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MTI opens Trades Center, announces $4 million capital campaign

Mitchell Mayor Ken Tracy, left, South Dakota State University President David L. Chicoine, center, and Mitchell Technical Institute President Greg Von Wald cut the ribbon for MTI's Trades Center on Tuesday afternoon in Mitchell. (Sean Ryan/The Daily Republic)1 / 3
David L. Chicoine, president of South Dakota State University, speaks at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Trades Center at Mitchell Technical Institute on Tuesday evening. (Sean Ryan/The Daily Republic)2 / 3
Joshua Kranz, first-year director of Mitchell Technical Institute's Culinary Arts program, cooks flank steak for the ribbon cutting of MTI's Trades Center building Tuesday afternoon in Mitchell. (Sean Ryan/The Daily Republic)3 / 3

As Mitchell Technical Institute officially opened its Trades Center Tuesday, the MTI Foundation, a private, nonprofit organization, announced it's embarked on its first-ever fundraising campaign.

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Scott Paulson, owner of Paulson Air, a Mitchell-based company, and the foundation's president, told reporters during a press conference at the Trades Center on MTI's campus that the campaign has set its fundraising goal at $4 million, of which nearly $2.34 million has already been raised.

"We're raising funds to educate students so they can return to local communities and embark on successful technical careers," Paulson said.

The money raised will be used to support MTI's academic programs with lab equipment upgrades, technology-based teaching aids and increased faculty support, Paulson said. It will also be used to increase the number and size of scholarships for students, along with the creation of a technical academy and additional funding for campus completion.

"It's a whole new day," Paulson said in an interview with The Daily Republic after the press conference. "It's a brand new beginning for the school and for the industry partners such as myself."

MTI is considered a valuable asset for anyone who works in a technical field in the area, as the industry is constantly trying to attract new, young talent.

"My industry partners are very envious of me," Paulson said. "It's very nice to be able to help support it any way we can."

After announcing its fundraising efforts, MTI President Greg Von Wald addressed a crowd of between 250 and 300 people, celebrating the completion of the Trades Center and the consolidation of MTI's campus.

"It truly is our new home," Von Wald said.

With the completion this fall of MTI's $18.5 million Trades Center -- a 150,000-square-foot, two-story building that houses nine programs -- the school is now, for the first time, situated entirely south of Interstate 90 in the southeast corner of Mitchell. An open house and ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Tuesday afternoon to celebrate the completion of the Trades Center and the consolidation of MTI's campus.

"It truly is our new home," said MTI President Greg Von Wald, addressing a crowd of between 250 and 300 people at the event.

In 2001, ground was broken on the first new MTI building south of I-90, the Technology Center, located about 2.5 miles from MTI's original campus near Mitchell High School. It was the first step in a moving process that took 12 years and saw the construction of six buildings at a total cost of $46.4 million.

"More important than its size or the money we put into it, is that it's a realization of a dream," Von Wald said.

The Trades Center will be home to two divisions within MTI's academic program: agriculture and transportation technologies, and construction and manufacturing technologies.

"I think you're going to see a real generation of interest in all of those areas just because of the new facilities," Von Wald said in an interview with The Daily Republic prior to the event.

This fall, MTI's enrollment is 1,227 students -- an all-time high.

South Dakota State University President David Chicoine described Tuesday's event as a new beginning in the partnership between SDSU and MTI.

"Our job is to create opportunities for students," he said, addressing the crowd.

SDSU Extension's Mitchell Regional Center, and its five staff members, moved into its new offices in the Trades Center last month, according to Barry Dunn, dean of agriculture and biological sciences at SDSU. The center's offices were housed at the building on MTI's former north campus, which is now the Mitchell Career and Technical Education Academy.

Dunn, who attended Tuesday's event, is also the director of SDSU Extension.

"This marriage of resources will benefit farmers and ranchers, and the community in really exciting ways," he said in an interview with The Daily Republic. "It's just going to be perfect."

Mitchell School District Superintendent Joe Graves described the developments at MTI as phenomenal.

"This is the culmination of a vision that this district has had for years about bringing us together on one campus," Graves said in an interview with The Daily Republic. "This is just one of those great days."

The Trades Center means a newer and bigger space for teachers and students, especially those in technical classes involving large pieces of equipment, said Darin Maltsberger, head of MTI's agriculture and transportation division. It also means students no longer have to travel across town just to attend a class, he said.

"We're all together," he said. "It's more like a college atmosphere."