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St. Francis Xavier breaks ground on new school building

By LAUREN MCDONALD lmcdonald@thebrunswicknews.com

St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Brunswick broke ground Friday on a new school building.

The planned facility will be a 30,000-square-foot school in downtown Brunswick at Grant and Howe streets.

Bishop Stephen Parkes of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Savannah told parents, students, school staff and others gathered for the ceremony that the new school will be a nice addition to the city’s entrance.

“I know a lot of work has been put in to making it something that is special and something very beautiful for God, and also for all of the young people, the students who will be coming here,” he said. “It’s really an honor for us as part of the Diocese of Savannah to be partnering with you and to be able to create something that will be here to stand as a welcome to the gateway of Brunswick.”

The $9 million project has been made possible by local donors.

“What an exciting day for the city of Brunswick, the community of St. Francis Xavier and the greater church,” said Carrie Jane Williamson, interim superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Savannah. “From the first moment that a student sets foot into a Catholic school, he or she ought to have the impression of entering a new school environment, one illuminated by the light of faith and having its own unique characteristics.

“Today, we gather to break ground on exactly that — a new environment illuminated by the light of faith and the faithful.”

The new school will boast the latest in modern design, she said, and meticulous thought has been given to the school’s features, which will include a broadcasting studio, contemporary spacious classrooms and comprehensive safety and security systems.

Terry Mermann, principal at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School, said he was excited to see the school mark such a milestone.

“It’s so nice to see so many people here today who’ve contributed time, talent, and treasure to get us to this special day,” he said.

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AGC Georgia Partners with Regional Contractors to Host Skills Challenge for Southeast Georgia High School Students

  • Savannah Business Journal Staff Report

October 22, 2021 – The Associated General Contractors of Georgia (AGC Georgia) has partnered with West Construction Company, Ace Electric, Inc., and Choate Construction Company to host construction students from 19-area high schools for the Southeast Georgia Workforce Development Alliance Skills Challenge. The competitions will be held on Nov. 2, beginning at 8:30 a.m. at the Bulloch County Agricultural Complex (44 Arena Blvd., Statesboro, Ga.). The event is one of seven regional events held throughout the state.

Competitions at this Skills Challenge will be held in the following categories: blueprint reading, carpentry, electrical, masonry, plumbing, tile setting, and welding. 

“Our team is proud to be a host contractor for this inaugural southeast Georgia event with the support of many industry firms that are serving as sponsors,” said Matt West, president of West Construction Company. “Beyond inspiring the competitors, we hope to educate students on the numerous career path opportunities available to them in the construction industry.” 

In addition to more than 121 competitors who will participate in this event, another 114 students will attend as observers to learn the process in hopes of competing in future years. Local industry companies provide volunteer judges for each of the skills competitions, as well as the volunteers who offer hands-on activities for student observers. These activities help students become more familiar with specific construction trades.

“AGC Georgia is partnering with regional contractors to host Skills Challenges in seven cities around the state,” said AGC Georgia CEO Mike Dunham. “This series provides an opportunity for high school students to showcase what they’ve learned in the classroom and apply it through competition. It’s rewarding to have competitors’ parents, their construction teachers, and school counselors, as well as academic and community leaders, attend to see all the excitement surrounding today’s construction industry.” 

Students from the following construction programs plan to compete in the Southeast Skills Challenge: Bryan County High School, Burke County High School, Camden County High School, Crisp County High School, East Laurens High School, Golden Isles College & Career Academy, Jefferson County High School, Liberty County College & Career Academy, Madison County High School, School of Liberal Arts at Savannah High School, Statesboro High School, Toombs County High School, Vidalia High School, Ware County High School, Wayne County High School, West Laurens High School, Wheeler County High School, Windsor Forest High School, and Woodville Tompkins High School. 

This event also prepares students who go on to compete in the regional SkillsUSA event in January. Winners of that regional event will participate in the state SkillsUSA competition in late February at the Georgia World Congress Center. 

For more information about Skills Challenges, visit www.agcga.org/skills.

