all the services NIC offers.
"If we do this right," Nilson said, "We could have a huge economic engine for this community."
He said the study estimates a building cost of $280 per square foot on the NIC campus.
"We could do that for half the cost if we locate it on the Rathdrum Prairie," he said. "We built KTEC for around $140 per square foot."
Nilson said the price difference has to do with the way the facility will be designed to match the other academic buildings on campus, but on the KTEC campus the building could take on a more industrial look and save money.
"We just have differing priorities," he said. "With the money we would save building on the prairie, I think we could have something much bigger and much more elaborate."
NIC Trustee Christie Wood said she's waiting to form an opinion until she hears more from the public.
Wood said she thinks the consultant did a good job study, but she emphasized the study is not the end of the process.
"The trustees truly are in the information gathering stage, she said. "We really need the input before we move forward with this."
If you go
North Idaho College is hosting three public meetings to gather the community's input on plans to build a new Professional Technical Education facility. Here are the times, dates and locations of the meetings:
April 15 - 7 to 8 p.m. in the Lake Room of the Edminster Student Union Building on the North Idaho College campus
April 29 - 7 to 8 p.m. in the Lake Room of the Edminster Student Union Building on the North Idaho College campus
May 6 - 7 to 8 p.m. in the Driftwood Room of the Edminster Student Union Building on the North Idaho College campus.
The RGU study can be accessed online here: http://www.nic.edu/edMasterPlan/appendixB-RGU-PTEProgramStudy.pdf