Buying a site in the Grand Haven area gives Muskegon Community College a permanent campus location in northwestern Ottawa County.
MCC took possession this month of a former funeral home location on Lincoln Street in Grand Haven Township, just west of U.S. 31. The college paid $378,000 for the property, where it plans to invest another $432,000 in renovations and start hosting classes beginning this fall.
After offering classes in Grand Haven for more than 25 years at leased locations — most recently at the Grand Haven Community Center since 2012 — MCC wanted to establish a permanent campus in neighboring Ottawa County, said President Dale Nesbary. About 1,100 of MCC’s 4,100 students who enrolled last fall are from Ottawa County.
“We needed to invest in Ottawa County,” Nesbary said. “Leasing or renting, that wasn’t the best and highest use of our tuition and tax dollars, so we needed to come up with a better way to serve the community. We believe we can serve the community more effectively by owning, rather than leasing.”
During the past year, MCC considered options for a permanent location in northwestern Ottawa County that provided room to grow over the next decade in what has been historically one of Michigan’s fastest-growing counties.
The new Grand Haven campus, located more centrally in Ottawa County and about a mile south of Grand Haven High School, will serve about 400 students annually. That includes Early College program students who are enrolled simultaneously in high school and MCC to earn a high school diploma and a two-year associate degree.
Once renovations are complete this summer, the campus facility will house classrooms, a student lounge space and administrative offices.
In Grand Haven, MCC offers general education courses such as English, math and science, which are prerequisites for associate degree programs. The college could add more programs at the location in the future, according to Nesbary.
“It’s a possibility,” he said. “We can modify the space as needed and that investment would come back to our community and our students.”
One potential addition already considered for the Grand Haven campus is a science lab that would enable MCC to offer science courses that are part of the allied science degree programs, Nesbary said.
While a final decision remains pending, MCC could add the science lab at the Grand Haven campus as early as the 2020-21 academic year, he said.
“From my perspective, it’s a matter of when to do it. We have sufficient headcount here to do it,” Nesbary said. “We would like to offer the broadest array of coursework in the locations that students need it, and by serving those students, you’re serving the business community.”
Investing in expansion
Creating a permanent campus in Ottawa County is the latest capital project MCC has undertaken to upgrade, expand and elevate the institution into “one of the best colleges in the country,” Nesbary said.
“Not only do we have great students, but we have the facilities that can rival any college in the country,” he said.
MCC in January 2018 opened the $14.8 million Carolyn I. and Peter Sturrus Technology Center in the former Masonic Temple in downtown Muskegon, donated by local developer Jonathan Rooks. The tech center is named after the couple who donated $1.5 million to MCC for the project. Peter Sturrus is the former long-time president at Shape Corp. in Grand Haven.
The Sturrus Technology Center houses MCC’s applied technology programs in CAD, electronics and automation, engineering, machining, metal casting, materials and welding. The college developed the center with the support of a $4.1 million state grant and several local businesses.
“We’re starting to reach out to our business community in ways we didn’t do in the past,” Nesbary said.
The tech center was followed up in June 2018 with the opening of the Rooks|Sarnicola Entrepreneur Institute and the Lakeshore Fab Lab entrepreneurial hub on West Clay Avenue in downtown Muskegon, connected to the Sturrus Technology Center.
Anyone can join the Lakeshore Fab Lab and use the facility to design and develop new products. The lab’s machinery includes 3-D printing, laser etching, robotics, metal milling, large format vinyl printing, T-shirt hot press, digital scanning, plasma water table cutting, and routing.
Lakeshore Fab Lab also will host speakers and seminars, and house a proposed on-site entrepreneur store for members to sell their products or services on a consignment basis.
MCC has had visits from several manufacturers in the region to inquire about using the lab to develop their innovations or train staff, an indication of the market need for such a facility and validation for the decision to develop it, Nesbary said.
“If they’re in what we’re doing, then we’re headed in the right direction,” he said.
The college in December opened the $14.1 million, 52,000-square-foot Health and Wellness Center on its main campus. The center houses the physical education and recreation department, the medical assistant academic program, athletic offices, and a health simulation lab for students enrolled in nursing, respiratory therapy, and medical assistant programs.
The MCC Health and Wellness Center also houses a primary care medical center operated through a partnership with Mercy Health and Grand Valley State University. The Mercy Health Physician Partners Quarterline Family Medicine Clinic serves a dual role as a care provider and a clinical training ground for students pursuing medical careers.
Staffed by nurse practitioners employed by Mercy Health, the clinic provides a setting for nursing, medical assistant and respiratory therapy students at MCC, along with nursing and nurse practitioner students at GVSU to gain clinical experience as they earn their degrees.