By Jake Cantrell
There are 14 tiny holes in the undeveloped lot across the street from Papa Johns, thanks to 14 golden shovels, wielded by elected officials, business leaders and university representatives.
However, the folks behind those golden shovels believe in two years, what sits atop those holes will be the talk of the town, and perhaps the entire state.
Representatives of UNG’s Mike Cottrell College of Business broke ground on the future home of the Cottrell Center for Business, Technology and Innovation, a $45 million building designed to set UNG’s business program and its students apart from the competition.
“To say that the Cottrell Center for Business, Technology and Innovation is going to be transformative feels like an understatement, because of the very significant impact this 91,000 square foot facility will have on our ability to deliver on Mike and Lynn [Cottrell]’s dream,” said Dr. Mary Gowan, the Dean of Mike Cottrell College of Business, during the ceremony. “It’s going to be transformative not only for the college, but for the campus as a whole in many ways, not to mention when you come up Chestatee going into Dahlonega what you’re going to see.”
The building is scheduled to be finished and welcoming students as classes start in August of 2022 with construction beginning at the first of next year.
“We’ll be starting construction in February in earnest, moving earth and so forth,” said Dr. Mac McConnell who is Senior Vice President over Business and Finance at UNG.
Speakers at the ceremony included University President Dr. Bonita Jacobs, Georgia House Representative Kevin Tanner and Georgia Senator Steve Gooch, all of whom spoke to the goal of the university to be home to the top business school in the state of Georgia. Gowan believes the investment in the new facilities will push the college toward exactly that.
“It makes us competitive with other business schools in the state that recently or in the last 10 years got new buildings,” Gowan told The Nugget. “A building doesn’t make the program, but it provides you the space to do what you want to in business education...It’s going to both continue to attract high quality students and it will enable the faculty to do the kind of experiential learning that is so important to students. It just says that we are a high quality program.”
According to Gowan, who’s worked in the upper levels of business at prestigious universities such as George Washington, Elon and James Madison University, competing in business education is much like an arms race for facilities. She says the new building will give the school’s faculty the chance at better replicating the world of business to students in the program.
“So one big thing in business education is having students work in teams,” she said. “We don’t have any team space. We will in our new building. We’re going to have labs that are going to look like what they’ll walk into in the workplace and that’s become so much more important. It’s going to allow us to do a deeper level of learning in those spaces that will mirror what’s happening in other schools.”
One positive byproduct of the expansion is that the moving of the Mike Cottrell College of Business from its current home in the Newton Oakes building to the new Cottrell Center should free up space for other departments to be able to better function.
“We’ve been growing across the board in all programs and...business faculty are spread out,” said UNG Chief of Staff Kate Maine. “The faculty from other colleges and departments across the institution are also spread out, so this might give those departments a chance to bring their faculty together and work and collaborate in those ways as well.”
The estimated $45 million cost of the building will be covered through $35 million in state funding combined with a $10 million gift by Mike and Lynn Cottrell, for which the building and the business college are both named.
“The Cottrell’s have made two of the largest contributions in UNG’s 145 year history including $10 million for this new center,” Jacobs told the socially distanced crowd. “Their generosity has provided transformational support for our students and graduates to be regionally and globally competitive as business leaders.”
During Gooch’s address to the limited crowd, he championed the Cottrell’s for their giving nature not only to the school, but the entire community of Lumpkin County, as the family’s donations are stacking up quick with funds also going toward Lumpkin’s future aquatic center and the LCHS basketball arena’s new scoreboard.
“It’s very, very rare for a small community like Dahlonega and Lumpkin County to have people like the Cottrells,” Gooch said. “There are a few other families in this area that could possibly fund some of the things that the Cottrell’s have done, but we haven’t seen them step up like the Cottrell’s have.”