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New Dalton IDEA Center Announced

The newly launched Thomas P. Dalton IDEA Center will be a hub for entrepreneurship, with an expanded Fab Lab serving as the anchor. Citing a desire to see the college maintain a presence in Uptown Martinsville, the family of Mr. Dalton through its generous donation has made it possible for the Patrick Henry Community College Real Estate Foundation to purchase the building which will bear his name. Mr. Dalton, who was a lifelong resident of Martinsville and Henry County until his death in 2012, was a 1982 graduate of PHCC and received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Averett University in 1984.

The three-floor, 20,520 square-foot building on Fayette Street has housed Solid Stone Fabrics since 2008, which is moving to the former Bassett-Walker facility on Rives Road in Martinsville to expand.

"PHCC Real Estate Foundation provides the vehicle for individuals to donate properties or resources to secure real estate to promote college's mission. Community is our middle name, and this Uptown facility represents that ongoing commitment," said Christopher Parker, Vice-president for Institutional Advancement and Campus Life.

IDEA Center stands for Innovate. Design. Engineer. Accelerate. The center will serve as the new home for PHCC’s Fab Lab, Artisan, and Community Development programs, which are currently housed in the Artisan Center on Main and Church Streets. It is the Fab Lab, though, that will serve as the flagship.

“The Fab Lab originated as a shared vision to create jobs, promote entrepreneurship and develop small business,” said Dr. Angeline Godwin, PHCC’s president.

A collaboration between PHCC, the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corporation (EDC) and New College Institute (NCI), the Fab Lab is part of the U.S. Fab Lab Network and offers opportunities for digital fabrication to individuals and companies in ways that are not practical or economical using mass production. “It is about creating product and developing technology,” Godwin said.

The gift in Mr. Dalton’s honor, along with recently received grant funds of $250,000 from the US Community Adjustment and Investment Program, will allow the Fab Lab to move to the new facility and double its capacity, thereby adding to an impressive collection of high-end computer-controlled tools and machinery, which includes 3-D printers, plasma cutter, CNC router, injection molding machine, and laser systems.

“The expanded Fab Lab really has three prongs,” Godwin said. “We will integrate the Fab Lab into academic programming; we will promote student entrepreneurship; and we will offer to business and industry the ability to develop new products and technology.” The Dalton IDEA Center in no way replaces or competes with the business incubator (operated by the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce), Godwin emphasized. “Rather, it is a technology accelerator and can be a pipeline to the incubator, with entrepreneurs creating new products and new technologies at the Dalton IDEA Center using its resources and equipment, and then moving on to the incubator to begin actual business operations. The Dalton IDEA Center will focus on product and technology development,” she said. The technology accelerator will have innovation-based economic development support through the EDC, she added.

“The EDC has partnered with PHCC and NCI from day one to establish and fund the Fab Lab, and we are excited to see it evolve to a higher level” said Mark Heath, president and CEO of the EDC. “We view the Fab Lab as a critical component of small business development by providing the link between ideas and prototyping, to actual industrial production. The EDC will expand its partnership with PHCC and NCI in this initiative by allocating additional staff and financial resources through our Small, Minority & Entrepreneurial division under the direction of Valerie Harper.”

Entrepreneurial education will include further development of workforce training programs, academic programs in entrepreneurship, general engineering technologies, information technology and Innovation Engineering certification. PHCC is the first community college in the nation to offer Innovation Engineering, which is a design platform that utilizes the Fab Lab.

“This is huge for our community: innovation and technology, and a new education corridor on Fayette Street with NCI, the Dental Clinic, and the proposed medical school. This is very exciting news that demonstrates growth and economic potential for Martinsville and Henry County,” said Rhonda Hodges, Vice President of Workforce, Economic, and Community Development.

The Dalton IDEA Center also represents a metamorphosis for the Artisan Center, with more emphasis on community development and broadening community partnerships in the artisan area, according to Hodges. The “home office” of the artisan program will be housed in the Dalton IDEA Center, although classes will be offered throughout PHCC’s service region, she said. Weaving and pottery classes are now offered in Patrick County through a partnership with Reynolds Homestead, and the college recently participated in a joint exploration of collaborative opportunities with Piedmont Arts. Adding to existing classes in photography, woodturning, woodworking, quilting, jewelry, dance, and glass, PHCC is broadening its reach in the arts by adding creative writing and poetry classes. Other community development programs include continuing education, outreach and partnerships, Hodges said.