Mesa needs to breathe new life into its sleepy downtown, and the local community college needs more space for its expanding programs and growing student population.
The two entities are teaming up to solve their problems by creating a new downtown campus.
The city and Mesa Community College won a thumbs-up from the Maricopa County Community College District board March 29, allowing them to start work on their first joint, downtown construction project: A $2.1 million firetraining center.
It’s the first step toward making the downtown campus a reality, said Shelly Allen, Mesa’s town center development director.
Officials plan to bring other MCC programs downtown, such as community education and perhaps a nursing program, she said.
The fire center plan was developed by Valley fire departments and MCCCD.
The building would include an emergency operations center to receive and respond to calls for help, classrooms for paramedic and firefighter training, plus a high-tech simulator to prepare trainees for real-life situations.
The center would train at least 3,000 people annually.
Costs for the building will be paid with bonds from Mesa and MCCCD.
Valley fire departments worked with college officials to determine which services and courses they would need, said Larry Thacker, MCC senior associate dean of fire science.
Fire and ambulance agencies foresee a rise in demand, especially as the baby boom generation nears retirement and the local population continues to balloon.
The state’s early retirement program also is hastening the exit of veteran workers.
This creates a new problem for agencies filling management positions.
“You’re going to have young people in positions of great responsibility but without the years of experience,” Thacker said.
That pending challenge prompted MCC to design special leadership courses at the new center that will teach young workers the skills they would need to become supervisors or administrators.
MCC also is getting a similar training simulator that presents students with emergency scenarios and challenges them to make splitsecond choices in life-or-death situations.