Intelligent Design

Pima Community College Advanced Manufacturing Building Opens

By Dave Perry

Pima Community College’s new three-story, 100,000-square-foot, $35 million Advanced Manufacturing Building is a spectacularly bold space at Stone Avenue and Speedway Boulevard with postcard views of Downtown Tucson, the Tucson Mountains and the Santa Catalinas.

It’s at once striking, yet intimate, because of what’s about to happen inside. Here, as well as at PCC’s adjacent Automotive Technology and Innovation Center, generations of Tucsonans will be empowered with skills to pursue technical careers that sustain families, improve lives and strengthen the community and its economy.

Students are the medium, said Carmen Cueva, Pima’s director of advanced manufacturing and computer-aided design. “Meaningful careers are the product.”

“This building is a physical intervention that disrupts business as usual,” Cueva said at the May 5 ribbon-cutting. It’s “an object, a space, a structure that personifies a passion and pride for making and fixing.”

Nick Pinchuk celebrates America’s passion and pride for just that. The Vietnam War veteran, who was stationed one year at Fort Huachuca, is today the president and CEO of Wisconsin-based Snap-on Incorporated, with 12,900 employees and annual sales topping $4.5 billion. He came to Tucson to see the building and to celebrate his longtime friend PCC Chancellor Lee Lambert, who after 10 years here was recently named chancellor of Foothill-De Anza Community College District in California.

“Why are we ascendant?” Pinchuk asked. “We uniquely have a culture of making and fixing things. There are tens of millions of people who can actually create things.”

Students will learn automated industrial technology, computer-aided design, machining and welding. They’ll study design and prototyping, robotics and automation, machine technology, mechatronics (the melding of computer science, electronics and mechanization), and industrial technology. They’ll explore optics, photonics and electronics.

In this building, “each piece is tied together,” Lambert said. “It’s one giant incubation center.”

Greg Wilson, Pima’s dean of applied technology and a leader in creating PCC’s Center of Excellence in Applied Technology, speaks with pride inside the AMB’s gleaming, fully equipped welding laboratory, more than triple the size of Pima’s previous “crusty” space.

In years past, Wilson said, important education partner Pima County Joint Technical Education District would “come to us with 40-60 students” who wanted to learn welding, “and we’ve always had to say ‘no.’ We didn’t have the space. We didn’t have enough faculty.”

Now, as faculty are added, PCC “will be able to serve those JTED students,” Wilson said. And those Pima JTED students can find meaningful employment.

“All this is going to lead to family-sustaining wages for this community,” Lambert said. “How do we sustain the health and vitality of our community? It begins and ends with good jobs. In order to have those good jobs, we have to have the training and educational pipeline in place that develops the individuals in our community for those good jobs.”

Industry, which helped advise the creation of the building, now has a place to “upskill” its workers in the Flexible Industry Training laboratory, or FIT Lab. Businesses can simply move their equipment into the FIT Lab, “set up the pieces, and do the training,” Lambert said. “Then, we can break it down, and be ready for the next one.”

Such creative, responsive thinking makes PCC “a national innovator,” said Mark Gaspers, senior manager for government operations at The Boeing Company and immediate past chair of the Arizona Manufacturers Council. It’s showing everyone “what we can accomplish when we all work together.”

PCC is becoming “an important part of the equation” in retaining employers, and attracting new ones, Lambert said. “I like to think this building will have a big say” in “companies deciding to locate in Tucson in the future.”

“It’s about equity,” Lambert added. “We need to make sure we leave nobody behind in this community. All people deserve the opportunity to get the training and education they need to get that good job.”

“We need to build local capacity to leave a real legacy,” Cueva said. “We are doing incredible things now. Join us here and be part of reaching the next milestone.”

The Advanced Manufacturing Building is the cornerstone facility for PCC’s Center of Excellence in Applied Technology. It’s located on the PCC Downtown Campus, 1255 N. Stone Ave. DLR Group designed the building with construction by Chasse Building Team.

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