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A renovated Southridge Mall unveiled five future tenants this weekend, but the one place where you can't shop could be the mall's most important.

Shoppers know it as the old JC Penney, but the empty dressing rooms are about to be turned into classrooms at DMACC’s Southridge Center.

“It’s going to be a great opportunity for us to expand,” says DMACC President Rob Denson. 

Denson says record enrollment at the community college has resulted in growing pains.  These 64,000 square feet provide much-needed space.

“We’re moving two of our divisions down there.  The Continuing Education Department and our DMACC Business Resources,” says Denson.

The Career Academy will bring in the most students.  They will learn vocational skills in welding, auto, health and construction trades.  Right now, most of those labs are full.  When space is available, students will learn the skills that companies like Vermeer, John Deere, AccuMold are looking for.

“Only about a third of Iowa workers are qualified for those jobs so that’s where the skill gap exists and we’ve seen throughout this entire recession, many jobs in Iowa were open, but the employee could not find the person with the right skills to come in and take those jobs,” says Denson. 

DMACC is working with schools in Warren County.  Every year, at least 200 students will take a number of vocational classes.   Starting today, the community college is taking bids to renovate the old department store.

The $10 million project should be complete by the end next summer.  DMACC will offer classes at the mall in the fall of 2013.

“We’re going to bring a good number of traffic ,” says Denson.

All that extra foot traffic is expected to generate business at Southridge Mall.

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