Savannah Country Day School to Break Ground on Upper School STEM Building

Friday, May 14th, 2021

Savannah Country Day School has announced that it has secured the funding to begin construction on a new 32,000 sq. ft. Upper School building.

The new building, which will be named in honor of Shirley and Bud Mingledorff ’64, will house all Upper School STEM classes, including five math classrooms, five science labs, an energy learning lab, and a fabrication/maker space. Other building features will include a library, conference/meeting rooms, common areas for students, Deans’ offices, and a second-story outdoor gathering space.

The new Upper School building was made possible by the lead gifts of Bud ’64 and Shirley Mingledorff, Rob ‘66 and Celeste Demere, Ben and Susie MacMillan, and Reed ‘87 and Meredith ‘92 Dulany. Other significant contributors include Peter Thacher and Jane Vaden Thacher ‘84, the Lewis Family Foundation, Brian and Kathie Harlander, Hunter ‘97 and Clementine Philbrick, Curtis ‘70 and Carol Lewis, and the Hunter Foundation.

“We are thrilled to be moving forward with the construction of our new Upper School STEM building. The support of our donors, especially during this past year, speaks volumes to the generosity and resolve of our larger school community,” states Head of School Kef Wilson. “This new state-of-the-art building will transform our campus and provide for our students a first-rate academic facility.”

Savannah Country Day partnered with Architectural Resources Cambridge out of Boston, MA, and Hussey Gay Bell of Savannah to design a building that would complement the surrounding facilities and anchor the Upper School buildings. Local general contracting firm West Construction Company will oversee construction, which is expected to conclude in the fall of 2022.

Matt West, president of West Construction Company adds, “The addition of the STEM building reinforces Country Day’s reputation of academic excellence and its commitment to students and faculty. We’re excited to be a part of this significant project for our community, and look forward to all of the work ahead.”

The Upper School STEM building is the initial phase of Country Day’s $20 million “Invest in Excellence” campaign to improve campus facilities and better meet the needs of students. Additional components include athletic upgrades and renovations, a fine and performing arts expansion, and efforts to benefit The Little School and grow the school’s endowment.

Article Link: http://savannahceo.com/features/2021/05/savannah-country-day-school-break-ground-upper-school-stem-building/

Union Mission announces $1.5 million capital campaign to expand emergency housing programs to homeless women

by: McKenna Cieslak
Posted: May 11, 2021 / 08:40 AM EDT / Updated: May 11, 2021 / 09:01 AM EDT

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Union Mission announces a $1.5 million Capital Campaign, A Haven for Her, to expand service delivery to 32-women as part of a new Grace House for Women (GHFW). Union Mission plans to renovate the building at 125 Fahm St. that has been vacated by J.C. Lewis Health Care. This will be the only Emergency Housing Program for unaccompanied, homeless women along the I-95 corridor from the South Carolina/Georgia border to the Florida/Georgia border.

On any given night, over 180 women in Chatham County are experiencing homelessness, according to the ChathamSavannah Authority for the Homeless’ 2019 HUD Point-in-Time Survey. With 219,911 homeless women in the United States and 2,297 homeless women in Georgia alone, Chatham County ranks the second highest rate of homelessness in the state with women making up approximately 28% of the homeless population in Savannah.


“Homeless women can be living alone on the streets, sleeping in their cars, couch-surfing or if able, living in motels,” said Union Mission President & CEO, Michael Traynor. “Many of them feel unsafe. With your help, and in partnership
with the broader community, we will begin to address the need and provide a safe, supportive space for unaccompanied women to transition out of homelessness.”


This will be the only facility in the Savannah-Chatham area dedicated solely to unaccompanied women experiencing homelessness. GHFW will be a 90-day program that provides basic human needs, including housing, food, clothing,
transportation, access to mental healthcare, employment support, as well as community referrals that will further support their ability to become independent members of the community. GHWC is expected to serve over 100 women annually.

The campaign to expand services to unaccompanied, homeless women is off to a significant start with The City of Savannah awarding Union Mission $310,000 through an Emergency Solutions grant authorized by the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act through the federal government. Union Mission plans to seek and solicit funding from a variety of sources to renovate and provide the necessary supportive services to this deserving segment on the homeless population.

