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OUS Training Center back in new plan

SOUTH POINT - The often-delayed Ohio University Southern Center for Leadership and Training at The Point industrial park has been reborn, streamlined.

In the works for several years, the center was a three-phase project created to fulfill all of the training needs of OUS students and businesses setting up shop at The Point.

The project has been plagued by financial problems that put the future of the building in jeopardy. The Lawrence Economic Development Corporation and OUS decided that instead of running the risk of losing the project entirely, they would scale back the design to create an expansion of the Chamber of Commerce building, as opposed to a freestanding structure.

"We wanted to move quickly while we still could to provide these services, and in order to do that, we needed to change directions," OUS Dean Dr. Dan Evans said. "We simply didn't have the kind of funding and support from Athens we would have needed to build the stand-alone structure."

The redesigned expansion, which currently has no name, will serve two primary functions, according to Dr. James Crawford, Director of the Center for Innovation and Leadership.

Crawford, who will oversee the expansion once it has been completed, explained that its main focus would be to provide office space for small business incubation. He said it would also be equipped to provide on-site training areas that could make The Point more attractive to prospective tenants.

Secondly, the expansion will serve as an information resource center for organic farming, allowing farmers a place where they can be certified to grow their crops organically, an increasingly lucrative market.

The new space has been scaled back from 6,500 to about 2,000 square feet, according to Dr. Bill Dingus, executive director of the Lawrence Economic Development Corporation.

The smaller square footage has resulted in the axing of one of the facility's two planned classrooms.

The auditorium and industrial training center from the original design have also been cut, but neither Evans nor Crawford ruled out the resurrection of these additions, should the opportunity arise.

"We'll still be able to look down the road and if the need grows we'll be able to expand this facility as we have additional funding," Evans said.

Far from being disappointed at the scaled-down redesign, Dingus said he thought the expansion was the best move for all parties involved, and would be an asset to The Point.

"I just think this is such a win-win situation," Dingus said. "This truly will allow us to be better able to utilize our resources to serve. From a business standpoint, this truly makes sense."

Dingus estimates that the redesigned building will carry a price tag of "a couple hundred- thousand dollars," though no designs are currently on paper. Evans said that he hopes to initiate the design phase immediately.

The redesign of the center could have effects felt farther east in the county, as it may spur the development of the long-suffering OUS Proctorville Center.

Though Evans was non-specific as to whether or not monies would be directed from the scaled-down project to Proctorville, he did say that the redesign would allow both projects to move forward without additional delay.