College of Central Florida secures second local funding source for new health building project

The bell tower is shown on an empty College of Central Florida campus in Ocala on June 30, 2020. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette]
The Marion County Hospital District (MCHD) Board of Trustees voted last night to approve funding for the College of Central Florida’s (CF) proposed Health Science Technology Education Center.

The board approved up to $1.42 million to help fund phase one, which includes renovating the school’s gymnasium to house programs focused on respiratory therapy, cardiovascular tech, sonography, and surgical technology.

CF President Dr. Jim Henningsen was thrilled to receive the funding and says it puts the college in a good spot going forward.

“It’s great. We’re going to be able to proceed with a gym renovation now. With their match, we are set up to really position ourselves well to secure funding this upcoming session.”

The MCHD also voted to fund phase two to the tune of up to $2.32 million, and in return, the district holds the naming rights to the new 3,500 square feet building that will be built.

Rich Bianculli, the Chairman of the MCHD Board of Trustees, believes the project will have positive implications for Ocala and Marion County.

“I think it’s going to be a great thing for the community that they’re finally able to do that expansion,” he said.

The MCHD isn’t the only local funding source for the project. Earlier this month, the Marion County Board of County Commissioners (MCBOCC) approved $2 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds for the new building.

Henningsen believes the multiple funding sources will set the project apart from others like it around Florida.

“Now, we’ve got two local multimillion-dollar donors. There are very few projects in the state like that.”

In addition to the funding sources, Henningsen says the plan has support from multiple area stakeholders.

“Our [legislative] delegation is behind it, we’ve got the hospital district behind it, the county is behind it, the hospital is behind it….I really think we can get this across the goal line. Our delegation members are so strong, and they are 100% behind the project.”

Bianculli sees the value in the project, especially in adding quality, trained nurses to a field that is experiencing a shortage.

“The more nurses, the better. The [nursing] shortage is unbelievable, so we’re very excited to be working with them on the project,” he said.

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