For the full story on WSAV click the link

SCAD introduces new backlot, XR stage at Savannah Film Studios; first of its kind in Southeast

Zach Dennis Savannah Morning News

A Saharan desert. A tropical rainforest. The bustling streets of early 20th century London. Maybe even an interstellar civilization on another planet.

Most of these would require expensive set design and months of construction to make possible. Now, they’re available at the click of a mouse — and they all could be found in a sound stage just outside downtown Savannah.

On Friday, the Savannah College of Art and Design announced their new XR stage and backlot expansion to the Savannah Film Studios, 2315 Louisville Road. The 10.9 acre project will include a Hollywood-style film backlot, an XR Stage for virtual productions, and indoor soundstages. The stage, which was created in partnership with MEPTIK Studios, will be state-of-the-art and will make Savannah Film Studios the most comprehensive university film studio complex in the country.

“It is an absolute game-changer,” Andra Reeve-Rabb, dean of entertainment arts at SCAD, said. “That’s because it’s what’s next.”

XR Stage will be first of its kind in South Georgia

The capstone of the Hollywood-style film backlot, the XR Stage will allow SCAD and Savannah to bring productions into the virtual age with the ability to provide any backdrop imaginable.

SCAD’s Savannah Film Studios located at 2315 Louisville Road. Photo courtesy of SCAD

“It’s very unique to have a university adopt this,” Nick Rivero, one of the founders of MEPTIK, said. “Nobody else is doing this. Nobody else is building a pipeline, and technology at this scale.”

XR, or extended reality, is, as Rivero describes, one of the three R’s of virtual. The first is VR or virtual reality, which has been available in the mainstream for awhile and allows users to put on a headset and engage with the software. The second is AR or augmented reality, which utilizes technology that allows users to use their device to project the content in front of them.

XR utilizes both technologies, but on the scale of a production set — similar to how a green screen would operate. Using a computer, the production can project a set backdrop from anything they can imagine. Rivero said the technology was utilized most notably in the production of the Star Wars/Disney Plus series “The Mandalorian.”

“So basically, you’re talking about a 50-foot-wide screen, a very high (resolution), very bright screen. And that is really the core, which is we’re doing away with the traditional green screen. In Hollywood before, you’d have these big green screens, then they take that into post-production, and they replace it. Same thing you see on the nightly news on the weather, you’re seeing (that) technology, that’s what we’ve always known,” Rivero said.

He added that the technology will allow post-production to be virtually done away with as actors and the filmmaking team would be able to see and interact with the digitally projected backgrounds at the same time as they’re shooting the scene.

Outside of the screen that is projecting the content, the stage will also be powered by Unreal Engine, which has become well-known in the video game industry with games such as “Fortnite” or “Borderlands.”

“It is literally a video game engine that has now been adapted to this world of XR and virtual production,” Rivero said. “So we build these worlds that are real, they have real depth (and) real scale. They also act just like video games, so we can make things interactive, and things don’t have to abide by reality so we can make the sun explode or something, you can do that.”

The last piece is the Disguise engine, which is built by a company based out of London that has been behind many of the virtual experiences that have populated the pre- and post-COVID entertainment landscape such as the Grammys, Emmys and Super Bowl halftime show.

“I think this is setting the precedent for what the future will become,” Rivero said.

SCAD Backlot is breaking new ground in university realm

With the capabilities set with the XR stage, the Savannah Film Studios will allow SCAD students of various practices and studies to engage with a production set that is up to par with anything seen in Hollywood.

Andra Reeve-Rabb said the ability to provide on-site training for the students is the “superpower” that SCAD holds with this new addition.

For the full article head to Savannahnow.com

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West Construction Company Receives Two Build Georgia Awards for Local Projects

West Construction Company was recently recognized by the Associated General Contractors of Georgia (AGC Georgia) with two Build Georgia Awards for the construction of local projects, the Tybee Island Marine Science Center and the Scottish Rite Masonic Center. 

