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ECC, state and county officials celebrate topping off of North Campus STEM Building

Article by: Michael Farrell

WILLIAMSVILLE—SUNY Erie Community College leadership, staff and students joined ECC President Jack Quinn, New York State Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, local political representatives, and construction personnel for the ceremonial “topping-off” of the college’s long-awaited STEM-focused academic building at North Campus on February 27.

“We’ve worked on this extremely important project with our county and state partners for a significant amount of time,” said ECC President Jack Quinn, shadowed by the campus’s rising STEM structure. “With this beam sliding into place, we can see progress, and it’s very exciting. Western New York needs to continue to expand its science, technology, engineering, and math capabilities. This STEM-focused academic building will allow us to do our part and, in turn, enhance Erie County’s future with a home-grown workforce.”

The $30 million state-, county- and college-funded project will provide approximately 57,000 square feet of new instructional space for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs once completed. The 17-foot “topping-off” beam—traditionally signifying the last piece of structural steel to be placed on a building during construction—has been staged at North Campus for weeks, and now features hundreds of signatures from ECC faculty, staff and students. Once the building is complete, the beam will remain exposed, allowing for these signatures to show for the duration of the building’s existence.

“The topping off of the new STEM building here at ECC is symbolic. Without the steel girder the building could not be built and without the type of skills that will be taught here, our students and our economy would be stalled as well,” said Lieutenant Governor Hochul during the outdoor ceremony. “This new building is where today’s students will receive the STEM training they need for tomorrow’s workplace.”

With such growing professional corridors as the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and the SolarCity-anchored Riverbend requiring a workforce with STEM-related training and degrees, ECC’s development comes at an advantageous time for the region and its residents. Whether through available certificate associate degree programs, or applicable credits toward four-year degrees, this facility will position ECC to lead all local residents toward the job security and higher wages STEM careers tend to offer. 

“Reaching the topping-off stage on the STEM building is an exciting point and underscores the tremendous work that is being done to shape a new future for Erie Community College,” said Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz. “As this building takes shape, new careers in STEM fields will also be shaped here at ECC North by students pursuing a cutting-edge education that positions them for future success right here in Erie County. I thank ECC President Quinn and our partners for helping to make today a reality.”

But these careers go far beyond the medical and renewable energy fields. Just over half of ECC's programs leading to an associate degree are in STEM fields, including Construction Management, Mechanical and Electrical Engineering Technology, and Engineering Science. Local career opportunities in environmental technology and telecommunications also require training in STEM education, allowing this forthcoming state-of-the-art facility to aid a variety of growing Western New York employment fields.

“The ECC STEM Building project is a great example of how different entities can work together to benefit the community. This ‘topping-off ceremony’ is a good reminder of how far we have come and the amount of work it took to get here. I am proud of this improvement being made to ECC North and know it will make a tremendous difference for the community college,” said Erie County Legislator Edward Rath.

The new building—with design by Kideney Architects, construction management by Turner Construction, and due to be completed at the start of 2018—will position ECC to support these aforementioned growing industries, while also aiding a determined Buffalo Niagara skills gap in these fields; preparing students for skilled labor due to lose aging workforce in the coming years; and allow the college to be more competitive for prospective students looking for career training in fields determined as projected economic growth sectors by the New York Department of Labor (NYSDoL). 

And for ECC’s North Campus—largely untouched since opening as an ECC locale in 1960—it’s a chance to welcome new development to the college’s most populated campus, with nearly 50% of its student body attending classes at the location.

“I am honored to join Erie Community College and local officials as they celebrate the topping-off of the college’s long-awaited STEM-focused academic building,” said NYS Assemblyman Ray Walter. “The completion of this building will help support the ever-growing demand in the Greater Buffalo area for a workforce trained in science, technology, engineering and math. Prospective and current students taking up STEM programs at ECC will be well-served by completion of this new facility. With the addition of the nanotechnology building and now the STEM-focused academic building, ECC continues to be a leader in innovation and development in the region and across the state.”

The building’s design hopes to infuse the campus with a sense of energy and activity, but expressive of the internal function of the structure as a technology-focused building. It will also be LEED Silver-certified, assuring its long-term efficiency and adherence to modern and sustainable architectural standards. Additional improvements to the campus quad adjacent to the STEM building will include a paved entry plaza with integrated seating elements; walkways to connect important nodes and destinations within the quad; and additional landscaping to reinforce a sense of place. 

Since 1946, Erie Community College has met the needs of a diverse student body while contributing to the economic vitality of Western New York. As a member of the state’s SUNY system, the three-campus college provides flexible, affordable and accessible educational programs in an accommodating academic environment. Equipped with the knowledge of these programs, ECC’s faculty, staff and students strive to enrich their host communities through skill, service and partnership. For more information, visit www.ecc.edu or call (716) 851-1ECC.

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