Education

Orr Corp. announces plans for new multipurpose facility

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Feb. 25, 2020 12:01 am

PERRY, Ill. -- The Orr Corp. hopes to break ground in spring 2021 on a new multipurpose facility at the Orr Research Center.

Plans call for the 20,000-square-foot building to house offices and classrooms, an exposition/arena space and animal care unit designed for short-term or temporary housing for livestock.

An intergovernmental agreement signed last week between John Wood Community College and the University of Illinois clears the way for the corporation to move forward with building the facility, which is included in the JWCC Master Plan.

"We've gotten to the point, for me, where it's going from a conceptual idea to a reality," JWCC President Mike Elbe said.

"It will be a facility that will be jointly run between John Wood Community College and the University of Illinois, very similar to the way this facility is right now," Orr Corp. Chairman Matt Bradshaw said at Monday's annual meeting. "It will be great for western Illinois, for John Wood, for the university and a great complement to what we have to offer."

Bradshaw said the corporation has about $870,000 in commitments from private, corporate and governmental funding sources for what will be an estimated $2 million project.

"We feel extremely positive that we're going to be able to fund this. We anticipate to be fully funded, hopefully, by the end of this year," Bradshaw said. "We would look forward to breaking ground most likely n spring 2021 with some kind of dedication of the facility in late '21 or early '22, depending on what the construction season would bring."

The corporation sees potential uses for the facility ranging from classroom lab space to demonstrations and events for the ag community.

"I see this as a huge hub of activity for FFAs," Orr Corp. treasurer Bruce Duesterhaus said. "It will really be good for our area, not just JWCC."

Bradshaw said "multiple meetings" between JWCC and U of I led to the progress on the proposal that's been under discussion for more than two years.

"It's coming to fruition," said Mike Tenhouse, who chairs JWCC's ag department. "I think it's not a matter of it it's going to be done. It's when will it be done and how big will it be based on the monies there to support it."

Plans call for building the facility on a site just south of the current parking area and east of two U of I metal buildings behind the existing classroom building -- not the originally-proposed site to the west of the existing building and parking lot.

"Doing it back here gives better frontage and exposure and allows us to expand the parking area to the east. The flow is better," Tenhouse said. "This gives us more space and access if we'll be bringing in materials, livestock or equipment."

The improvement to the Orr Center will be the first since a chemical shed was added on the crop side in 1993 and the calving barn on the beef side was replaced in spring 1998.

"The dynamics of both crop science and animal science have changed dramatically over the last 20-plus years," Bradshaw said. "It's a need to have the facilities to adapt to that."

Local farmer Jerry Moss wants to see the facility reach beyond production livestock to a larger focus on animal husbandry, wildlife and environmental issues.

Illinois Department of Natural Resources Director Colleen Callahan has toured the site and met with Orr Corp. members about the project.

"They haven't made a set commitment as far as funding, but they have definitely in writing expressed interest that they would like to utilize some of their resources, their field people, to have different types of education seminars as far as conservation, wildlife and natural resource management here on site," Bradshaw said. "That was extremely encouraging and a little bit more diverse than just what we have here."