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    SPC plans to build training complex

    St. Petersburg College administrative offices and some county offices will move to the center in the middle of the county.

    By MONIQUE FIELDS, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published December 20, 2001

    LARGO -- St. Petersburg College signed a contract Wednesday to buy 10 acres that will allow it to build a $30-million training complex and move its administrative offices to mid Pinellas County.

    Once the complex is completed in 2004, students will take programs from technology management to the University of South Florida's master's in business administration program at SPC's Epicenter training center.

    At first, SPC planned to erect the Epicenter across the street from the St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport. But the school backed out after it learned it would have to lease the land from the Federal Aviation Administration and lose 5 acres of the proposed plan to road projects.

    The college signed a $4.15-million contract to locate near the ICOT Center off Ulmerton Road on a site presently occupied by Genca, which designs and manufacturers tools for the plastic industry.

    The school will refurbish and build onto Genca's building. When finished, the two-story, 210,000-square-foot building will house SPC's administrative offices and warehouse, and at least three county offices: Economic Development; Convention and Visitors Bureau; and WorkNet Pinellas, which administers the county's welfare-to-work program.

    "This is the culmination of something that is bigger than baseball," SPC President Carl Kuttler said.

    SPC has up to 150 days to make sure the land and the 71,000-square-foot building on it are suitable for the project. Every facet of the site will be reviewed to determine how the project would affect the environment, traffic and parking.

    Genca has hired other businesses for some of its manufacturing projects and is searching for a smaller building in Pinellas, said Prem Anand, president of the company.

    To finance the project, SPC obtained $6-million from the state. The county threw in $8-million, which also will be matched by the state.

    The rest will come from a $3-million federal grant and the sale of SPC's existing administration office building on 66th Street N in Pinellas Park, which could sell for as much as $4-million, Kuttler said.

    About 15,000-square-feet of the Genca building would be used for office space, said Susan Reiter, director of facilities planning and institutional services at SPC. The rest of the building would undergo extensive remodeling. Site plans include a new parking garage, new construction in the rear of the building and refurbishing the lobby to showcase products made in Pinellas.

    SPC hopes that business owners will tap into the Epicenter's resources for job training and strategic planning. Large businesses will be able to find future employees and small business will find the resources they need to thrive, school officials said.

    The Epicenter also illustrates how business has changed. Gone is the time when prospective companies met with the mayor and played a round of golf. Today, they want to meet the president of the local college and find out what kind of training is in place for workers, said Rick Dodge, assistant county administrator for economic development.

    The purpose would be to help Pinellas County businesses instead of recruiting new business to the area, said Richard R. "Buzz" David, director of Pinellas County Economic Development.

    "We have an attitude of taking care of what we have first," he said.

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