Niagara College receives $1-million donation///October 31, 2011


WELLAND — For a pioneer in renewable energy projects in Ontario, investing in the future of that industry makes perfect sense to Tom Rankin.

Rankin, whose company built the first wind farm in the province a decade ago, was at Niagara College's Welland campus Friday to announce a $1-million donation to the college — the largest individual donation the school has ever received.

In recognition of that generosity, the college has renamed its technology department The Rankin Technology Centre.

"When Niagara College announced they were running a renewable energy program, that's dear to me," Rankin said after the sign bearing his name was unveiled.

"I've been an advocate for so long for renewable energy. We built the first wind farm in Ontario. When I heard they were going to establish a program, not only in wind but in geothermal and solar, I just wanted to be a part of it."

He called it a wise investment because his company will need skilled workers such as graduates of the new program introduced in September.

In addition to construction jobs, green energy initiatives will also provide opportunities for skilled workers who will run renewable energy projects for years to come.

"People don't realize, it's creating permanent jobs," Rankin said.

While making the announcement, Rankin discussed his hopes for the future with a gathering of a few hundred college students, staff and community representatives.

"I'm so excited about what's going to happen in Niagara," he said, adding he knows of several more renewable energy plants planned for the region.

"I think this is just the start of many new industries in Niagara and we can certainly use them after the loss of so many jobs in the automotive sector."

Rankin said the college has already trained many of his company's employees, including his son, company president Brian Rankin, and the company's vice-president, Stojan Tritchew.

College president Dan Patterson said the donation "is truly a legacy gift."

"This is such a significant and important gift on so many fronts. It acknowledges the important role that Niagara College plays in the economic development of our communities," he said. "It sends important signals to prospective companies who are thinking of relocating to Niagara that industry/ educational partnerships thrive here in Niagara."

Karl Dockstader, one of the first students in the college's renewable energy program, said he's part of "the Ontario college that has not only been shaped by industry, but is working to help shape industry with its innovations and technology."

St. Catharines MPP Jim Bradley, Ontario's environment minister, lauded Rankin for his being at the forefront of renewable energy technology, such as building hydro generators along the Welland Canal.

"We'd like to be the green energy capital of Ontario and of Canada," Bradley said. "That possibility isn't outside the achievement of the people in this area to ensure that that happens."

Lyn Russo, the college's director of development, said the $1-million donation, used to help pay the college's share of recently-built facilities including the technology centre, was the culmination of months spent working with potential donors including Rankin.

Considering Rankin's work in renewable energy, she said the donation "seems extremely fitting."

Russo said Rankin's donation was about double the second-largest donation the college has received from an individual.

Fundraising efforts will continue.

"We will continue to raise money for the next few months to fund equipment and learning resources, and scholarships and bursaries," Russo said.

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