The Tybee Island Marine Center received a prestigious first-place honor from the AGC. A state of the art 10,000 square foot facility, the center was designed to “bring the outside in” with 270-degree panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean. Built for the City of Tybee Island, the center features hands-on exhibits and galleries, an amphitheater, and a number of sustainable design features including a rainwater cistern, locally sourced sustainable building materials, and energy-efficient systems. The project team included West Construction, architect Sottile & Sottile, and engineer Kern & Co., LLC. 

The Scottish Rite Masonic Center received an award of merit from the AGC for the 2021 Build Georgia Awards. After being located on Bull Street for over 100 years, the new home for one of Savannah’s longest philanthropic organizations is now located off of Chatham Parkway. The new 24,000 square foot facility features a unique combination of old-world materials and craftsmanship with state-of-the-art energy-efficient components. The design includes multiple exterior ornamental columns, detailed brick, and cast stone exterior, and the largest hardscape mosaic of the Scottish Rite Double Eagle in North America. Inside, the building features a combination of detailed tile flooring, stained oak trim and casework, a full commercial kitchen, a library, and multiple gathering and ceremonial rooms. The project was designed by Peterson Gordon Architects and Coleman Company served as civil engineers. 

AGC Georgia is the leading, statewide trade association representing the commercial construction industry in Georgia. The organization holds an annual awards competition where projects are judged on their ability to demonstrate excellence in several categories including exceptional project safety performance, overcoming the challenges of a difficult project, innovation in construction techniques and materials, excellence in project management and scheduling, and dedication to client service and customer care. The selection panel includes industry professionals and hundreds of projects are submitted annually. 

Award recipients are recognized at the AGC’s annual convention and also featured in a special construction-focused supplement in the June issue of Atlanta Business Chronicle. 

OPINION: Look to skilled trades to find ‘essential’ work

Savannah Morning News, Matt West

Savannah Morning News

The COVID-19 crisis has dominated the news since March and has affected our lives in every way imaginable. How we work, worship, educate, shop and even play isn’t the same, and won’t be again. One day, we’ll talk about the days of “before COVID” similar to how we discuss flying prior to Sept 11, 2001. However, as with the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Y2K, the dot-com bubble and many other crises our nation has endured before, we’ll make it through this, and one day, we’ll be stronger because of this trial.

The current COVID crisis has introduced us to a new term that we weren’t familiar with just a few months ago: “essential worker.” We saw the COVID-19 quarantine and subsequent recession cripple many retailers, hoteliers, and other related industries. As I write this, there are 16 million people unemployed, and the unemployment rate in the hospitality industry is 25%. Many economists predict a large number of retail, hospitality, and restaurant jobs won’t return.

These are sobering statistics, and are even more impactful for our community, which depends on the 14 million tourists that visit us annually. However, in this economic winter there are some green shoots of opportunity if you look hard enough.

The current unemployment rate in the construction industry is 8%. If you look deeper, you’ll find that the unemployment rate for those with a skilled trade, such as electricians, plumbers, welders, and ironworkers, is even lower. On top of the low unemployment rate, current projections show that we’ll need almost 250,000 more skilled trade workers in Georgia by 2022.

These careers as “essential workers” also come with an average hourly wage of $27 per hour, plus benefits. Assuming a small amount of overtime work, one can easily earn $60,000 to $80,000 per year, without incurring any student debt.

So, what does all of this mean for us, now?

Thomas Edison once said, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” We have a unique opportunity now to help develop those unemployed, under-employed, and soon-to-be-employed into skilled tradesmen and women with careers, not jobs. It just takes work.

Are you unemployed and wondering what to do next? Are you the parent of a high-schooler and wondering what’s next for your son or daughter? Maybe you’re looking for a career change? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, consider a career in construction.

There are numerous avenues into the industry for whichever stage of life you’re in. If you need training first, visit the Construction Education Foundation of Georgia at cefga.org, or contact Savannah Tech for options. If you’re ready to get to work, call your local plumbing, electrical, welding and HVAC companies and learn on the job. If you have a strong work ethic and a desire to learn, they’re hiring.

