(L-R): Betsy Wilcauskas; Mary Gowan; Mac McConnell; Lynn and Mike Cottrell break ground at the future site of the Cottrell Center for Business, Technology and Innovation. (Dahlonega Nugget photo)
There are 14 tiny holes in the undeveloped lot across the street from Papa John's in Dahlonega, Ga., due to 14 golden shovels, wielded by elected officials, business leaders and representatives from the University of North Georgia (UNG).
However, the folks behind those golden shovels believe that in two years, what sits atop those holes will be the talk of the town, and perhaps the entire state.
Representatives of UNG's Mike Cottrell College of Business broke ground recently on the future home of the Cottrell Center for Business, Technology and Innovation, a $45 million building designed to set UNG's business program and its students apart from the competition.
"To say that the Cottrell Center for Business, Technology and Innovation is going to be transformative feels like an understatement, because of the very significant impact this 91,000-square-foot facility will have on our ability to deliver on Mike and Lynn [Cottrell]'s dream," said Mary Gowan, the dean of UNG-Dahlonega's business college.
"It's going to be transformative not only for the college, but for the campus as a whole."
With construction set to begin after the first of next year, the new building is scheduled to be finished and welcoming students as classes start in August 2022.
"We'll be starting construction in February in earnest, moving earth and so forth," said Mac McConnell, senior vice president over business and finance at UNG.
Speakers at the ceremony included UNG-Dahlonega President Bonita Jacobs, Georgia House Rep. Kevin Tanner and state Sen. Steve Gooch, all of whom spoke to the goal of the university becoming home to the top business school in the state of Georgia.
Gowan believes the investment in the new facilities will push the college toward exactly that.
"It makes us competitive with other business schools in the state that recently, or in the last 10 years, got new buildings," Gowan told The Nugget. "A building doesn't make the program, but it provides you the space to do what you want to in business education. It's going to both continue to attract high quality students and enable the faculty to do the kind of experiential learning that is so important to students. It just says that we are a high-quality program."
Gowan, who's worked in the upper levels of business at prestigious universities such as George Washington, Elon and James Madison University, added that business education is much like an arms race for facilities. She said the new building will give the school's faculty the chance at better replicating the world of business to students in the program.
"One big thing in business education is having students work in teams," she said. "We don't have any team space yet, but we will in our new building. We're going to have labs that are going to look like what [students will] walk into in the workplace and that's become so much more important. It's going to allow us to offer a deeper level of learning in those spaces that will mirror what's happening in other schools."
A byproduct of the expansion is that the moving of the Mike Cottrell College of Business from its current home in the Newton Oakes building to the new Cottrell Center should free up space for other departments to be able to better function.
The estimated cost of the new business facility will be covered through $35 million in state funding and a $10 million gift by the Cottrell family.
"They have made two of the largest contributions in UNG's 145-year history including their gift for this new center," Jacobs told the socially distanced crowd. "Their generosity has provided transformational support for our students and graduates to be regionally and globally competitive as business leaders."
During Georgia Sen. Gooch's address to the gathering, he championed the Cottrell's for their giving nature not only to the school, but the entire community of Lumpkin County, as the family's donations also have helped fund the county's future aquatic center and the new scoreboard at the high school's basketball arena.
"It's rare for a small community like Dahlonega and Lumpkin County to have people like the Cottrells," he said.
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