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Mar 15, 2010

Lease signed for Ga. Highlands facility in Douglasville

A 10-year lease has been signed on a facility for Georgia Highlands College and the University of West Georgia to provide educational services in Douglasville.
The building, formerly the home of Cub Foods on Stewart Highway, includes more than 44,000 square feet. A $1.5 million renovation will result in seven classrooms, both a wet and dry lab with a common prep area, auditorium, faculty offices, student lounge, library and conference room. The University System of Georgia also has an option on 50 acres in the city for future expansion as enrollment grows.

Georgia Highlands College is currently offering classes in modular units at Chapel Hill High School, which allowed the institution to begin instruction in Douglas County in time for fall semester 2009.

GHC President Randy Pierce believes the college is meeting a vital need of the Douglas County area. “

“Douglas County is growing at an incredibly rapid rate,” he said. “Until we arrived, students who wanted to study at a USG institution had a rather inconvenient commute. Now they can do so in their own community. When the new facility opens, their options will expand even further with additional core and upper-level courses.”

The University of West Georgia’s plans are still being formulated. Sandra Stone, acting vice president of academic affairs at UWG, said that the university remains committed to the project but wants to conduct an assessment in Douglas County to determine which programs of study have optimal demonstrable need in the area, so that those programs may be offered following the core curriculum provided by Georgia Highlands.

“There has been discussion to offer courses in education and business and perhaps criminology,” Stone said. "We would like to begin offering undergraduate classes there in fall 2010, but right now our ability to do so will depend on funding."

Douglasville was identified several years ago as underserved by the university system. The partnership between Georgia Highlands and the University of West Georgia is the result. GHC is also in partnership with Kennesaw State University in downtown Dallas to provide a similar program.

Douglasville Mayor Mickey Thompson said, “The expansion of higher education institutions to Douglasville is a major priority for the city. Georgia Highlands College and University of West Georgia’s move to Douglasville provides an excellent opportunity for our residents to further their skills and education. In a tough economy this gives us a competitive advantage by providing additional programs that will further advance our workforce.”

Officials in Douglasville believe the university system’s presence will positively impact the economy of the city. Darren Bak, chairman of the city of Douglasville Development Authority says the recruitment of Georgia Highlands College and University of West Georgia to Douglasville begins to accomplish one of the goals of the development authority’s recently completed economic development strategic plan.

"Providing educational opportunities right here in the community makes us very attractive to companies looking to relocate or expand," Bak said. "Education brings higher salaries. This is a win-win for the Douglasville Development Authority, the city of Douglasville, Georgia Highlands College and the community at large."