BELVIDERE, Ill. (WTVO) — Rock Valley College has opened the new Advanced Technology Center in Belvidere.

The facility held a ribbon cutting and some classes on Wednesday. RVC President Dr. Howard Spearman said that this will address the community’s workforce needs. These include manufacturing and mechatronics fields. The center is a 77,000 square foot facility that cost $15 million.

One student said that she is excited to be involved in the expansion.

Picking up that whip for the first time and laying that first bead, it was like man I really found something that I know I can be passionate about,” said RVC student Erica Turner. “That humbled us a little bit. The Stenstrom Center has been there for quite a while. Coming into this brand new building with all this technology and even more classes, it’s one of those things where you come in here like wow, I’m really proud that I was able to be a part of this.”

Turner said that she is glad to be a part of the program.

“It’s an honor to have a building that is specific for us, you know,” she said. “It’s us, the mechatronics, the CNC kids, even the people that are coming in for English as a second language.”

Spearman said that they wanted to expand their college footprint. The 77,000 square foot facility in Belvidere allows students to grow and be ready to work in their county.

“It’s important to have this space where we can specialize not only teaching mechatronics, welding, and CNC courses, but also we can grow our customized training which helps companies specifically with the needs they have,” Spearman said.

Spearman said that Belvidere School District #100 has created scholarships for students who go on to study at the ATC. The center offers both credit and non-credit programs.

“We would have never been able to offer welding to our students in our high schools currently,” said Nik Butenhoff, director of career readiness for the Belvidere School District. “Next year we have over 60 students taking welding here as a result of that, so clearly there is a great interest in our student body and a need in the workforce.”

Turner said that she is excited for what this means for the future of the workforce.

“Having something that is a little farther out that more people have access to, it’s just beyond something you can think about,” she said.

Rock Valley College’s board chose the Belvidere location back in 2020, but that was not the original location. The center was going to be at the old Barber-Colman complex south of Downtown Rockford several years ago. The plan was then to put it in the Register Star building at E. State Street and the river.

RVC board members and administrators said that the cost, and potential partnerships, are a couple of reasons why they picked Belvidere. They hope that their new, cutting edge technology and programs will draw in more students to the manufacturing, CNC and welding industries.