The Okaloosa County School District is looking to expand Okaloosa Technical College to the north end of the county to increase access to career and technical education programs.
The school board held a workshop last Monday to discuss submitting a pre-application to Triumph Gulf Coast, Inc. for $8.35 million in funding to purchase and renovate property in the Okaloosa Industrial Air Park near Bob Sikes Airport in Crestview.
- The proposed funding would allow the district to establish a north campus of Okaloosa Technical College to serve residents in northern Okaloosa County.
“I’m very proud of Mr. Jon Williams, Mrs. April Branscome, Mr. David Welch,” said Okaloosa Schools Superintendent Marcus Chambers. “They came to meet with us a month and a half ago, very excited about the potential opportunity to bring O.T.C. to the north end of the county. I think this will be a flagship program in the north.”
The sole Okaloosa Technical College campus is currently located in Fort Walton Beach. Jon Williams, director of Okaloosa Technical College, said a north county location would increase access for residents in the Crestview, Baker and Laurel Hill areas.
Williams said the college has seen strong interest from industry partners, but many ask when OTC will expand to better meet workforce demands.
The pre-application to Triumph Gulf Coast seeks funding to purchase a 40,000 square foot building on 7 acres in the Okaloosa Industrial Air Park in Crestview. The facility would be renovated to include classrooms, labs and workspaces for new technical college programs.
The proposed location is near new economic growth areas like the Shoal River Ranch industrial megasite. The Shoal River site is expected to attract manufacturing companies that would need a skilled workforce.
Williams said new programs would target high-demand fields like advanced manufacturing, welding, electronics, building trades, construction design technology, plumbing, industrial pipefitting, applied cybersecurity and more. He said the goal is to enroll over 150 students in the first year of operation.
- “Students would begin earning certifications and licenses ongoing and a full expansion would be realized within 2 years of grant funds being approved and allocated,” Williams said in the application.
School board member Tim Bryant said he was excited about the potential for an OTC north campus to increase options for students in northern Okaloosa County.
“I think there’s going to be an untapped number of students there that have issues getting down to the South End,” Bryant said to Williams. “Now, if this becomes a reality, it’s going to be right there at their back door.”
- Bryant said the new campus would especially benefit students coming from Laurel Hill and Baker.
The technical college currently offers dual enrollment programs for high school students. Williams said OTC north could provide new dual enrollment pathways for northern schools in addition to serving postsecondary students.
Nathan Sparks, executive director of One Okaloosa EDC, also endorsed the OTC expansion effort.
- “The proposed Okaloosa Technical College north campus stands to have a monumental impact on higher wage job creation in northern Okaloosa County for years to come,” Sparks said in the pre-application.
The school board would have to approve a final application to receive the requested Triumph Gulf Coast funding. The initial pre-application is meant to provide an overview of the project and gain preliminary feedback from Triumph Gulf Coast.
Superintendent Chambers said he is excited about the partnership between the school district, OTC and local economic development leaders.
- “We will continue working closely with our community partners and industry leaders to offer pathways that will further our students’ success in the north end and continue to contribute positively to Okaloosa’s economy,’” said Chambers.