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SUNY Canton, Subaru unveil new facility, partnership

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CANTON — When Brandon J. Baldwin spoke during the dedication of the new SUNY Canton Subaru Training Center, he could barely contain his excitement.

“This is exciting stuff,” he said. “Subaru has been close to my heart for a long, long time.”

Mr. Baldwin, a SUNY Canton automotive technology professor, was all smiles Thursday morning as the university showcased gleaming new Subaru models, tools, parts and other equipment for his classroom.

The university partnered with Subaru Distributors Corp. to renovate the laboratory. As part of the deal, the company will contribute more than $500,000 to the facility in tools and equipment.

“We’re here for the opportunity that this facility represents,” said Barry A. Wells, executive vice president of Subaru Distributors Corp. “Like SUNY Canton, Subaru is a family — most people who come to work there never go away; they just stay.”

Mr. Wells is a 1975 and 2010 graduate of SUNY Canton, and was pivotal in bringing the partnership to life after meeting Mr. Baldwin on campus.

“Public and private partnerships are a winning opportunity for our students,” said Carli C. Schiffner, interim SUNY Canton president. “The training center will significantly impact our students’ educational opportunities, as well as increase the prestige of our automotive technology program.”

Each semester, more than 50 students will gain hands-on experience in the newly renovated automotive laboratory housed in the campus’s Nevaldine South technology complex.

“We’ll be working on a lot newer vehicles than we’re used to working on, which is good,” said Joshua J. Trudeau, an automotive technology senior. “It will pave the way for the program’s future.”

Incoming students will have an opportunity to become Subaru-qualified automotive technicians before they leave campus, Mr. Wells said.

“One of the great challenges that faces the auto industry is qualified technicians to service the automobile,” he said. “We envision a job fair where the dealers can come and find their next technicians, and graduates will come with an education that saves the dealer thousands of dollars in training costs.”

Mr. Baldwin said the facility meets a need on campus.

“We have so much demand for our automotive technician students right now that I can’t meet it,” he said. “Subaru gives these students an edge that makes them even more attractive to employers.”

SUNY Canton freshman Nicole M. Avery was enthusiastic.

“It is definitely an awesome thing,” she said. “It is going to give students a lot more opportunities, and we have those new fancy tools coming in; that’s something we looked forward to.”

As part of the deal, the training center will have three new Subaru models rotated in every year. Mr. Baldwin said they likely would include Impreza station wagons, WRX sports cars, Legacy sedans and possibly the Tribeca sport-utility vehicle. Local dealerships, including Bill McBride Subaru of Plattsburgh, will provide the cars.

Dealers also will use the facility to train their own technicians, Mr. Wells said, which will bring 30 students onto campus every other week over the next five years.

“A third of our dealers will use this facility to get their technicians trained,” he said. “There will be around 1,000 technicians coming here each year from our closest 22 or 23 dealers.”

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