Local students looking for training and education in agriculture and industrial technology fields have long looked to Merced College to find the next step on their journey. Now they have a new, state-of-the-art facility in which to learn and grow.

The college held a ribbon cutting Sept. 15 to mark the substantial completion of the 29,000-square-foot Raj Kahlon Agriculture and Industrial Technology Complex, the first new building on campus in more than a decade.

The $25-million complex will house several of the college’s academic programs, allowing them to train even more students for well-paying, emerging, and high-demand jobs in agriculture, industrial technology, and other related workforce programs in the region. Faculty will begin to move into offices this semester, and classes will be held there later this fall and in the spring.

“Merced College has offered robust programs in agriculture and industrial technology fields for decades, and we’re proud to give those programs the home they deserve,” President Chris Vitelli said. “This beautiful new facility is an incredible addition to the Merced College main campus, but more importantly, it represents a remarkable investment in our students and in the future of our region.”

Among the dignitaries who attended the event were California Attorney General Rob Bonta, Assemblymember Adam Gray, and Dr. T.V. Nagendra Prasad, Consul General of India, and the program included recorded video messages from H.E. Taranjit Singh Sandhu, Ambassador of India to the United States, and Congressman Jim Costa. The building includes a conference room named after Gray, a Merced College alumnus whose support helped secure state funding for the construction project.

The new facility will bring together faculty and staff in several academic programs: Agricultural Business, Animal Science, Computer Technology and Information Systems, Crop Science, Electricity/Electronics, Environmental Horticulture, HVAC Technology, and Industrial Technology.

Among the building’s highlights:

  • A 7,500-square-foot courtyard features an integrated soundsystem for outdoor events.
  • A sun room will allow for plant science experiments.
  • An animal science room is designed to bring small livestock into the classroom for demonstrations, and includes an adjacent holding pen for large animals.
  • A cohesive administrative area in the building’s distinctive “silo” will include a reception desk, waiting room, staff lounge, and a conference room with a 16-foot-long “live edge” table with a custom base frame designed by the Merced College welding program.

Local farmer Raj Kahlon has committed $5 million to support the programs within the complex—the largest donation in Merced College history.

“For our agriculture industry to continue to thrive in an uncertain future, we need advanced technology, and we need students who are equipped to use that technology,” Kahlon said. “Merced College plays an integral role in educating and preparing our workforce, and this new building will help ensure a successful future for local students and our entire region.”

The new building is just one example of how Merced College is posed to lead the Central Valley ag industry into the future.

Earlier this month, the college announced the new Agrifood Technology and Engineering Collaborative (AgTEC), led by the Central Valley Community Foundation (CVCF). The AgTEC initiative will leverage the strength of community colleges throughout the Valley — with contributions from small farmers and multinational companies alike — to revolutionize how agricultural workers learn the skills they need to pursue rewarding careers in the industry.

A $15 million investment from the state, made possible by Sen. Anna Caballero, will help launch the AgTEC initiative.

AgTEC is part of the Fresno-Merced Future of Food (F3) Innovation Initiative, a CVCF-led collaboration that received $65 million through the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s Build Back Better Regional Challenge. As part of this allocation, Merced College will receive more than $27 million to serve as the project lead for the AgTEC Workforce initiative, which will include another new building: the Ag Technology Innovation Center.

“On behalf of the Merced College Board of Trustees, I’d like to thank President Vitelli for his leadership and Raj Kahlon for his generous support,” Board President John Pedrozo said. “Agriculture is the lifeblood of our Valley, and industrial technology fields provide countless career opportunities for our students. It’s exciting to see Merced College at the cutting edge of improving education and training for our local workforce.”