Savannah Tech's Liberty Campus Opens

It took over a decade and $5 million, but it's finally finished. Savannah Tech's new Liberty campus formally opened today outside Hinesville. WTOC has been following the story since they broke ground two years ago, many in Liberty County are jumping for joy or breathing sighs of relief. They've put their time and money to have campus of their own.

As visitors wandered through the new campus, Joyce Sanders was only too willing to play tour guide. The Savannah Tech student has anticipated the opening. "We have driven by every day since they said this place was coming and we were excited about it," she said.

With 40,000 square feet, students in the nursing, child care and other fields have space for working labs.

"Eighty percent of the jobs in the 21st century, new jobs created, will require a post-secondary education," Mayor Tom Ratcliff  said.

Local lawmakers say they've fought for the satellite school for over a decade with help from the community. "This community, from board of education, mayor and city council, industrial authority, county commission, they all worked toward this and put the money up when they had to to show the state we were serious," said Sen. Rene Kemp (D-Hinesville).

Including land, site work and $2.5 million of sales tax money to keep the project going even when the state didn't want to fund any more tech school construction.

But Savannah Tech leaders say they aren't through yet. "The next phase for which we already have the funding for the planning, thanks to Liberty County sales tax voters, is an MOS [military occupational specialty] training facility focused on the training and education needs of our partners at Fort Stewart," said Dr. CB Rathburn, the school's president.

Rathburn says hard work pays off. "For years, Savannah Tech hosted classes in a storefront on General Screven Way. Even there, they had 600 students enrolled."

School leaders say that number could go much higher with the new campus.

Reported by: Dal Cannady,