Assiniboine Community College has received a record donation toward the Prairie Innovation Centre it has plans to build.
Sunrise Credit Union announced a $1-million donation toward the centre at an event at the Len Evans Centre for Trades and Technology at the college’s North Hill campus on Monday afternoon.
The event was packed with dignitaries such as all three of Brandon’s MLAs, Mayor Rick Chrest and representatives of Sunrise Credit Union.
When complete, the centre will expand the college’s number of seats for agriculture students from fewer than 300 to more than 800.
Speaking to the Sun after the announcement, college president Mark Frison said that the donation was a big first step toward the total $10 million in donations the college expects it will need to establish the centre.
"This is an incredible gift from Sunrise Credit Union and a great recognition of their belief in our Prairie Innovation Centre and the importance of ag training in the province of Manitoba," Frison said. "This gets us off to a strong start. Certainly, we have other donors in the works, but this is a great way to kick it off."
This announcement was a year in the making, with Frison saying that a speech he gave to the Brandon Chamber of Commerce this time last year about starting to kick discussions off with potential donors.
He’s hoping that if things continue to go well, the centre could start holding classes as soon as 2024.
Sunrise president and CEO Tim Klassen said that they’ve been thinking about making a donation since Frison’s presentation and they’ve known for a while that this would be a good fit for the company.
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"The college has done amazing (work) over the last many, many years because of the quality of education," said Klassen. "We’ve hired many students that have come from Assiniboine Community College and been trained here."
As for why Sunrise decided to make a record donation, Klassen said the simple reason is because they could.
"The credit union, the organization as a whole has become stronger over many years and it’s become a size and a scale that we could accommodate this," he said. "It’s important to our members."
Provincial Agriculture Minister Blaine Pedersen, who was also in attendance, said he was glad to see the donation and the progress being made with the innovation centre given the demand for jobs in the agri-food sector.
"Assiniboine Community College is leading the way here with that training," he said. "There are so many opportunities for Manitobans here."
He also said that donations like the one Sunrise made aren’t just investments in the community, but in the companies themselves as they will be able to hire people who benefit from the increased access to education.
» Twitter: @ColinSlark