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OTC Groundbreaking Ceremony
Waycross Journal Herald
Staff Writer

With the turn of a few shovels of dirt, officials at Okefenokee
Technical College began a process that will assure future medical,
nursing and laboratory technology students have the best, most
affordable and most thorough means of learning their chosen trade.

During a ceremony held Thursday at OTC, staff, administration and
students celebrated the long-awaited $10 million Allied Health
Building for classroom training of students who will enter the medicalGroundbreaking ceremony 2

Dr. Gail Thaxton, president of OTC, welcomed the large crowd and
introduced a number of dignitaries who were on hand for the
celebration. She commended John Pike, who was OTC president before
her, for having the foresight and the determination to press forward
and make every effort to get funding for the facility.

After a stirring invocation by Dr. Porky Haynes, Thaxton introduced
each speaker on the platform. State Reps. Tommy Smith, Mark Hatfield
and Mark Williams were joined by State Sen. Greg Goggans, Pike, OTC
Board Chairman Ola Smith, OTC Foundation Chairman Larry Paulk, Ben
Copeland, who serves the first district on the state board of
technical colleges, and Ken Richett, architect for the facility.

Each of the speakers told how excited they are to be a part of such an
important day in the history of Waycross and Ware County. Each one
thanked the past and present leaders of OTC.

Ola Smith spoke of the dream that began on a sketch pad and thanked
Pike and Thaxton for their perseverance to make the dream a reality.Groundbreaking Ceremony 1

"OTC's value to south Georgia is priceless," Ola Smith said. "With
that kind of tenacity this leadership will not stop here."

Paulk pointed out that many years of dreams and hard work have gone
into the planning for this facility, which he said will be a major
benefit to the local community both in work force development and in
economics. He said that jobs created and filled through OTC training
last year amounted to $107 million in incomes last year. With 98
percent of OTC graduates being placed in jobs, that is expected to
continue to grow.

Pike, who retired as president of OTC, told how each year the school
would apply for funding of the Allied Health Building and year after
year were turned down. Finally, the legislature approved funding for
the facility after enrollment at the school increased and the school
obtained property for the location of the building. He thanked
everyone who worked on the project, especially State Sen. Tommie
Williams, who Pike said, "Made it happen. This is the best use of
state dollars you will ever see. We are fortunate that the board and
the legislature stepped up."

Goggans predicted the new facility will play a huge role in the
education of the future.

"This is a great day for OTC and a better day for the people the
facility will serve," Goggans said.

Hatfield spoke of how the legislators worked together to get the
funding approved for the building, adding it will be a tremendous
boost for the economy of south Georgia. He noted that OTC has had two
state GOAL winners and that OTC received the blessings of Atlanta
because of the hard work of OTC staff, faculty and students. He also
recognized the efforts of former Sen. Peg Blitch and former State Rep.
Mike Boggs, who both worked on the project a long time before he came
on board.

Tommy Smith, who has served in the State House since the early 70s,
commended everyone who worked to make the project possible. He spoke
of former State Rep. Harry Dixon, who worked so diligently for years
dating back to the 1960s on projects for OTC. He noted that in those
early years, OTC was basically like an elementary school that has now
grown into a high-tech facility offering specialized training in
numerous fields.

"I also want to give tribute to God for the blessings He's bestowed on
America and this facility," Tommy Smith said.

Williams said his first invitation after getting elected two years ago
was from Dr. Thaxton to tour OTC and see the needs there.

"Dr. Thaxton's energy permeates throughout OTC," Williams said. "You
have a great delegation from Waycross."

Williams also reminded that former State Rep. Hinson Mosely had also
worked hard to help get funding for the facility.

"The first thing he told me was to always be cognizant of technical
education," Williams said. "The economic impact of this is going to be

Thaxton closed by saying OTC has "... good partners, good friends and
good legislators."

After the shovels of dirt were turned, everyone was invited inside the
commons hall for refreshments of fruit, cake, cheese crackers and
punch provided by Sharon Deal of Celebrations Catering.


This sign at Okefenokee Technical College declares the school's
"Prescription for Progress" will be the new Allied Health Building.


State legislators and officials of Okefenokee Technical College turn
shovels of dirt signifying the beginning of construction on the OTC
Allied Health Building and Library during a ceremony held Thursday


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