By Ryan Richardson
Globe Staff Writer
VINITA, Okla. —
The biggest single donation in Northeastern Oklahoma A&M history is now in the hands of the college, thanks to a former Vinita company.
Bel Fuse Inc. on Saturday donated the Cinch Connectors building in Vinita to the college. The 87,252-square-foot building and the accompanying 12 acres were appraised at $1.25 million last year after the site was closed by the parent company. At a ceremony held to announce the donation, NEO President Dr. Jeff Hale said that the college is evaluating what to do with the new building.
“The opportunity is just enormous, and we are happy to have Cinch as a partner with this,” Hale said. “The next step is to organize community and college members together and figure out where we go from here. We wouldn’t have imagined this a year ago, and we wouldn’t have realized it without their support.”
The college is in Miami, and if the Vinita building is to be used for a second campus, the school would have to work with the Oklahoma Legislature to approve the measure. Hale said that may be one of the options that the school will research.
“It basically is a blank slate for us right now,” Hale said. “We don’t get this opportunity every day, and it is one that we want to do as much as we can with.”
The donation was bittersweet for Cinch General Manager Mike Salmon, who attended Saturday’s ceremony. Throughout 40 years with the company, Salmon had worked closely with the plant’s workers. The Vinita plant was closed late last year as part of a company restructuring that saw most of the plant’s operations moved to Texas. There were 180 workers employed by the company at the Vinita location.
“Vinita has always been something special to this company because we knew that whatever we sent them, they could do it,” Salmon said. “The heart of this city is still beating in this building, and I’m glad to leave part of Cinch here in the community for the future.”
Salmon said he hopes the donation directly helps students from the Vinita area.
“There was nothing but great people that worked here,” Salmon said. “And now, I hope great students get to carry on that legacy here.”
Saturday’s donation comes on the heels of a $100,000 donation from the Crossland Athletic Complex that will go toward the Miami campus’s Multipurpose Athletic Center. The center, which is expected to be completed by July, will house the new NEO wrestling program.
“These donations show us that people are excited about the school and our students’ future,” Hale said. “We want to keep raising that excitement level as we continue to move forward.”