April 21, 2018
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New NMCC alternative energy training center to open next week

By Jen Lynds, BDN Staff

PRESQUE ISLE — Students, staff and community members will see the results of a $1.2 million donation to Northern Maine Community College when the educational institution opens its newest facility next week.

A significant crowd is expected to gather on April 21 for the opening of the Northern Maine Center for Excellence in Alternative Energy Training and Education.

The facility, located a short distance from the NMCC campus in the Skyway Industrial Park in Presque Isle, features both classroom and laboratory space for students in the building technology programs at the college. Newly purchased equipment in the center will provide for experiential learning opportunities in various alternative energy resources including wind, solar and biomass.

The new facility is being opened as a result of a contribution from California resident and Presque Isle native Mary Smith. It is one of the largest private contributions ever given to a community college in Maine and the largest to date to an Aroostook County higher education institution, according to NMCC officials.

Smith made the $1.2 million donation in honor and memory of her late husband, Rodney Smith, a native of England, who, despite an impoverished youth and incredible odds, achieved extraordinary success in the United States as a businessman and pioneer in the semiconductor industry.

The new facility will allow for expansion of NMCC’s wind power technology program. The college worked to develop the new center inside the recently renovated 7,800-square-foot building. It formerly was used by the Presque Isle Public Works Department.

“By bringing the education and training needed for the use of renewable resources that are abundant in this region under one roof, we can respond to the demand, as well as make the best possible use of our resources to educate the public and the work force of the future,” said Tim Crowley, president of NMCC. “The center will have significant impact on our ability to help Aroostook County and the state build the infrastructure and work force needed to ensure alternative energy is key to unlocking the future economic potential of the region.”

In addition to equipment purchased through the Smith gift, the Alternative Energy Center for Excellence also will house technology purchased through a $225,000 grant received by NMCC last summer from the Efficiency Maine Trust. Those funds were designated to assist the college in the introduction of new classes and significant revisions to existing courses offered on the campus that will stress energy efficiency in construction and renovation practices. This equipment will allow NMCC to double its enrollment of first-year students in the wind power technology program from 18 to 36.

NMCC has also redirected some resources it receives from the state to expand alternative energy education in the region. The college is leasing the facility for the center from the city of Presque Isle.

Despite an impoverished youth in England and other roadblocks, Rodney Smith became a highly successful businessman, pioneer in the semiconductor industry and philanthropist. After a 13 years at Fairchild Semiconductor, he was hired by the founders of the Altera Corp. to serve as the company’s first CEO. Altera is the leading company in innovative custom logic solutions and invented the world’s first reprogrammable logic device in 1984. Smith led the company for two decades before retiring in 2001.

The new facility will include a wall of honor dedicated to Smith, who died in 2007.

In addition to serving as a learning laboratory and teaching facility for NMCC students, the center will serve as a place where area schoolchildren and community members visit to learn more about alternative energy and its potential in the region.

The public is invited to next week’s dedication ceremony, which will take place at 2 p.m. April 21. The building is located at 920 Skyway St. in Presque Isle.

For more information, contact the NMCC college relations and development office at 768-2809 or email jparent@nmcc.edu.

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