Thirty million dollars and four years later, Trident Technical College unveiled its brand-new Nursing and Science Building to the community on Friday.

But Trident President Mary Thornley said the celebration wasn't really about the shiny 90,000-square-foot building. "This is an economic development project," she said. "It's all about jobs."

Thornley cited a recent study published by the University of South Carolina that shows the job market desperately needs nurses with two-year degrees by 2030. There will be a larger shortfall of nurses than any other career field, she said.

"Already, we're the largest provider of RN nurses in the Lowcountry, and this facility is going to allow us to go from about 650 to over 1,000 (students). We're thrilled about that," she said.

The new building won't eliminate the waiting list to enroll in Trident's nursing program, but it will reduce it to less than a year, she said.

The project was paid for with a combination of local money from Charleston, Dorchester and Berkeley counties. Thornley first lobbied for the county governments to invest in the project in 2009.

"(Thornley) could sell ice to an Eskimo. She's that good," said Teddie Pryor, chairman of the Charleston County Council. Charleston contributed $18 million for the project. Berkeley contributed $7.5 million and Dorchester provided $4.5 million.

"She has a vision and I'm so happy we could support your vision," Pryor said.

That vision includes a 300-seat auditorium, a rooftop astronomy deck, and nursing simulation labs that allow students to practice bedside skills on sophisticated patient "dummies" that can breathe and have heartbeats. The three-story, energy-efficient facility was designed by LS3P Associates and constructed by China Construction America of South Carolina Inc.

"It is a huge difference. The size of the classrooms are very comfortable," said Jon Paul Del Valle, a nursing student at Trident.

Before the new building opened for students in January, Del Valle said they would regularly race across campus from one class to the next because the old facilities couldn't accommodate all their courses in one location.

"We would have five minutes to cross the whole campus to get to our labs," he said.

But even more noteworthy than the aesthetics or convenience, Thornley said the facility will enhance the quality of education that Trident provides its nursing students.

"Since 1985, we've offered nursing programs - registered nurse, licensed practical nurse, nursing assistant - nothing to the magnitude that this building gives us the capability of doing," she said.

Reach Lauren Sausser at 937-5598.