The Alabama Aviation College, a unit of Enterprise State, celebrated the re-opening of its James Douglas Brown, Sr. Building with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Thursday, January 19.
The facility, known as the Brown Building, was originally named the Alabama Institute for Aviation Technology. It served as one of the only civilian schools in the nation in 1960 that offered courses in aircraft maintenance for both fixed and rotary wing aircraft. The first classes were held on October 3, 1960, and 118 students were enrolled.
In 1967, the building was renamed as the James Douglas Brown, Sr. Building in honor of the former mayor of Ozark, who served two terms beginning in the 1940s.
“Mr. Brown – Mayor Brown – was instrumental in not only getting this campus started, but he was also instrumental in getting Enterprise State in [the City of] Enterprise when the community college system launched in the mid-60s,” Enterprise State Community College President Danny Long said.
The $5 million renovation project to the building has resulted in three updated aviation classrooms/labs, an updated CDL classroom and an aviation hangar that will allow the College to train students for their future careers.
Since 2016, the College has seen in increase in enrollment, especially in the A&P program, resulting in the need for more classrooms and labs. AAC Campus Director Stan Smith said that the current enrollment numbers in the A&P program puts the College “in the very top of schools in the United States.”
“The real reason for growth is the demand for our graduates,” he said. “All of our programs on campus offer careers that offer enough income to support a family. I believe our best recruiters are those that graduate and get a job.”
To highlight the need for skilled workers in the aviation industry, Stan Smith said that a search on an aviation job site showed over 3,400 open aviation maintenance job openings, over 2,400 Avionics job openings, and almost 400 aviation composites job openings.
“It’s obvious there’s a shortage of skilled workers, and we exist to help solve that problem,” he said.
Holle Smith, president of the Ozark-Dale County Economic Development Corporation, said that the College is used for recruiting industry and aiding current industry in the area.
“The growth we’ve seen at the College, we feel like, is not only a reflection, but also a projection of the growth of the community,” she said, sharing thanks for the partnership with the College.
AAC currently has dual enrollment partnerships with Dothan City, Houston County, Ozark City, Dale County, Pike County, Troy City, Enterprise City, Coffee County, Geneva County, Geneva City, Andalusia City and Covington County Schools Systems to train high school students for high-demand careers through the Aviation Maintenance Technician (also known as A&P), Avionics and Mechatronics programs.
The College also has numerous partnerships with business and industry throughout the Wiregrass, including M1 Support Services at Fort Novosel, CAE USA, Arista, McDermott Aviation in Andalusia and Commercial Jet.
Rep. Steve Clouse, whose support has helped see many of the renovations happen on AAC’s campus, said during the event, “This is THE Alabama Aviation College. It is certainly a gem for the City of Ozark, for Wiregrass and for the whole State of Alabama.”