Room to expand

PORTAGE TOWNSHIP – A need for more space has prompted officials with Gogebic Community College to move to a much larger location in the Copper Country Mall.

Stacy Crouch, GCC director of campus operations, said the Ironwood-based facility’s Houghton County branch was located next to the Michigan Works office in the Huron Centre in Houghton, but it eventually became inadequate.

“We had three classrooms at the Huron Centre and (in the mall) we have six classrooms,” she said.

Crouch said GCC also conducted night classes at Hancock Central High School and Chassell High School.

Now, Crouch said all classes will be conducted in the slightly less than 12,000-square-foot facility in what was formerly three storefronts, including the Foot Locker shoe store. The mall location has a science lab, computer lab, a nursing classroom and three general education classrooms.

The 10-year lease agreement for the new location at the mall is with mall owners, UPM Management LLC (Moyle), according to a written statement on the move from GCC.

Crouch said GCC opened a location in Hancock in the 1990s, then in 2007 it moved into the location in the Huron Centre.

Classes will start in the new location Monday, Crouch said, and for the GCC fall semester, 275 students were registered for classes.

Previously, Crouch said the classes at the high schools were conducted at night, but with the new facility, there will be a greater choice for students.

“We’re going to have classes throughout the day,” she said.

The written statement from GCC on the move to the mall indicates what will be offered in the new location.

“The GCC Copper Country office currently employs three regular staff, a full-time nursing instructor, and approximately 20 adjunct instructors while offering approximately 35 courses each semester in general studies, business, criminal justice, and personal enrichment or job upgrade. GCC also offers programs in Early Childhood Education, Emergency Medical Technician as well as the Licensed Practical Nursing Certificate and the Associate Degree in Nursing in the Copper Country area.”

The written statement also states the enrollment of students in the Copper Country is 20 percent of total credits for the college.

Although the mall has been having problems with occupancy, Crouch said having GCC there may change that situation.

“Hopefully, us being here will help other businesses in the mall,” she said.

Since there will be students, faculty and staff traveling through the mall to get to the classes, Crouch said they may take the opportunity to use the existing businesses in the mall, which could encourage other businesses to locate there.

Despite the move to the mall, Crouch said GCC had a good relationship with Michigan Works, which leased the college space at the Huron Centre, and with the schools, which allowed the use of their classrooms.

Crouch said GCC officials are glad about the move to the mall.

“They’re excited about this opportunity,” she said.