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Celebrating A Community of Caring

Monday, February 3, 2014

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Behold the birth of the Polk State College Clear Springs Advanced Technology Center, sparkling with newness and promise, glowing with the philanthropic spirit that brought it to fruition, and brimming with the potential to send lives, and our community, soaring!

When an entire community joins hands in passionate pursuit of a common dream, working in tandem to bring their neighbors to heights they never before could have imagined, the magical results that take place are truly breathtaking.

Celebrating that glorious fact in January, 2014 was the unveiling of a new educational facility at Polk State College that epitomizes the community-wide spirit of giving.

It was a deeply significant way to kick off the College’s 50th anniversary festivities.

“Polk State didn’t build this building. The community of Polk County did,” said Dr. Eileen Holden, President of Polk State College.

“Employers and individuals, recognizing the huge impact this facility will have on the county for generations to come, banded together and gave generously. They made it happen, and we’re so grateful for it,” she added.

Thanks to those generous people, the Center, which is the new home to the Polk State Corporate College and high-tech degree programs such as Engineering Technology and Supply Chain Management, is truly unique among educational facilities in Florida.

That’s because, unlike most facilities at Polk State and throughout the state college system which were built exclusively with state funds, this Center was constructed exclusively with private and local investments – individuals and companies whose private philanthropy, along with the Polk County Board of County Commissioners’ funding, enabled the Center to blossom into being — a true family of philanthropists.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony, held on January 8, 2014 at the 47,000-square foot building east of Bartow and attended by a standing room only crowd of over 300, conjured memories of when Polk State College first opened its doors in 1964 in Bartow.

Then as now, the promise represented for our community and its growth shines brilliantly.

“The Advanced Technology Center will help graduates gain a 20-yard head start in their 100-yard dash to success,” said Stan Phelps, chairman of Clear Springs.

With an incredible donation of $12 million and 20 acres of land to the Polk State College Foundation – the largest in the history of the Florida College System – Clear Springs helped initiate the Center into being.

Phelps said the company’s inspiration to give was to impact Polk County’s workforce in a meaningful way.

“Our vision is creating high-paying jobs for Polk County,” he said.

“Having the Advanced Technology Center, which will create a more highly trained workforce, will be a huge help in bringing employers into the area. We are delighted to help Polk State College because we know in doing so we are helping the people of Polk County,” he added.

Clear Springs’ transformational gift was followed by another transformational boost to the project by the Polk County Board of County Commissioners, who made a $2.5 million investment to underwrite the building’s infrastructure.

To bring the potential of these bricks and mortar to fruition, Polk State Corporate College Director Rob Clancey envisioned a state-of-the-art learning center, where students would have access to real-world equipment and distance-learners would feel as if they were right there in the classroom.

The community and other shareholders stepped up to the plate, allowing this dream to materialize.

With $2 million in in-kind donations, the building was populated with equipment that would bring it gloriously to life and allow for hands-on, applied learning. These gifts poured in from Rockwell Automation, a leader in industrial automation; the Refrigerating Engineers & Technicians Association; Endress + Hauser, a supplier of measurement and automation equipment; TriNova, a provider of measurement and process services for a variety of industries; and AMJ, the Florida division of TriNova.

A tidal wave of generosity also cascaded upon the Center from area employers and individuals eager to give their support to the tune of nearly $250,000.

A stroll through the building reveals Polk State’s gratitude to these philanthropists, as visitors are greeted in the hallway by a beautiful donor wall that honors all of the donors to the building, and almost every room bears the name of a local firm who contributed.

The list of supporters reads like a who’s-who of Polk County’s business community: Boyer Building Corporation, CenterState Bank, Citizens Bank & Trust, Curry Controls Company, Cutrale Citrus Juices USA, Inc., DSM Technology Consultants, Furr & Wegman Architects, P.A., The Kincart Family, Madrid Engineering Group, The Mosaic Company, Saddle Creek Logistics Services, Tampa Electric, The Ruthvens, Universal Building Products — plus numerous other companies and individuals

Another strong supporter of the project is the Lakeland Businessmen’s Club, whose membership includes Doug Wimberly Sr., president of Lakeland’s ButterKrust Bakeries. Wimberly serves on the Polk State Corporate College advisory board and volunteered much of his time to fundraising efforts for the new Center.

“This facility is going to take the training at the Corporate College — and the level of our local workforce — to the next level,” Wimberly said. “I’ve relied on the Corporate College for training my employees. I believe in what it does for Polk County.”

The fact that an entire community joined hands to uplift its citizens, impacting future generations into infinity, is a moving testament to the powerful character and philanthropic vision that encompasses the Polk County community.

“The word that comes to mind — the concept that ties everything together — is this: vision. It takes extraordinary vision to plant a tree whose shade you might never enjoy,” said Dr. Holden.

The Polk State College Clear Springs Advanced Technology Center, located at 310 Technology Drive in Bartow, will serve more than 7,000 students annually – and will make an indelible impact on the Polk County community, its people and its economy.