Delaware Technical Community College broke ground Aug. 29 on a 13,500-square-foot Automotive Center of Excellence on the college’s Owens Campus in Georgetown.

The facility, along with the college’s new training center in Middletown, will house the first diesel mechanic training program in the region.

The ACOE will double the number of automotive technicians trained at Del Tech in Georgetown each year from 20 to 40 and will allow the college to train up to 15 diesel mechanics per year.

“The construction of this facility is in direct response to a dire workforce need for more diesel mechanics and auto technicians in our state and our region,” said Delaware Tech President Mark T. Brainard. “We are thankful for the generous support of our government and community partners, who are the reason we are able to break ground on this project today.”

Del Tech received a $1.97 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration to support construction of the facility, along with $1.8 million from the state’s Higher Education Fund, and $120,000 from Sussex County Council. This funding is in addition to support from many organizations and individuals in the state.

“For years we’ve heard that there are just not enough auto technicians in Delaware, which is why I’ve long supported the Economic Development Administration grant to help this Automotive Center for Excellence program get up and running, and I’ve waited a long time for this groundbreaking,” said Sen. Tom Carper. “This center will give students on Delmarva a great-paying trade to learn, allow them to stay and raise a family in the area instead of moving away for work, and give our area dealerships and diesel operators the workforce they so desperately need. This is a win-win for Delaware’s economy now and in the future.”

The total cost to build the ACOE is $5.4 million. In addition to the government support mentioned above, the organizations and individuals have pledged donations that enabled the college to secure the 35% match required by the EDA include Floyd A. Megee Motor Co., i.g. Burton & Co., Preston Auto Group, U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development, Winner Automotive Group, Carman Auto Group, First State Chevrolet, Willis Ford, Chevrolet of Dover, Matt Slap Subaru, The Volvo Group, AutoTeam Delaware, Bumpers and Company, Matt Kehoe, Meineke of Lewes, Nancy Jo and William Pepper and the Delaware Automobile and Truck Dealers’ Association.

Labor market data indicate more than 3,000 automotive technicians and more than 800 diesel mechanics are employed across Delmarva with average annual earnings of $39,874 and $44,595, respectively. Over the next 10 years, the region is projected to have 3,278 openings for automotive technicians due to retirements, job turnover and a 7% growth rate. Nine hundred forty-eight 948 job openings are expected for diesel mechanics in the same period due to retirements, job turnover and a 17% growth rate.

The expected completion date for the ACOE is November 2020.