09/02/04 — Mount Olive College plans 3 new buildings

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Mount Olive College plans 3 new buildings

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on September 2, 2004 1:58 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Professors huddle around a set of building plans, their eyes as wide as children's on Christmas morning.

Science Professors Ollie J. Rose and Willis Brown are looking over the plans for three new buildings -- a new academic building, a communications center and a wellness center.

The professors have made suggestions for the plans for the new academic building, which will house the School of Business, the Department of Science and Math and Agribusiness. And on Wednesday they gathered to review the college's most ambitious building plans in its history.

With them were officials of the college and its nonprofit foundation, including Kathy Best, dean of the School of Business.

"We're maxed out," Ms. Best says of the college and its need for more space. "We need more faculty to keep up with our growth, and we need space."

The college has 371 employees, 227 of whom are full-time, at its five campuses. This represents a 23 percent increase in staff since June 2003.

People and companies are still making commitments to a campaign to gather money for the building project. Becky Herring Mitchell, vice president for institutional advancement, said the enrollment increases and the fund-raising campaign are creating a buzz about Mount Olive College.

"It has involved new volunteers and new business leaders," she said. "The showcase is going to be the academic building."

The academic building will be over 46,000 square feet and will have a new student lounge and a conference center that will hold up to 500 people.

The 18,000-square-foot communications center will be connected to the Moye Library and will provide more space for bookshelves. It will serve as a communications hub for the five campuses and will allow for video conferences.

The 23,000-square-foot wellness center will have a weight room, exercise room and regulation-size gym for intramural sports, basketball and indoor soccer. It will also house the student health services.

"We've got a number of naming opportunities," said Ms. Mitchell. "We're meeting with prospects now."

The academic building can be named after you for $2 million. The communications center can bear your name for $1 million. The wellness center's naming rights go for $1.25 million.

Commitments to the fund-raising campaign have grown to a little over $20 million, said college President J. William Byrd.

That represents 89 percent of the $23 million goal. The goal, set in 2000, is scheduled to be reached by the fall of 2005.

Progress has been steady, and the project is in the design phase, he said.

"This is a tremendous opportunity for the college," said Byrd. "Putting up three structures at once won't happen again in the near term."

Byrd said he expects to exceed the goal. "We're still driving hard," he said. "A big part of it was the creation of the Mount Olive College Foundation, which will be the agent that builds the three new buildings."

George Kornegay, president of the foundation, said the fund-raising campaign has been wonderful for Mount Olive College and for the town.

"The people of Mount Olive have always contributed academically and financially to the college," he said. "I know you don't look at Mount Olive College as economic development, but it really is. An industry that employs 371 people is right sizable."

The foundation has secured a $10 million low-interest loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that will be paid over 40 years. Kornegay said the 4.4 percent interest rate in today's market is a wonderful opportunity, "not only the interest rate, but the term -- 40 years."

The foundation officials hope to have the drawings ready in September to send to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for approval. Then the bidding process will begin. Kornegay said he hopes the bids will be back by the end of the year and construction can start immediately, maybe some time in early 2005.