Black Hills Energy donates $105K toward NWACC Springdale campus

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Black Hills Corporation Foundation will give $105,000 to help fund NorthWest Arkansas Community College’s planned Springdale campus, the foundation announced on Thursday at an event in the Shewmaker Center for Workforce Technologies at NWACC’s main campus in Bentonville.

Black Hills Corporation Foundation is the charitable arm of Black Hills Energy, a gas company headquartered in South Dakota.

Black Hills entered Northwest Arkansas in February, after acquiring SourceGas. It supplies natural gas to 100,000 customers in Northwest Arkansas and 160,000 customers statewide, said Rich Davis, manager of community and government affairs of Black Hills in Arkansas.

 “We want to be in the energy partner of choice, and that partnering means much more than using our product,” Davis said. “This first donation in Northwest Arkansas shows how we are committed to being a partner with our community and with our citizens.”

The NWACC Washington County campus has been in the works since 2012.

In October 2014, NWACC purchased property for the planned campus, paying $2.4 million for 20 acres on the west side of Arvest Ballpark.

President Evelyn Jorgenson on Thursday called the purchase “a good-faith effort” for the planned 50,000-SF, three-story facility.

NWACC intends to pay for the rest of the project through charitable giving.

Last fall, the NWACC Foundation launched a $15 million campaign to fund the project.

Coupled with a $1.5 million gift announced in April from Jackson G. & Ella Frances Byrd charitable trust, the school has now raised $1.6 million toward the project, said Steven Hinds, executive director of public relations and marketing for NWACC.

Despite the public announcement, the campaign is still in the private phase, Hinds said, until it reaches 50% of its goal.

The school’s tentative plan is to reach the public phase during the spring semester, with a target opening date of fall 2019.

Many of NWACC’s roughly 16,000 students (about 8,000 degree-seeking) live in Washington County, and the school projects 2,000 students will attend the campus during its first semester, Hinds said.

The gift announcement comes during the school’s search for a new fundraising lead, ahead of executive director of development Meredith Brunen’s last day on Friday, Oct. 7. She accepted a job as associate vice president of university advancement at the University of West Florida in Pensacola.