AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – What was Johnson Motor Company will now be the Jim Hudson Automotive Institute, a simulation of a fully functional automotive dealership for Augusta Tech students.

Local car dealer Jim Hudson has seen the industry grow and change over the years. He thinks this initiative is necessary for the workforce to keep up with the times. “That’s the most important thing we need in our industry is good technicians and they’re the hardest to hit. You just can’t keep them,” Hudson said. “This is what this is all about. Helping young people and encouraging young people to get in this trade and stay in this trade.”

The future automotive industry workers will get hands-on experience not just in mechanics, but also in sales and business.

Community members will be able to drive their cars into the service bays and wait while students do light repairs.

The school raised around $3.5 million for the institute, which will be the first of its kind in the country.

“They’re going to be able to use the to tools that they would do at a dealership. So, that brings a unique method that’s not being used anywhere else,” said Dr. Jermaine Whirl, the President of Augusta Technical College. “Also, they could cross-train with the technicians, so how do you work from the back to the front on the business side of an automobile dealership? That’s an exciting new adventure that we’re looking forward to.”

It will be about 65,000 square feet, and will allow for more students and a broader curriculum.

“Somebody with zero experience in the automotive industry or touching a vehicle or working on it, they’ll be able to go in here and have more of an understanding than your typical student at any other college,” said Christian Rabun, an automotive technology student at Augusta Tech.

This is one of multiple initiatives put out by the college to grow Augusta as a workforce hub, and it’s leaders have a few more ideas up their sleeves.

“The project that we’ve been tackling a lot about is really CDL truck driving,” Dr. Whirl said. “If we’re going to be a community of the future, being the second largest MSA in the state of Georgia, we can’t just focus on one or two things. We’ve got to try to do all of them well, and fortunately we have a lot of community support to do that.”

They plan on opening the institute in fall of 2025, if not sooner.