WATER VALLEY – The impressive list of financial supporters for the state’s first Rural Education and Innovation Hub continues to grow with last week’s announcement of a $492,131 USDA grant awarded to Base Camp Coding Academy. The grant is part of almost $5 million allocated from public and private sources to transform a long-abandoned 64,000 square-foot textile factory in Water Valley into a high-tech educational hub that will be called Everest. The building will house classes for Base Camp and Northwest Mississippi Community College and provide space for a business tech incubator.
The USDA grant will allow Base Camp to connect with the resources of Northwest Mississippi Community College campus in Senatobia, increasing educational opportunities for students at both locations with dual enrollment, advance placement and accelerated courses in STEM areas, as well as allowing community members to access GED programs and workforce or higher-education training that is not currently available in Yalobusha County.
Dr. David Campbell, Vice-President of Workforce Solutions and Career-Technical Education at Northwest, explained the grant will help purchase equipment that connects the campuses and will allow NWCC to expand course offerings in the IT field including coding, virtual reality and augmented reality at the new campus. Campbell added that the equipment will allow students and instructors in different locations to have live interaction, which is different from online courses.
“It will link audio and video from the Base Camp campus to the main campus in Senatobia,” Campbell told the Herald. “We also hope to expand this to other campuses.” He also explained that the communication will also allow Base Camp instructors to teach coding to students on the Senatobia campus.
“It allows more course offerings, both ways,” he continued. “Coding is at the core of rapid changes in our workforce, there is more and more automation doing what humans are doing now. Coding is slowly being integrated into all types of jobs.”
“We are excited about the opportunity for what we are doing in the IT world in Yalobusha and surrounding counties,” Campbell added.
Water Valley School District Superintendent Jerry Williams also reported that the grant is expected to increase opportunities for high school students to enroll in dual credit courses with Northwest Mississippi Community College at the new facility. Williams explained that dual enrollment courses provide both high school and college credits for the students.
About The Grant
The funding allocated to Base Camp was part of USDA’s Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) grant program. Five organizations in Mississippi were selected for investments through the grant totaling $1,980, 417.
“This program is another step forward in bridging the gap that exists between urban and rural communities’ technological capabilities,” USDA State Director for Rural Development John Rounsaville reported. “Applications go through a nationally competitive process, so we’re extremely proud that five organizations were selected in Mississippi,” he added.
Other grant funding already awarded for Everest includes $325,000 from the Appalachian Regional Commission, $325,000 from the Delta Regional Authority, $130,000 from Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), $50,000 from a second USDA grant and $625,000 from the U.S. Department of Labor. The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality also provided over $30,000 for initial testing needed for analysis on the environmental issues at the property.
Funding from private companies include Core Logic, $250,000; Morgan White, $250,000; and Renasant Bank, $150,000. Both New Market and Historic tax credits are also allocated for the project and will fund almost half of the project’s cost. A tax credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction for income tax owed. Because Base Camp Coding Academy is a non-profit entity and has no tax liability, tax credits allocated to Base Camp as part of a competitive process are then sold at a reduced rate.
Base Camp co-founder Kagan Coughlin reported the project is expected to be the most complex, non-profit financial deal in the history of the state. He also said the closing is scheduled Dec. 31.