FARMINGTON — The parking lot of San Juan College's Quality Center for Business was full of donors, college faculty and administrators on Thursday for the groundbreaking on the new School of Energy building.

With shovels in hand and scoops of ceremonial dirt, those involved in the $15 million project celebrated their progress. Construction on the 52,553-square-foot building is projected to start next year. It is expected to wrap up in summer 2015.

"It's just a dream come true for many people that have worked hard to obtain investments from the state and the private industry partners," said San Juan College President Toni Pendergrass.

Members of the community pose for a group photo on Thursday before a groundbreaking for San Juan College s new School of Energy building.
Members of the community pose for a group photo on Thursday before a groundbreaking for San Juan College s new School of Energy building. (Jon Austria/The Daily Times)

Pendergrass said the new building will fill the demand for programs at the School of Energy. And, she said, it will accommodate students on waiting lists for classes.

The building will be constructed near the northeast corner of the main campus, located near the intersection of College and PiƱon Hills boulevards.

"We'll be able to meet our local and national workforce needs," Pendergrass said.

During a reception at the Henderson Fine Arts Center after the groundbreaking, Pendergrass and Randy Pacheco, the dean of the School of Energy, introduced the oil and gas industry donors who funded $8.4 million of the project.

"One thing that is very important is the state had some contributions, but this facility, more than 50 percent is privately funded, and no bonds were floated for this project," Pacheco said. "It shows the value that it means to the industry and the value it means to our local economy and community. I think there is a lot of opportunity here for the state to grow economically for our county and our city."

At right, Farmington Mayor Tommy Roberts waves to friends Thursday during a ground breaking for San Juan College s new School of Energy building.
At right, Farmington Mayor Tommy Roberts waves to friends Thursday during a ground breaking for San Juan College s new School of Energy building. (Jon Austria/The Daily Times)

BP America donated $5 million to jump start the project. Julia Levy, the company's director of government and public affairs, said BP is looking forward to the School of Energy becoming the premier natural gas workforce development and education center in the country.

"It provides BP and industry a more safe workforce, a more educated workforce, and it feeds our values of excellence and courage and respect," Levy said.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 and jkellogg@daily-times.com. Follow him @jkelloggdt on Twitter.