LITTLETON — The Community College System of New Hampshire is the new owner of the Littleton Area Learning Center, where it plans to expand its White Mountains Community College presence in the community.
On March 31, the CCSNH closed on the 4.7-acre property at 646 Union St. that for two decades had been jointly owned by the Littleton Industrial Development Corp. and Northern Community Investment Corp. and leased to the WMCC.
“We officially own the property and we’re excited about it,” Chuck Lloyd, WMCC president, said Monday.
Also excited is Greg Eastman, president of the nonprofit LIDC, who said local industry and manufacturers and community growth stand to benefit greatly.
“I think they are the perfect buyer and a great community partner,” said Eastman. “They’ve always shown great leadership and we’ve always had a very positive working relationship with Dr. Lloyd.”
The first order of business will be completing some minor renovations in the existing 108,900-square-foot learning center building, to include HVAC upgrades and cosmetic work.
The plan to expand WMCC operations on the property involves a $5 million capital investment for a brand new 10,000-square-foot free-standing addition.
“We do have a request in to the state of New Hampshire for capital funding to do construction on that site,” said Lloyd.
If the money is approved in the capital budget by the close of the 2021 legislative session this summer, WMCC would spend the remainder of 2021 in planning, design, and groundwork before putting the first shovel in the ground in the spring of 2022, followed by an eight-month construction period, with the building ready for occupancy and coursework in early 2023.
The request before the New Hampshire Senate appears to have support, and WMCC will also see what other one-time federal stimulus funds might be out there for workforce development initiatives, said Lloyd.
The college, too, will be applying for grants from the Northern Border Regional Commission and U.S. Economic Development Administration.
“We are trying to hedge our bets financially,” said Lloyd.
In addition, the Berlin-headquartered WMCC is working with the North Country Council to help identify other funding streams.
“We appreciate all of the partners who have supported us and the letters of support from area industry and the economic development support,” said Lloyd. “Congressional and state and local elected officials have been super-supportive and we appreciate that.”
The new WMCC building in Littleton will house in-demand trades programs and accommodate about 100 more students.
In January, the CCSNH Board of Trustees voted unanimously to go forward with the plan and property purchase.
The 10,000-square-foot advanced technology building that will go behind the existing building will provide space for WMCC’s diesel heavy equipment program, welding, industrial mechanics, and some information technology and manufacturing programs.
“We’re really trying to bring the trades to Littleton,” Lloyd said in January, when the CCSNH made the official announcement. “We have a shovel-ready project to really increase workforce training …”
For the past several years, area manufacturers, including many in the Littleton Industrial Park, have been seeking more employees, and the vision is to equip them with in-demand skills through local educational programs, such as the ones planned through the expanded WMCC.
Currently, WMCC partners with a number of area manufacturers, many in the Littleton Industrial Park, which was created in large part through the vision of Paul McGoldrick.
In 2017, the Littleton Learning Center, which includes space for WMCC courses as well as for the New Hampshire Department of Employment Security, was dedicated to McGoldrick.
The new plans for the property carry forward McGoldrick’s vision, said Eastman.
“We thank the trustees of the Community College System of New Hampshire and Chuck for investing in the North Country and our future,” said Eastman. “The fact that they’ve taken this step is so important and it’s a huge step forward in our future growth.”
The purchase price for all of the land and the existing main building and back building was $700,000.