Columbia International University broke ground Thursday on the William H. Jones Global Business and IT Center, located at its entrance on Monticello Road.
The $20 million facility will help educate students for business and IT jobs in a global workforce as well as provide resources for the community. It is also CIU’s first step in its goal of helping bring economic development to the Monticello Road corridor.
Mark Smith, president of CIU, said the new project reaches out to the community in way the school has never done before.
“We want to provide a corporate training room for Columbia area business professionals to act as a catalyst for business development,” Smith said.
The center is named for CIU chancellor Bill Jones.
Six undisclosed properties on Monticello Road have been purchased by CIU or are under contract to help spur economic development. The new business and IT center is one of five projects slated for the campus, with additional development expected to begin in the summer.
“I envision a more vibrant Monticello Road for the people of North Columbia that will attract businesses from the I-20 interchange to the CIU campus,” Smith said. “We have currently raised $15.5 million, which allows us to start moving dirt.”
CIU is currently in negotiations to purchase two other properties.
This past October, CIU’s board of trustees approved $22 million in facility expansions, including the business center. A $2 million renovation of the school’s dining facilities is also planned, with the goal of creating a banquet location.
Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin said the city has seen potential in Monticello Road for years.
“When you think about the rebirth of Northeast and Northwest Columbia and Blythewood, CIU is right in the heart of it,” Benjamin said. “To have such a significant investment by CIU is exciting, and we have to be supportive of it.”
Benjamin said the city will work closely with CIU to help expedite permitting and find economic development partnerships.
“Hard-working families have labored in the vineyards for years to make this a special place, and their hard work is finally going to see some rewards,” Benjamin said. “I want to families here, and restaurants and hotels. I will continue to work with the Department of Transportation on beautification of the I-20/Monticello Road corridor. We want to let people know we are open for business.”