Florence-Darlington Technical College (FDTC) cut the ribbon to its new Automotive and HVAC Technology Center on Wednesday, March 29, 2017 along with NASCAR notables. The building is the first step of FDTC’s 10-year Academic Master Plan. Classes are already underway, but Wednesday’s ribbon-cutting was the first look inside of the building for the public.
The roughly 37,000 square-foot facility is located between FDTC’s 600 Building and the Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology (SiMT). It cost $7.3 million to construct. Housed inside are the college’s Automotive and HVAC programs.
Dr. Ben Dillard, FDTC President, told the crowd the new facility is just the first phase of many changes to come to the College’s main campus. “We also have a new multi-storied building planned for the front of the campus which will take the place of two structures that date back to our founding over 50 years ago. It’s time for something new,” said Dr. Dillard.
Darlington Raceway President, Kerry Tharp and NASCAR’s JTG Daugherty Racing crew chief, Trent Owens were also on hand to support FDTC and speak with its students. Both, Tharp and Owens gave words of encouragement during the ceremony.
Tharp, who worked for the University of South Carolina Gamecocks for 20 years, and has been working in the NASCAR industry ever since said, “What a great day to be at Florence-Darlington Tech, and what a great day to be in the state of South Carolina. I look around, and what I see is excellence. I know that’s what this state is all about, and that’s what Darlington Raceway is all about, and that’s excellence.”
During his speech, Tharp shared the story of his first visit to FDTC. Tharp said, “I was blown away. I was blown away by this campus. By the dedication to excellence! By the people that are here! The facilities that are here! The plans and the visions that are in place! The new facility that is being dedicated today is just second-to-none!”
As for Owens, he grew up in Darlington, and is now a veteran crew chief in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Owens calls the shots from atop the pit box for driver, Chris Buescher, who pilots the JTG Daugherty Racing No. 37 Chevrolet. On Wednesday, Owens joined Tharp and FDTC officials on stage as he shared his perspective of being a community college graduate and using the education to work his way through the ranks of NASCAR.
“This is a really impressive facility,” Owens said. “Speaking of technical colleges, I’m a big fan! I got a Mechanical Engineering Technology degree myself from Central Piedmont up in Charlotte. Some of us just need that balance between classroom and hands-on. To all of you students out there, a lot of the guys that assemble our race cars and makes sure that nothing falls off, it makes my job a lot easier. I came from similar background and similar training, and I can’t imagine a more advanced facility anywhere in the country, really.”
Darlington Raceway brought its new 2017 pace car for display. NASCAR Camping World Truck Series team, Ricky Benton Racing (RBR) Enterprises and local FDTC-sponsored racer, Hayes Goodson also had race trucks on display as well.
For more information on Florence-Darlington Technical College, please visit www.fdtc.edu or call 843-661-8324.