The construction industry is not a consolation prize. It offers a direct path to stable, long-term financial success. It teaches generations that success comes with hard work and that you can be in control of your own destiny. If you’re ready to create an opportunity for yourself in a rewarding career, come join us. Our industry needs you.

Matt West is the president of West Construction Co., a general contracting firm based in Savannah.

Article Link: https://bit.ly/39sVR2G

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Senior Citizens, Inc. opens new Center for Successful Aging

John Kern, Kern & Company; Mayor Van Johnson, City of Savannah; Lila Critz, Co-Chair of the  Capital Campaign; Susan Hancock, Board Chair for SCI; Jeff Kole, Co-Chair of the Capital Campaign; Matt West, West Construction Company; Patti Lyons, President, SCIANAGHA

January 11, 2021 – Senior Citizens, Inc. recently hosted a ribbon cutting for their new Center for Successful Aging.

On Jan. 8, 2021, SCI President Patti Lyons joined board leadership, local dignitaries and key donors to officially open their new center, featuring a state-of-the-art-facility and a total renovation of the nonprofit’s campus.

Serving Savannah and surrounding communities since 1959, SCI provides more than 10 major programs and services to address the changing needs of the aging population, including physical, intellectual, spiritual, and communal well-being. Over the next 15 years, the percentage of older adults (60+) in Savannah alone will increase from 28 percent to 48 percent of the population. To meet this growing need, SCI, a national leader in services for older adults, expanded and enhanced the services they offer.

To learn more about SCI, its services, and plans for expansion, please visit www.seniorcitizensinc.orgor call 912-236-0363. 

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New Enmarket convenience store opens in Pooler, creates 20 jobs

Savannah Morning News

The new Pooler store becomes the 128th store in the growing Savannah-based chain of convenience stores.

Last week, Enmarket opened its latest new store in Pooler.

The new store at 1264 U.S. Highway 80 East, at its corner with Pine Barren Road, is a travel center, serving both regular travelers and heavy truck traffic.

The new Pooler store – Enmarket’s fourth in the west Chatham municipality – becomes the 128th store in the growing Savannah-based chain of convenience stores. Beginning in 2020, The chain’s expansion in Chatham County went from the eastern coastal municipality of Thunderbolt to the explosively growing west Chatham area, including Port Wentworth.

The basic “bones” of the newest building became the fourth store built to Enmarket’s new prototype store design. Like the store that opened earlier this year in Port Wentworth, this iteration is a travel center adapted to dual roles for truck traffic and consumer motorists.

Enmarket expansion:Enmarket opens new store in Thunderbolt

“Growth in the Pooler area called for an additional store, and it needed to be a travel center to serve the diverse demands in that area. You have the growing residential population in that area to serve, and that area of the county is also a pipeline into the Port of Savannah, calling for truck services,” said Brett Giesick, president of Enmarket.

The new Pooler store becomes the 128th store in the growing Savannah-based chain of convenience stores.

The new store offers The Eatery, Enmarket’s signature kitchen, which will offer hot food for all three meals as well as freshly made grab-and-go food options, bean-to-cup coffee and Mooz frozen yogurt. The fuel selection is unleaded, mid-grade, premium, non-ethanol, diesel and truck diesel. Customers looking to bypass the checkout line will have the option of using self-service registers or their mobile phone, utilizing mobile checkout technology with the Skip Checkout app.

New design:Enmarket opens newly rebuilt store

The opening of the store created about 20 jobs.

The four Enmarket stores that have opened in the past 10 months are strategically based around Chatham County – the growing commercial area developing around U.S. Highway 17 and Chatham Parkway, a Port Wentworth store whose clientele includes truck traffic serving the Port of Savannah, a Thunderbolt store in eastern Chatham serving as a gateway to the suburban islands, and the newly opened location serving the fast-growing Pooler area. All four are variations on the modern prototype.

West Construction was the general contractor on the new store.

West named to statewide construction association

By Savannah Morning News   

Matt West, president of Savannah-based West Construction Co., was recently selected to serve a three-year term on the Associated General Contractors of Georgia Board of Directors.

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