By Harold Gwin
Eastern Gateway classes could be set in downtown Warren as early as next fall.
WARREN — U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Niles, D-17th, says he envisions Courthouse Square as “the hub” for the newly formed Eastern Gateway Community College.
The college, which has no central campus, began offering classes this fall at six locations in Mahoning, Trumbull, Columbiana and Jefferson counties, with the largest portion of students enrolled at the former Jefferson Community College which is now an EGCC campus.
Ryan announced Wednesday that he and Gov. Ted Strickland plan to locate the main campus in downtown Warren.
“It’s a perfect, perfect place for a community college,” Ryan said, noting that Courthouse Square is an historic area and the addition of a community college campus would supplement promising development already underway there — including the construction of the proposed Warren Green Energy incubator and the relocation of the Warren Board of Education.
The initial focus was just on getting a community college to serve the Mahoning Valley, Ryan said. That has happened, and the next step is getting a place, a free-standing building as a campus and to develop a community around it, he said.
One reason that EGCC launched without a central campus is that the state provided no start-up funds that would cover buying or building facilities.
Ryan said the plan will be to lease a building initially and expand as demand grows. He’s looking for federal funds to help finance the arrangement and said Strickland has expressed a willingness to help find funds, perhaps federal stimulus dollars, to “green” the building.
No specific building has been targeted, Ryan said, adding that he would like to see classes begin here next fall.
Making this the central campus would likely reduce the need for satellite locations at county career and technical centers, he said, adding that Jefferson would continue to be a major player in EGCC. Details have yet to be worked out, he said.
Ann Koon, EGCC director of public information, said EGCC only learned of Ryan’s plan this week. But she said that Laura Meeks, who was president of Jefferson Community College and is now assistant to the Ohio chancellor of higher education for the development of EGCC, is excited about the potential for growth a free-standing, central campus will bring.
EGCC wants a true community college presence to be able to do the things a community college should do for a community, Koon said, citing the availability of facilities for public use as an example.
She said she doesn’t anticipate an immediate elimination of classes being offered at satellite locations.
That depends on how the Warren project develops, she said.
Ryan said the creation of a main campus would fall in line with the demands of ACTION, a faith-based community organization that has been pushing for the establishment of a central, comprehensive community college campus.
The campus will be part of the “ripple effect” that will bring more development into downtown Warren, he said.
“This is the catalyst,” Ryan said, predicting it will lead to private investment that will include things like restaurants and housing.
There are historic building tax credits available to people who help develop some of the buildings around Courthouse Square, he said.
Strickland, in a prepared statement, said the state has witnessed firsthand the impact that a post-secondary institution like Youngstown State University can have on downtown development and he expressed confidence that this project will create similar community partnerships and economic benefits for Warren.