Wilkes Community College’s new Blan Bottomley Welding Lab, adjacent to the WCC Alleghany Center in Sparta, was dedicated during a ceremony with a ribbon cutting on June 23.
The 1,020-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility can accommodate 10 students per class. It has five welding booths, an ironworker and MIG, TIG and stick welders. It also has hand tools, safety equipment, worktable with vice, band saw, installed air compressor with retractable hoses, outdoor secured gas storage, tool crib and more.
Dr. Jeff Cox, WCC president, said expanding the college’s welding program to the Alleghany Center with completion of the new facility directly aligns with WCC’s five-year strategic plan.
The plan calls for providing more students in the WCC service area with certifications and other credentials that fit workforce needs in the area and for helping students secure jobs that offer a family-sustaining income.
“We are excited to offer the welding technology program to our county,” said Susan Nilo, director of WCC’s Alleghany Center. She added that considerable interest has been expressed in the program at the center for the upcoming year. “We are looking forward to the growth of this program in the future.”
Meanwhile, curriculum and continuing education courses for the summer 2021 semester are underway at the Alleghany Center.
Ricky Brown of Sparta, a member of the WCC Board of Trustees, said during the dedication ceremony that he wanted to thank the college, the Bottomley family and all others who helped make the Blan Bottomley Welding Lab a reality.
“The college’s investment in our new welding lab is an important addition to the educational opportunities available to students here in Alleghany County. Strong business demand for welders makes this program an ideal opportunity to create great careers with excellent earnings potential,” said Brown.
“We are proud to support this much-needed program,” said Martha Bottomley, owner of Sparta-based Bottomley Evergreens & Farms Inc. “The addition of a welding program at the Alleghany Center will provide the skilled workforce we need, provide ongoing workforce training for our employees and will directly allow us to fill jobs.”
She later said it was appropriate to provide support for the welding center in memory of her late husband, Blan Bottomley, because his passion in life was work and he wanted the best for everyone. “Most people work to live but Blan lived to work.”
Alleghany native Blan Bottomley was already a large cabbage grower when he and Mitchell Bottomley, one of Blan and Martha Bottomley’s four sons, started Bottomley Evergreens & Farms in 1990. It has grown to become one of the largest pumpkin producers in the state and one of the largest suppliers of Christmas greenery in the eastern U.S.
With several members of the family involved, the business also produces grass-fed and grass-finished Angus cattle and various vegetables in addition to pumpkins. It includes a trucking company.
Martha Bottomley and Arnold Lakey of Wilkesboro, WCC Foundation Board president, cut the ribbon to officially open the facility.
Terry Bumgarner of Wilkesboro, chairman of the WCC trustees, dedicated the welding lab in memory of Blan Bottomley. He died in 2015.
Allison Phillips, executive director of the WCC Foundation, thanked all donors and Alleghany County for making the project possible in her closing remarks.