ACC’s Groundbreaking $17.6M Biotechnology Center of Excellence Breaks Ground May 7

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Biotechnology education has a long and significant history in North Carolina’s Piedmont Triad region of Alamance County.

Alamance County is lauded as the top small metropolitan statistical area in the nation for research, analysis, and strategy consultancy for economic development, as well as in health diagnostics and testing.

Nestled just off the western side of the world-renowned Research Triangle, Alamance Community College (ACC) has been a major feeder of workforce talent to North Carolina’s burgeoning life sciences ecosystem for years. 

ACC houses the first two-year biotechnology program in the United States and a nationally recognized medical laboratory technology program. It routinely graduates over one-fourth of the state’s community college biotechnology talent annually. After their two years, students receive more than 700 hours of lab training and additional experience from company partnerships.

Now there’s even more. On Friday, May 7, 2021, ACC will observe the groundbreaking of its groundbreaking Biotechnology Center of Excellence.

ACC Biotech Center of Excellence rendering.
The $17.6 million ACC Biotech Center of Excellence.

The 33,000-square-foot facility will bring up to 20 labs, classrooms, and multipurpose rooms to ACC’s main campus. It will especially serve students and faculty in biotechnology, medical laboratory technology, histotechnology and agricultural biotechnology programs. During a single school year, hundreds of students will benefit from the learning atmosphere and technological advancements of this new building.

The $17.6 million investment will not only give students sophisticated learning spaces but will also provide incubator space to private companies. The third floor is designed with expansion and outreach in mind, with the ability to house a simulated clinical space and biopharmaceutical manufacturing facility. By providing collaborative opportunities to local companies in this newly available space, students who use the Center of Excellence will benefit from their proximity to professional workers. Mentors.

In 2019, Burlington-based LabCorp pledged to help fund the project, reflecting a nearly four-decade partnership with the college. In 1985, the global healthcare diagnostics giant helped launch ACC’s biotechnology program. Since then, it has also helped launch the medical laboratory technology and histotechnology programs. It has already hired over 100 of ACC’s graduates, and plans to continue its commitment to the local community through its workforce development initiatives.

Yonnie Butler
Yonnie Butler, executive director. -- ACC photos

“A 2020 sheriff’s report estimates that 120,000 vehicles pass through Alamance County every day,” notes Yonnie Butler, executive director of ACC’s new Biotechnology Center of Excellence, “so it will probably be the most highly visible academic biotechnology center in the state.”

Over the next decade, life sciences job availability in North Carolina is expected to soar. According to LinkedIn, there are some 5,000 available jobs in biopharma and pharmaceuticals statewide, 1,000 of which were posted in the past week as untold others were being filled. It’s a constantly moving and growing field. In biopharma manufacturing alone, expansions announced in 2020 will bring 2,800 new jobs in the coming years. By 2025, the economic impact of the biosciences on the state is expected be $100 billion. ACC is playing an increasingly important role in preparing the next generation of workers to enter the life sciences and meet that need.

“Biotechnology is thriving at ACC, in the Piedmont Triad region and across North Carolina,” says Nancy Johnston, executive director of the Piedmont Triad Office of the North Carolina Biotechnology Center.

“With the growing demand for STEM education and workforce development, ACC continues to play a significant role in providing unique and relevant opportunities,” she says, highlighting her interest in how the Center of Excellence will aid in the region’s growth.

“All this comes about by tremendous community, regional and statewide support, from business leaders and partners,” says Butler, the new ACC facility’s executive director and significantly, a former business development director at NCBiotech. “This is a team project, and everyone from our local county to the various regions of North Carolina will benefit from this.”

On Friday, May 7, ACC guests are welcome to join in this historical event, at the upper northeast parking lot on the Carrington-Scott Campus, taking Exit 150 off I-85/I-40 and onto Jimmie Kerr Road. The ceremony will begin at 11 a.m. and last 45 minutes.

The impact, however, will be global, and last for generations.

Rachyl Jones, NCBiotech Writer
Mon, 05/03/2021 - 21:02