A gradual increase in enrollment and job demand has given Western Michigan University the opportunity to expand their College of Aviation campus at W.K. Kellogg Airport in Battle Creek.

The University announced May 7th on Tuesday that they will be adding on a 67,000-square-foot building to their current facility at the airport. Groundbreaking of the $20 million project took place on Friday. Funding for the project includes a $15 million grant from the State of Michigan.

The new center will provide added classroom space, a computer room, a state-of-the-art simulation center, research center, student briefing rooms, along with faculty office space, cafe, amenities and upgrades in technology and laboratories. The project is expected to take 14 months with an official opening in the summer of 2020.

Western's College of Aviation has seen a 35-percent growth over the last five years due to high demand for pilots, aircraft technicians and management, according to the college'e dean Dave Powell.

There are nearly 1,000 students in the aviation program. The college has been consistently ranked as one of the top three collegiate aviation programs nationally. Their undergraduate programs include aviation flight science, aviation management and operations, and aviation technical operations.

The announcement comes as the College of Aviation celebrates its 80th year of existence. The program began as a part of Western's College of Engineering in 1939, before it became it's own college when it moved to the Kellogg Airport in 1994.

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