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ECC's future STEM building project remains on time, on budget

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

What Erie Community College officials say is the first major construction on its North Campus in about 60 years is still months away from opening. But excitement is building among college and county leaders who took a tour Tuesday of ECC's future Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics building.

The structure that will house future Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics courses is finished. Work continues internally, including the installation of drywall, HVAC and other equipment.

"The most important thing for us is the message, to talk about this building being done on time and on budget, ready for our students in January," said Jack Quinn, ECC President. "We took a look at some labs today. We took a look at the classrooms. It's going to be state-of-the-art in all ways possible and we're very, very proud of the first major construction in over 60 years."

Those rooms are still mere skeletal structures but this building, along with the recently-opened nanotechnology center located a short walk away on the same campus, is what officials believe will further position ECC as an ideal destination to study and train for tomorrow's high-tech jobs. The school is hoping to not only retain Erie County residents but also attract more from neighboring counties.

"Walking through the hallways and seeing where the students are not only going to learn but also study and learn from each other, through the widened hallways, it just goes to show when you compare it to some of the older buildings, this is going to be a selling point for why students are going to come to ECC," said Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz.

Among those taking the tour was Rebecca Krakowiak, who will be the student trustee and student government association president in the next academic year. She said those older buildings on campus are darker. Having a brighter, newer work environment is exciting to her peers, many of whom will be required to use the building at one time or another.

"Almost every student that comes, especially to North Campus, whether they do ophthalmic, whether they do dental hygiene or do general studies, you have to take a science course," Krakowiak explained. "Whether that would be intro to bio or intro to chemistry, with those being in this brand new building, with updated labs, it will be a wonderful experience for our students."

The question was raised: what next? Quinn hinted that he and Poloncarz are both interested in the idea of building student housing, in order to attract students from farther distances. Quinn pointed to a parcel of land across the street on Youngs Road, near an existing business and medical park, that may interest the college. But that, and figuring out how to fund it, was a discussion for a later time.

Quinn is set to retire from his position on June 30. The State University system was scheduled to announce his successor on Wednesday. When asked if he had any thoughts, he would offer none, nor any clues as to the person to be introduced.

"Who is it?" asked Quinn with a smile.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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