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'We should never forget' groundbreaking moment

On a bad day "to plant taters but a good day for a groundbreaking because the water has softened everything up," about 200 community leaders huddled under two tents on Thursday for the ceremonial construction start of a $32 million health sciences building to serve Pardee Hospital, Blue Ridge Community College and Wingate University.


The result of unprecedented cooperation that itself broke new ground in the local political landscape, the project is destined to become a landmark achievement in the community's history, speakers said.

"I think we should take this moment and put it deep in our minds so we never forget it. I don't think we will," Hendersonville Mayor Pro Tem Ron Stephens said. "But in years to come — in two years, five years — when people talk about what a great idea this was and the great things that have happened in Hendersonville because of it you can take pride that you were here at the groundbreaking."
Pardee Board of Directors Chair Walter Carpenter praised the spirit of cooperation that produced the five-party agreement.
"We've heard that this collaboration between a hospital, a private university and a community college sharing the same space in one building doesn't exist anywhere else," he said. "I can tell you that five entities such as the ones you've heard from today cooperatively working together is hard to find and hard to beat. Our community should hold the collaboration within the building the collaboration that brought the concept together in the first place in high regard."

"Pulling together what works well in one location will result in amazing synergies that I think will benefit us all,” Carpenter added. “So to our commissioners and the city I say thank you. To our co-tenants in the building I say welcome to the neighborhood and to you the community I say join us in celebrating this monumental event.”

Four years ago, county leaders were talking about “making our hospital and our area more of a teaching school and very possibly being able to bring a medical school here,” County Commission Chair Tommy Thompson said. “The vision of about four years ago is still continuing.”
Wingate University's need for more space for its Hendersonville-based graduate programs gave rise to a concept, then negotiations and finally execution of a plan for the city of Hendersonville and Henderson County to cooperate on buying land and building the 98,000 square foot facility for health sciences for the two colleges and the county-owned hospital.
"We've had a lot of obstacles to overcome but together we have worked through problems and reached this wonderful moment," Wingate President Jerry McGee said. "We look forward to making sure that this is a great investment that you all are making in this county. Everything we have asked you to do you've shouldered up and worked with us to make it happen. At the end of the day you're going to have better trained health care workers, at the end of the day you're going to have a fine institution and at the end of the day we're going to all be even better friends."
BRCC Chair John McCormick, who noted the soft soil for shoveling, also praised the cooperation that led to the celebration on a rainy day in late winter.
"This groundbreaking certainly would not be possible without the vision of support of the county commissioners, Hendersonville City Council and the taxpayers of this areas," said John McCormick, thanking Pardee's leaders, too, for joining the venture. "By supporting the idea and ultimately the construction of this building you've invested in opportunity, in education, in world-class health care and economic development of this region and this wonderful community we call home."