Okefenokee Technical College (OTC), a unit of the Technical College System of Georgia, is a postsecondary institution of higher learning with a workforce development mission. The college primarily serves citizens in six Southeast Georgia counties: Bacon, Brantley, Charlton, Clinch, Pierce, and Ware.
OTC provides services and programs on campus and at off-campus sites. The main campus is located at the intersection of Carswell Avenue and George Street at the west city limits of Waycross; Carswell Avenue bisects the campus into north and south sections. A branch campus in Alma, Bacon County, serves the north portion of the service area. Off-campus sites are provided in the remaining four counties to provide adult education services to citizens.
The history of the college can be traced back to 1962 and the passage of a $600,000 bond referendum for the construction of the Waycross-Ware County Area Vocational-Technical School. Commonly known as Waycross-Ware Tech, the first group of students arrived in 1965 and graduated in 1966. The original campus consisted of 18-20 acres on the south side of Carswell Avenue. In 1977 and 1979 the land was deeded to the college from two estates.
The first buildings on the original campus property, Buildings 100 and 200, were constructed in 1964-1965 and totaled 38,678 square feet.
In 1977 state funds were provided to enlarge the facilities with a 21,000 square foot building, Building 300. Named after the late Rodney Moore, an OTC board member, the Moore building helped to relieve crowded conditions and provided space for three hospital-based programs.
In 1989 Georgia legislators created the Department of Technical and Adult Education and Waycross-Ware Tech converted to state governance with the new name of Okefenokee Technical Institute. In 1992 DTAE purchased the Army Reserve Center on 3.67 acres for $88, 385. Buildings on the property were renovated and converted to the Adult Literacy Center, currently Building 500, a Forest Technology classroom and lab (Building 700), and a maintenance warehouse.
In 1994 planning began for a $400,000 Community Development Block Grant to be used for the construction of the Okefenokee Tech Child Care Center, Building 600, on a portion of this property. The 6,000 square foot child care and education center opened in January 1995. OTC discontinued child care services October 31, 2008.
In the fall of 1994, construction began on a $3,025,000 addition, Building 400, and renovation of the campus on the south side of Carswell Avenue. The 27,360 square foot addition included a 250-seat lecture hall, computer labs, a welding lab, an industrial maintenance lab, an apparel manufacturing lab, classrooms, and administrative support space. Exterior renovations included the north (front) and west facades of Building 100, a new entry to Building 300, a suite of offices for the Economic Development division, a hall connecting Building 300 to the 100 and 200 buildings, and the development of a new front entrance plaza. Dedicated November 7, 1996, the expansion increased the size of the Waycross campus facilities by one third. Along with the expansion, approximately one million dollars was spent to repair and renovate the older facilities.
With the cooperation of local community leaders, Okefenokee Tech opened a branch campus in Alma in September 1998. DTAE funded $200,000 for start-up costs for equipment and building renovations in a leased facility and an additional $200,000 for staff and operations. The downtown facility totaled 7,224 square feet on .25 acre. Also, in 1998 the OTC Foundation purchased two additional pieces of property to increase the size of the Waycross campus. East of and adjacent to the Nelson Green Senior Center on Carswell Avenue, 2.9 acres were purchased for $12,000 from the L.B. Harrell Trust. The Getty-Jones property, totaling 1.85 acres, was purchased for $24,200.
In 1999 the OTC Foundation purchased 4.5 acres of property on the southeast portion of the campus from Ware County. This property is west of and behind the Nelson Green Senior Center.
In 2000 community leaders recognized the need to provide for future growth of the college. DTAE purchased 4.524 acres on the northwest section of the Waycross campus from the McDaniel family for a cost of $90,000. The site houses a short rail line, a modular Building (1000) for the Environmental Horticulture and Commercial Truck Driving programs, a greenhouse and modular storage building, and a modular building for the Freight Conductor training program, Building 800. The state purchased 28.4611 acres on the north campus from the Lions Club for $60,000. Improvements of fencing and paving were made on the Lions Club site, and the area is used for the Commercial Truck Driving range and the training area for the Electrical Lineman program.
