Photo courtesy of Merced College
Gavin Newsom and Merced College’s Vice President of Instruction Kelly Fowler visit the campus in October 2018.

The construction of a new Agriculture and Industrial Technology building on the Merced College campus took a major step forward last week with the release of California Governor Gavin Newsom’s proposed $144 billion budget.

Included in the budget was a California Community Colleges facilities item, allocating an increase of $358.7 million in general obligation bond funding for 12 new and 15 continuing projects. This allocation represents the next installment of the $2 billion available for the CCCs under Proposition 51 (2016), and will address critical fire and other safety issues at campuses statewide.

The Prop 51 funds will match the funds provided by a 2002 local-bond measure, allowing Merced College to move forward on the new $21-million facility.

“Merced is an agricultural community and I am thrilled the Governor’s proposed budget includes the funding necessary to finally build a state-of-the-art Agriculture and Industrial Technology Building at Merced College,” Merced College Superintendent/President Chris Vitelli said.

The bond fulfillment comes at the perfect time, with demand for careers in agriculture and industrial technology growing steadily. The current Agriculture and IT facilities were built in 1968 and 1976 respectively. In addition to being dated and showing ware, the facilities are too small to meet the growing demand of our students.

Newsom got to see that firsthand when he, Assemblymember Adam Gray, Congressman Jim Costa and local agricultural leaders toured the campus back in early October. Gray has been a huge advocate for the College getting the new facility built and played an integral role in getting the then Lt. Governor to visit the campus.

“Making good on our promise to this community, we are going to build one of the best agriculture and industrial technology buildings possible to reflect the quality of our flagship programs,” Vitelli said. “This new facility will help our students learn cutting-edge industry skills and earn high-demand, high-wage jobs.”

The proposed building will consist of 20,000 square feet of classroom and laboratory space for programs in agribusiness, industrial technology, horticulture, HVAC, crop science and animal science. The added classrooms and labs will increase enrollment capacity by 2,248 weekly student contact hours, helping to keep pace with the 12-percent enrollment bump that the Chancellor’s Office predicts from 2016-2022.

The college is in the process of working with a prominent donor for naming rights to the building and hopes to make an announcement soon. If things remain unchanged on the May budget revision and June final budget, the college hopes to break ground on the project starting in Fall 2020.