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story.lead_photo.caption State Technical College of Missouri holds a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday for its new Utility Technology Center and Civil Construction Center on its campus in Linn. Gov. Mike Parson spoke at the event, as well as State Technical College President Shawn Strong and Vice President of Advancement Shannon Grus. Photo by Liv Paggiarino / News Tribune.

Leaders of State Technical College and state government turned shovels Thursday to break ground on two projects that will expand the college's abilities and offerings in its utility and civil infrastructure programs.

One project is the creation of a new home for State Tech's electrical distribution, utility systems technician and nuclear technology programs — a Utility Technology Center, part of a larger 30-acre complex to support all of the college's utility programs, State Tech President Shawn Strong said.

The new Utility Technology Center building — to be located on the northeast corner of campus and expected to be completed by the end of October — will feature an indoor utility lab big and tall enough to let students practice digging holes to place utility poles in and to climb the poles.

The project will also include a Safety Village, which will feature a residential neighborhood complete with underground utilities such as gas, water, wastewater, electric and communications lines.

Prost Builders Inc. has the contract for the Utility Technology Center.

Funding for the Utility Technology Center and State Tech's second project — the creation next door of the Civil Construction Technology Center — includes a total of approximately $2.2 million of in-kind and private donations from the private sector, said Shannon Grus, the college's vice president of advancement.

Missouri One Call is among the donors, and director John Lansford said at Thursday's groundbreaking more education is needed to avoid damages during excavations.

Lansford said the leading cause of damages during excavations is no longer workers not calling in to check for buried utilities before digging, but insufficient excavation practices.

Insufficient excavation practices can encompass a variety of things, but a key component is a lack of education in best practices.

Other donors to the State Tech projects include Power and Communications Contractors Association, Sellenriek Construction, Vermeer Midwest, the Goppert Foundation and Ditch Witch.

The state and federal governments are also contributing millions of dollars — including a $2 million U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration grant.

The Civil Construction Technology Center is being funded by the state's MoExcels program that funds the "development and expansion of employee-driven education and training programs and initiatives," according to the Department of Higher Education of Workforce Development.

The civil construction center will be born from the renovation of State Tech's Multipurpose Building and what will be a newly-built connection with the neighboring Heavy Equipment Operations Building.

"MoExcels funding will allow us to grow several programs, including our heavy equipment operations (program) — where students, over a year, learn to operate a variety of heavy construction equipment — our civil engineering technology program that prepares students for a variety of careers related to civil construction companies and public entities like MoDOT, and our newest program will be civil construction technology, that will prepare students to work in the field on things like bridges and road construction crews, which we know we will need," Strong said.

Strong said the civil construction technology program will start in the fall, after the building's expected completion by the middle of June.

Verslues Construction Co. Inc. has the contract for the civil construction center.

Strong credited Gov. Mike Parson — who was at the groundbreaking with other state leaders including Sen. Mike Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City, and President Pro Tem Sen. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan — with making the projects possible with Parson being "laser-focused on workforce and infrastructure, as we are here at State Tech."

"What we're seeing here, what you see at State Tech, what we're doing, this expansion, is the exact thing we're working on every day," Parson said.

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