New Cunningham Conference Center Will Soon Front Campus

Columbus State Universitys campus continues to change as demolition is scheduled to begin soon on the Alumni Conference Center to make way for a new conference center to open in fall 2004.

The current Gentian Boulevard structure was built in 1964 as a home for CSU presidents but was converted years ago to an alumni center and then became home to the Georgia Law Enforcement Command College.

Next month, construction will begin on the site for the John Cunningham Conference Center, a 68,000-square-foot facility to house the long-successful Command College and two new programs, the Columbus Regional Technology Center and the John Cunningham Sales and Leadership Institute.

CSU President Frank Brown said the conference center will be 'a unique building that will continue our tradition of fostering community and economic development to this region.'

The building and the sales and leadership institute are named for its late benefactor John Cunningham who, through gifts and his estate, contributed almost $4 million for the new facility. The gift was among the early funds raised in CSU's ongoing $80 million capital campaign, 'An Investment in People.'

The sales institute will rely on input from local companies and executives in developing a series of courses and seminars specifically developed to 'ignite the potential' in sales professionals and business leaders. The curriculum will be geared toward those currently in the workplace but looking for ways to improve their skills and value, and also for individuals entering the business world.

The Cunningham Center also will house the Columbus Regional Technology Center, designed to nurture startup technology-based companies. With about $2 million from CSUs Investment in People capital campaign and a $500,000 grant from OneGeorgia Authority, the project is expected to incubate eight entrepreneurial companies creating up to 720 new jobs in the next 10 years. The project represents a collaboration of both private and public organizations including CSU, the Valley Partnership Joint Development Authority, OneGeorgia Authority, University System of Georgia, Columbus Consolidated Government, Georgia Institute of Technology, Columbus Water Works, Development Authority of Columbus and the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce.

The Command College, a CSU partnership with the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police, has operated since 1995 as an advanced training program for law enforcement and other government agency administrators. When it moves into the Cunningham center, the Command College will have its own computer lab and data ports for laptop computer connection in three seminar rooms and a conference room.

Archie Rainey, who directs the Command College as coordinator of CSU's Justice Administration Outreach, said such technology access has not been available in the present facility.

Rainey said technology is integral to the Command College curriculum. For example, one of the subjects deals with utilizing computer software in managing budgets. Furthermore, said Rainey, 'our law enforcement and agency management training is research-intensive, and the technology access, as well as the new the facility itself, will allow for us to meet the growing demand for our programs.'

Command College is the only program of its kind in Georgia, and its participation recently has expanded to include non-criminal justice administrators who participate in Executive College and the Professional Management Program - both recently added under the Command College umbrella. Programs are delivered in retreat-style seminars for individual classes during the year. Each class convenes three or four times during the year. Participants also earn credits under CSU's Master of Public Administration program. Rainey said 80 percent of those who have completed Command College training have earned the master's degree as well.

Overall, the command college has served 400 administrators (250 of whom have graduated) representing state and federal agencies ranging from law enforcement officers at all state levels to the U.S. Marshals, U.S. Postal Service and FBI. The college will take up temporary residence across from Courtyard I at 3902 University Ave. (the former Blue Plate Cafe) during the construction phase.

When finished, the four-level Cunningham Conference Center will have a 125-space parking lot with decorative planters, replacing an elliptical driveway that provided limited parking space along its edges. The landscaping plan, said CSU Construction Manager Mike Medlock, 'is designed to preserve as much green space as possible.'

Inside, the new building will feature a banquet room for up to 400 people, plus capacity for future expansion in the section designated for the Columbus Regional Technology Center.

CSU Foundation Properties has leased the property from the Board of Regents for 27 years and will be responsible for financing and construction of the facility.

Continuing And Regional Education will be responsible for operating the Sales Institute and other continuing education programs in the Conference Center.

Denson Construction of Columbus will oversee the construction phase of the $6.7 million project.

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For more information on the center, please call CSU Public Relations at (706) 568-2030; For more information about Command College, please contact Archie Rainey at (706) 568-2190 or by e-mail at rainey_archie@ColumbusState.edu; and for more information about Technology Center, please contact Becca Brown Hardin at the Chamber of Commerce at (706) 327-1566 (ext. 30) or by e-mail at bhardin@columbusgachamber.com