The Blount Center Board of Directors break ground at the new Blount Campus building at Santa Fe College Wednesday morning. Once completed, the building will act as a hub for “business innovation” and will include classrooms, labs and other student support and service areas.

“Without this great city, this campus would have never been here,” said Santa Fe College president Dr. Jackson N. Sasser during the ceremony.

Jackson Sasser shoveled the first piece of ground for Santa Fe’s new campus Wednesday, which will be completed after his term as president is over. 

The new Blount Center, to become the Blount Campus, is scheduled to begin construction this summer and finish by Spring 2022, said Liam McClay, Santa Fe senior advisor to the president and vice president of facilities services.

The project will cost about $36.5 million and will hold about 2,500 students, McClay said. 

Students, donors, city commissioners, Santa Fe faculty and staff attended the groundbreaking and saw pictures showing the new campus’ plan. The three-story building will offer business and information technology programs, associate’s and bachelor’s programs, community education, a business incubator and student services including advisors and financial aid, McClay said. 

“Our goal is to bring increased opportunities to students in the service district area and enhance small business opportunities,” he said. 

The Blount Center is located at 401 NW Sixth St. It’s currently a smaller facility that offers GEDpreparation courses, training programs for businesses and serves as an outreach and educational facility for citizens in the area. 

The center also offers free meeting rooms for civic, business and professional groups, but its current size can’t accommodate as many students as administration would like to, he said. 

McClay said he hopes people see this campus as an opportunity to help their future. Beyond Santa Fe students, he wants to recruit UF students to dualenroll, people looking to continue their education and people who don’t believe higher education is for them.

“We want to make sure our footprint is here and it’s to stay,” McClay said. “That people recognize it, see it and then believe that they can be a part of us.”

Sasser will retire in the Spring. He said he has been watching the college transform for almost 18 years. Paul Broadie II, the president of Connectitcut’s Housatonic Community College and Gateway Community College,was selected to replace Sasser.  

“It’s about opening doors to students,” Sasser said. “I’m just one little part of that and I’m so honored to have been a part.”

Sasser said he wants everyone to feel like their education is important whether they are obtaining their GED or PhD, and this campus will be in the center of that activity. 

“It’s a symbol of excellence that we commit to,” Sasser said. “It’s a symbol of our commitment to this community.”