Construction is underway on Forsyth Technical Community College’s $16 million aviation facility at Smith Reynolds Airport in Winston-Salem.
The community college officially broke ground Wednesday on the Forsyth Technical Community College Mazie S. Woodruff Aviation Technology Lab, which is at 2739 Aviation Drive.
“Forsyth Tech is confident that this new aviation lab and the programs that we already have planned as well as exciting new programs that we are exploring that are focused around things like additive manufacturing and emerging technologies like unmanned aircraft …. that they will be drivers for economic growth,” said Janet Spriggs, president of Forsyth Tech.
This growth will be achieved “by expanding the skilled aviation workforce for our region, preparing students for sustainable career pathways with livable wages and also increasing our ability to attract new and expanding industries to our communities,” she said.
Forsyth County Board of Commissioners Chairman Dave Plyler called Forsyth Tech a gift that the community has had for years “and it just gets better.”
“One of the neat things about what’s happening today is all these blue hats behind us and all the shovels behind us represent what we’re going to have, which is a facility that will work to teach and help coming generations in this county,” Plyler said.
“It couldn’t get any better than that. Most people would give a lot just to have what we are about to take.”
The lab will be 53,000 square feet with a 12,000-square-foot airframe lab that can house up to eight aircraft. The two-story building will include classrooms and components labs including sheet metal, composite structures from fiberglass to carbon fiber, avionics/electrical, paint, aircraft welding and piston/turbine engines.
Two programs of study for associate degrees will be offered at the aviation lab.
The Aviation Systems Technology program will provide requirements necessary to become an aviation maintenance technician, and the Aviation Electronics (Avionics) Technology will focus on educating students in the operations, repair and overhaul of general avionics, electrical and electronic systems, practical wiring, navigation, flight management and communications equipment.
The aviation lab is to be completed between September and the end of October 2020.
Other speakers at the ceremony included Winston-Salem Mayor Pro Tem Vivian Burke, who is the Northeast Ward city council member; Peter Hans, president of the North Carolina Community College System; and Scott Piper, chairman of the Smith Reynolds Airport board.
Burke said that the Northeast Ward has been Smith Reynolds Airport’s neighbors for years.
Then she made a request. Referring to the nearby Carver High School, she asked Spriggs along with members of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School Board to engage in conversations about how to help minority students so that they can land jobs in the aviation industry.
Spriggs told Burke, “We are honored to be your partners and your neighbors.”
She said that Forsyth Tech will continue to be “excellent partners with the school board and with the community.”
Hans said that aerospace is critical to both the Triad and North Carolina’s future.
“And it can’t happen without a skilled workforce,” Hans said. “Those technicians and mechanics are great jobs, great careers. We know that their training — the education they will receive — will make continued growth and prosperity.”
Piper named several customers at Smith Reynolds Airport that are always finding themselves in need of such workers as aviation technicians, avionics technicians and welders.
“I am extremely excited about the potential for aviation and future opportunities provided by this new Forsyth Tech Mazie S. Woodruff Aviation Lab, which will provide the education and training to students to fill the growing needs of jobs and help move aviation forward in this community, in the Triad and in the state.”
Along with county and city officials, attendees at the ceremony included various Forsyth Tech leaders; representatives for community agencies, the local school board and companies; as well as four generations of the Mazie S. Woodruff family.
The aviation lab bears the name of Woodruff, the first African American to serve on the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners, and is part of the Mazie S. Woodruff Center on Lansing Drive.
“She worked so hard to try to get young people in the community to have job opportunities and the like,” said Robert Woodruff, one of Woodruff’s sons. “She would be over the moon to see this.”