PCC expanding Downtown Campus to help bring workforce into the future

Closing the skills gap in southern Arizona

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Pima Community College has begun demolition of the old Fortuna Hotel on Mabel to build a new $50 million Center for Excellence and Applied Technology.

The center, near Oracle and Drachman on the college's downtown campus, is a public/private partnership that will teach students the tech skills they need to work in today's industry.

"Industry is changing by leaps and bounds, all driven by technology," said Lisa Brosky. Vice Chancellor for External Relations. "We need to be able to match what industry is doing with what our training programs are doing."

The college has the support and input of the business community in Tucson, which has long complained about a skills gap.

"The work the students will be doing here will really mimic the actual environment they have in places like Raytheon and Jim Click Automotive and other companies," said David Dore, President of the Downtown Campus. "The success of Tucson depends on our ability to produce a workforce that is really prepared."

But the problem is not just limited to the Tucson area.

"We have a serious problem in this nation in that the jobs are there, the high tech jobs are there" he said. "We don't have enough workers to take those jobs."

Pima College has spent nearly $4.5 million purchasing property on the northwest end of its downtown campus for expansion.

While the Fortuna and Frontier Hotels will likely face little resistance from the wrecking ball, not so from the Tucson Inn.

The Tucson Inn was built in 1953 to a great deal of fanfare and became a go to place for Hollywood celebrities.

It's sign along Drachman has become a symbol of Tucson's mid-century heyday.

"The sign is an iconic sign," said Dore. "That sign is going to have a long life in Tucson."

The college has been working with local historians about the preservation of not only the sign but certain aspects of the now abandoned hotel.

Much of the area was designated a Historic District last year which means parts of the hotel will likely be preserved.

Dore says the school will save what can be saved within budget, but that is a decision the Governing Board will determine.

The school has worked to save several neon signs which were part of the Tucson landscape and heritage during the 40s and 50s which are on display on the north side of the campus along Drachman Avenue.

The Tucson Inn sign will likely join them.

"The college is very committed to keeping the Tucson Inn sign," Dore said. "Not only keeping it but restoring the sign to its original glory."

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