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New center to match restaurant workforce needs

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The Greenville Tech Foundation and The Furman Co. are partnering to meet workforce needs of the growing restaurant and hospitality industry struggling to attract enough workers. 

Greenville Technical College’s new Center for Culinary and Hospitality Innovation will anchor the Poe West development at 556 Perry Ave.

Former home to Poe Hardware and Supply Co. and later Diversified Systems Inc., the site was purchased by The Furman Co. in 2017 and renovations are expected to begin this spring for a fall opening, according to a news release.

“Greenville Technical College’s new Center for Culinary and Hospitality Innovation will bring education that provides entry to one of Greenville’s fastest growing sectors, allowing people to quickly prepare for nearby job opportunities,” the announcement said. “These programs will provide an on-ramp to the workforce as well as a start on stackable credentials that will lead to promotions.”

The future home of the Center for Culinary and Hospitality Innovation is in Poe West. (Photo/Ross Norton)The $10 million property will include culinary and hospitality focused tenants and will feature creative office space, restaurants and shops. Poe West, with the Center for Culinary and Hospitality Innovation as a culinary partner, will provide an anchor for the project. Poe West was conceived to offer a place in the village for creative, energetic thinking, the news release said.

“The Furman Co. is committed to providing a warm and welcoming space that facilitates collaboration, community, and connection — both economically and socially — among its creative office users, artists, food makers and connoisseurs,” the release said.

Greenville Technical College officials said the project is expected help transform the surrounding neighborhood, bringing opportunities for economic prosperity to West Greenville. Similar projects include development of the former Claussen Bakery on Augusta Street, once a vacant building and now a mixed-use facility housing McMillan Pazdan Smith Architecture and Upstate Craft Beer Company.

“We are proud to be part of an innovative approach to providing skilled employees for one of our area’s strongest sectors while allowing the people of West Greenville to access the training they need to find jobs and succeed,” Keith Miller, president of Greenville Technical College, said in the news release. “When industry and education come together, connecting a business need with skill building that creates a well-qualified workforce, the community benefits on every level.”

More than 120 restaurants are located in downtown Greenville and most of them have struggled to keep up with staffing needs in recent months.

Quick Jobs programs in server/wait staff, bartending, and knife skills will be featured at the Center for Culinary and Hospitality Innovation. The center will also offer continuing education for culinary and hospitality professionals close to where they live and work. In addition, personal interest classes, summer camps, culinary incubator space, a culinary television show produced by WSPA, and a new hospitality and tourism program will be featured, according to the release. The facility will include a 50-seat kitchen auditorium, a multi-purpose teaching kitchen, and three interactive classrooms.

“Downtown Greenville has a concentration of hospitality and culinary jobs while many people living nearby are unprepared for those opportunities. Our new Center for Culinary and Hospitality Innovation will be the connection between needs and opportunities, building the workforce and giving people a pathway to economic self-sufficiency,” said Jermaine Whirl, vice president for learning and workforce development at Greenville Technical College.

The center will expand upon and create a pathway for programs of the Culinary Institute of the Carolinas, which will remain at Greenville Technical College’s Northwest Campus, the release said. Associate degrees in Culinary Arts Technology and General Technology with a career path in sustainable agriculture/small business management/entrepreneurship are offered at the facility along with certificates in baking and pastry arts, culinary education and sustainable agriculture.

The West Greenville project will be led by the Greenville Tech Foundation, which is seeking partners and donors.

“The foundation has an opportunity through this location to bring the proven benefits of a Greenville Technical College education to West Greenville and to meet several key priorities of access, student services, and job training,” said Ann Wright, vice president for advancement with the Greenville Tech Foundation.

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