Anderson's new career center is open for students.

The Anderson Institute of Technology opened its doors to students in August. The $34 million, 120,000-square-foot facility was six years in the making and was made possible through a voter-approved penny sales tax increase.

It's difficult to miss the career center on Pearman Dairy Road, near Tri-County Technical College's Anderson campus. The large new structure houses classrooms, offices, $6.5 million in equipment, labs and a 6,000-square-foot automotive bay, according to Kyle Newton, assistant superintendent of Anderson District 5. Students from four high schools will attend classes and labs at the center Crescent, Pendleton, Westside and T.L. Hanna.

"There are three kinds of students who will come here," Newton said. "Some will start working after graduation. A lot of students will come here then walk across campus to Tri-County Tech to study, and others will go on to a four-year institution. There's something for them here regardless of their path skills they can use.

"The great thing is, the equipment the students are training on here is the same thing they'll see in the workforce," Newton added.

Anderson District 5 paid for 70% of the center, since 70% of the students are from that district, according to Tom Wilson, Anderson District 5 superintendent. The district gets 40% of the penny sales tax money. It is pro-rated according to district size.

"As of May, we've collected for 51 months and it's brought in right around $99 million," he said. "We have 129 more months to go, and if the economy stays exactly like it is, we'll collect another $258 million."

One thing Wilson said he is most proud of, is the fact that by hiring providers, businesses and contractors, District 5 has put $20 million back into the Anderson economy.

James Couch, executive director of the Anderson Institute of Technology, has brought his years of career and technical education to the center. The former director of technical education for the S.C. Department of Education wanted to increase his involvement in the field.

"I was thinking one day in my office as state director that I'd like to be able to go out and see if I could really build facilities to do what I think can be accomplished and really create a kind of environment that would enable kids to grow and develop," he said. His first experience doing so was in Lexington District 5 with the 125,000-square-foot Technical Center for Advanced Technical Studies.

"The model that I use is a combination of a...

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