Optics hub progresses

Monadnock Hall will become a hub for students to connect with local businesses

Liam Frey / Equinox Staff

Kelly Regan

Senior News Reporter

Keene State College plans to replace Monadnock Hall with a new optics hub. This optics hub will function as an academic classroom with the added benefit of connecting students with future employers.

Director of External Relations Steve Fortier said that the hub’s development was in response to a need for more workforce development on the part of colleges in the state.

“The governor had asked each of the three brick and mortar colleges within the university system for proposals of what we do for workforce development with some one-time funding. What we came up with for a plan was to respond to what multinational companies in the optics field had been asking us to do: that they need more of our sustainable product design and innovation program placing students in high-level positions in advanced manufacturing companies,” Fortier said.

Fortier works to connect Keene State with the local community and to bring in resources from the region to Keene State. Fortier works as the liaison for the optics hub project.

“This proposal to the governor was to use the nine million dollars to help create this business partnership hub, of which optics would be the main feature but other community partnerships would evolve from,” Fortier said.

According to the Keene Sentinel, the hub will focus on manufacturing and product design and include a “makerspace”—a space with tools and equipment to encourage innovation and collaboration from students.

What will be in the business hub is added classrooms, interactive classrooms and lab space.

“Some of the corporate partners are offering machines from their floor, so our students will be learning hands-on with the machines that different companies are using,” Fortier said. “Part of the beauty of the plan is that it’s right across the street from the TDS where related courses take place.”

New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu said he is looking forward to this development.

“I look forward to working collaboratively with all of you in the months ahead to design a fiscally responsible budget that puts the needs of our citizens front and center,” Sununu said.

“It was clear early on the governor’s budget would not survive the legislature. These one-time dollars for special projects got pulled out,” Fortier said.

Keene State College decided to go forward with this project after the governor’s offer of one-time state funding fell through. The college turned to other funding sources for the building of the optics hub. KSC President Melinda Treadwell said that bidding for that funding will be part of this.

“Federal grants and tax credits are part of the fundraising package for this project. We have to bid for those tax credits and aid dollars. That’s all going to start happening between now and February,” Treadwell said.

“Working with the city manager and the chamber of commerce, we went to a plan B. The plan B included Jack Dugan, the CEO and President of the Monadnock Economic Development Corporation. We will not be receiving funding directly from the state of New Hampshire, but Jack has pieced together seven different state and federal funding sources that add up to what we need to develop this space,” Fortier said.

Monadnock Hall will be torn down to allow space for the optics hub to be built. Randall Hall will also be torn down and that space will serve as parking.

“Our plan is to take Monadnock and Randall down and build on that new footprint. We calculated we do not need that in the future, with the president’s focus on not growing beyond 4,000 students. Calculating the residential life space we need, there is no residential value for those buildings. This is a great way to turn that area into value for the campus,” Fortier said. “Once all the funding is in place, hopefully by spring of 2020, and we’ll be raising the buildings in 2021 and then be ready to open the space in 2022.”

The college plans to use student input in the design and building of this. Business and community partners will also be consulted on the design and structure of the optics hub.

“We’ll be hosting an open process of getting input on conceptualization. Asking what people are looking for in programs and a feel, not just in practical design of this building. With our ambitious sustainability goals, there’s no doubt it will be a lot like TDS with locally sourced products for construction and fueled by renewable energy,” Fortier said.

Kelly Regan can be contacted at

kregan@kscequinox.com.