In July 2000 Georgia Legislation renamed the state’s eligible technical institutes to technical colleges, and in December 2000 the name of the school was changed to Okefenokee Technical College, and the college began offering Associate Degrees in Applied Technology (AAT).
DTAE purchased the leased property in downtown Alma in 2001 for $182,000 for the Alma campus. In 2002-2003 an adjacent building was purchased for the Alma campus, expanding the square footage to 9,292.
In 2003 DTAE approved the purchase of 11.816 acres on the south west corner of the Waycross campus. The site, purchased for $400,000, provided space for a new allied health building and college library.
In 2004 a parking lot with space for 100 vehicles was constructed on the southwest campus. A modular building, Building 800, was added to the north campus to house the Commercial Truck Driving and Environment Horticulture offices and labs.
In 2005 the county deeded a portion of the north campus to the city, resulting in the entire Waycross campus being in the city limits of Waycross. Also, in 2005 a greenhouse and a parking lot in front of the 1000 building were constructed on the north campus. Major renovations were completed on the off-campus site in Blackshear.
In 2006 a 2.73 acre commercial truck driving pad was poured on the north campus. In December 2006 the city of Alma and Bacon County deeded the Satilla EMC building and adjoining property to the state of Georgia to house the Alma campus of Okefenokee Technical College. The property includes 4.357 acres in the downtown area and three buildings totaling more than 40,000 square feet.
In 2006 the Department of Technical and Adult Education sought and received approval from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) to change the name of the Associate of Applied Technology degree to the Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree for its 33 member colleges.
In FY 2007 the state approved $10.2 million dollars for a new allied health building and library on the southwest portion of the Waycross campus and $2.2M for renovation and equipment for the new Alma campus facility in Alma. Construction on both facilities began fall of 2007.
In 2006-2007 improvements were made to the CTD driving range to accommodate changes in skill requirements. A training field for the electrical lineman program, including steel climbing structures and wood poles, was added at the rear of the commercial truck driving pad.
In 2007 a major renovation project was completed in the Student Affairs area located in the 100 building of the Waycross campus.
In the 2007-2008 academic year a lean-to and concrete pad were added to the horticulture storage building on the north campus.
The Forest Technology program was relocated from Building 700 to Building 800 in 2008-2009.
Renovations of the new Alma campus facility were completed in April 2009. Improvements were also made to the warehouse on the property. Work on the lab for the Facilities Maintenance and Construction programs was completed in 2011.
OTC became a Tobacco Free Campus on July 1, 2009.
The allied health building was completed in Fall 2009. In 2010 additional improvements were made on the south campus, including fencing behind the allied health building, faculty parking lot, a paved drive from George Street to Carswell Avenue, new fencing to enclose the automotive work area behind Building 100, a brick addition to the air conditioning lab, landscaping around the new building, campus security cameras, 911 call boxes, monitors in the library, exterior lighting, and a paved walkway between the main building and the allied health building.
Beginning in 2009, OTC initiated a comprehensive plan to improve IT applications, speed and efficiency. The bandwidth was increased and the core network upgraded. Work was completed in 2010.
In 2009 Okefenokee Technical College was accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award associate degrees, diplomas and technical certificates of credit.
In 2011 the child care facility was renovated to become an economic development training center to serve the citizens of Southeast Georgia; the student commons areas on the main campus were renovated; new bathrooms were constructed between the 100 and 200 buildings, and the warehouse was renovated to become offices for facilities and maintenance.
In 2011 the OTC Foundation, Inc., purchased the Wright property located on George Street and directly across from OTC.
At present, the campus consists of more than 67 acres in Waycross and 4.4 acres in Alma, Georgia. Spaces are leased in Brantley, Charlton, Clinch, and Pierce counties to provide adult literacy programs, continuing education, and enrollment-driven credit courses.