Sitting under a big tent behind USC Aiken’s softball field, on the ground that will one day make way for the Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative, one couldn’t help but think of the baseball field analogy from “Field of Dreams.”
Build it and they will come.
While the movie version involves an Iowa cornfield and our national pastime, the AMC has been a project several years in the making. When completed, the high-tech facility will feature a partnership between USC Aiken, Savannah River National Lab and private investment.
More than 100 people showed up as the Department of Energy’s under secretary for science, Paul Dabbar, and other dignitaries unveiled a 3D model of what the $50 million facility will look like when it is finished.
“As I look out on this vista, I no longer see a campus intramural field,” USC Aiken Chancellor Dr. Sandra Jordan said. “I see the state-of-the-art DOE Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative.”
And that’s not all. Plans also call for DreamPort, the university’s collaboration with the S.C. National Guard to create a cybersecurity hub on the campus.
“Next door to [the AMC], instead of a softball field, I see the National Guard cybersecurity DreamPort, all nestled together here,” Jordan said.
One-by-one, the dignitaries praised the work that went into making AMC a reality.
“Collaboration, communication and cooperation,” S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster said. “It works every time.”
U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., praised the bipartisan teamwork that went into the project. The state’s U.S. senators, Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott, weren’t on hand but were praised alongside Wilson for fighting for it on Capitol Hill.
Aiken Mayor Rick Osbon also made a promise to “not squander this opportunity.”
As Savannah River Site celebrates its 70th anniversary this year – President Truman announced the Atomic Energy Commission project in 1950 – Dabbar couldn’t help but note many of the monumental efforts that have involved a private-public partnership.
Those included the Manhattan Project, the race to develop an atomic bomb, and the Apollo program, which culminated with man walking on the moon.
Future public-private partnerships could involve quantum mechanics, clean energy and the moon-to-Mars effort.
Pointing to USC Aiken’s student ambassadors, Dabbar said, “Someone from your generation is going to walk on Mars.”
It’s an exciting time for the Aiken community as these oft-talked about projects begin to come to life. Much like the creation of the Savannah River Plant in the early 1950s, the AMC and DreamPort will have a significant economic impact even if it encompasses a much smaller footprint.
As Jordan said, the entities “will create an anchor for a corridor of innovation that will advance the Central Savannah River Area, stretch across the river to Augusta and Fort Gordon, all in the service of the state of South Carolina, the region and this nation.”
The intramural field on the edge of campus isn’t much to look at now. But it’s well on its way to becoming a field of dreams for generations to come.