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Northeast State may relocate all medical programs to Kingsport

June 19th, 2007 12:00 am by Matthew Lane

KINGSPORT - Northeast State Technical Community College wants to relocate all of its medical programs to a downtown Kingsport facility and anchor it with the proposed higher education center.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen has endorsed the idea of building a 50,000-square-foot higher education center in downtown Kingsport and included in next year's budget up to $2.5 million for architectural, engineering, planning services and any possible land acquisition for the facility.

The idea is for NSTCC to operate the $10 million to $12 million facility and offer the first two years of core courses. Participating universities and colleges would then offer their bachelor's and master's programs, with degrees being in the name of the university offering the program.

City officials have narrowed the site down to four possible locations - with two being owned by the city - and will begin interviewing architects later this week.

Ever since the BMA signed off on the project, those involved have been working on fund raising, curriculum and other behind-the-scenes work on the higher education center. During these fund-raising efforts is when the idea of consolidating all of NSTCC's medical programs into one facility came to light.

Times-News Publisher Keith Wilson said Monday a donor agreed to make a major contribution for scholarship money to the higher education center, but the proposal required some changes in how (NSTCC) operated its medical programs.

"After some discussions with the contributor we saw the opportunity to consolidate all of those programs at one site and the opportunity to do so in Kingsport in association with the higher education center," Wilson said.

NSTCC President Bill Locke said the idea is for the city of Kingsport to build a 30,000-square-foot building in downtown Kingsport near the proposed higher education center and use it to accommodate all of the college's medical programs that are currently being offered in Elizabethton, Gray and Blountville. The estimated cost of the building is about $3.5 million.

Locke said the programs would include medical search technology, cardiovascular technology, dental assistant technology, medical lab technology, EMT and nursing.

"We've had Walters State's nursing program for five years, and they're phasing out the program this year, and we're starting our program in the fall," Locke said. "East Tennessee State University says it needs the space at the Nave Center in Elizabethton, so we're moving out."

As for Gray and Blountville, NSTCC would maintain these facilities but change their purpose.

"All of our medical programs would move lock, stock and barrel to Kingsport. That would be your signature program," Locke said. "I'm willing to do it if you're willing to look at it."

Locke came before the BMA during a work session Monday to pitch the idea and gauge support among city leaders. Because NSTCC has to be out of the Nave Center by Jan. 1, 2008, and to get the idea to the architects, Locke is seeking a quick decision by the BMA on the proposed facility and hopes for it to be built by the fall of 2008.

"This is a unique opportunity and would not be available in a year or two," Wilson said.

If approved, Locke said there would be about 200 students ready to go into the new facility at that time, since it's a relocation of existing programs and not something new to get off the ground. And no additional faculty would have to be hired, Locke said.

As with the higher education center, the proposal is for Kingsport to build a facility to house the medical programs and for NSTCC to cover the operational and equipment costs.

The BMA appeared supportive of the idea, but did ask some questions of Locke and Wilson, specifically funding, whether or not the state of Tennessee would help, and what the city was being asked to do.

"This is a great opportunity for Kingsport, and it would be shortsighted of us to not take advantage of it," Vice Mayor Larry Munsey said. "We need to move posthaste, and I look forward to hearing more of the details."

Locke said the college would probably not receive any state funding to build the facility, but he would make a request. City Manager John Campbell said the objective is to get about half of the needed funds from other sources.

"We have a good shot of getting $1 million from other sources and maybe another $1 million," Campbell said, adding staff will bring forth more information about funding to the BMA at its July 3 meeting.

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