An awesome debut for Manatee Technical Institute's new campus

January 10, 2013 

Manatee Technical Institute enters a new era this week with the opening of its sparkling new main campus in East Manatee. Impressive in every way, the new MTI heralds an even stronger school district commitment to workforce development with career programs designed to fulfill the hopes and dreams of a diverse group of students.

A decade in the making, the $44 million, 210,000-square-foot center just south of Braden River High School will replace MTI's aging facility in West Bradenton as the school's main campus.

MTI also operates an East Campus composed of a 50,000-square-foot medical and dental building, which opened in 2001; a fire science training center and burn tower, added in 2007; and a law enforcement academy, which debuted in 2008. MTI also has a small campus in Palmetto.

The community's $66.4 million investment in MTI since 2003 has been paying off with the graduation of students who have already demonstrated excellence in their fields. The school is renowned for an amazing streak of success in the annual SkillsUSA Championship. For nine consecutive years, MTI vocational students have won more medals than any school in the country.

MTI, founded by the school board in 1962, is the second largest among Florida's 44 technical centers. It is arguably the best in the state. The new main campus should secure that title.

Some 10,000 students attend MTI and now will enjoy state-of-the-art equipment and facilities. The 100 programs at the new campus range from high technology with digital video, computer networking and web design to such basic traditional training as plumbing, auto mechanics and cosmetology.

But the school also offers adult education and personal enrichment programs, and serves students of all ages, from high school to post secondary. During the depths of the Great Recession, MTI welcomed laid-off workers seeking retraining in new endeavors.

Anyone can take a tour and bear witness just how vibrant and innovative the new campus is -- via several image galleries at www.bradenton.com/galleries. Both are linked to the web version of this editorial. Or visit the campus to dine at one of the two venues where culinary students test their skills -- one a cafe, the other a fine dining eatery.

At Tuesday's opening day of classes, one student's comparison of the old and new facilities was right on target: "like prehistoric and modern," Sharon Dunbar, a business technology student, stated. With great enthusiasm, too, adding: "The modern technology that's in this school, it's awesome. ... The updates are just great!"

Kudos to the school board and the district for this significant improvement to Manatee County's education system.

Two district officials stand out for special accolades: longtime MTI Director Mary Cantrell and Doug Wagner, the district's adult career and technical education director. Both will be long remembered as their names grace major portions of the facility: Cantrell Hall, at the heart of the facility, and the Doug Wagner Auditorium, a giant learning center.

Both earned the honors for their dedication to MTI. This week, they are no doubt enjoying the fruits of their hard work.

Manatee Technical Institute now boasts a gem of a campus to match the outstanding education. This community stands to benefit for decades to come.

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