Manhattan Area Technical College is zeroing in on buying a Wamego building that would be the college’s first off-campus facility as part of an effort to reach more of the region’s students.

The college’s board of directors unanimously gave MATC president Jim Genandt approval to start negotiating for a property near Wamego High School. Since the technical college just started negotiations, Genandt declined to give specific details on the property, including the exact location of the property or the amount the board authorized him to use.

Unlike the state’s community colleges, technical colleges have no taxing authority, and financing for the project will come from Government Capital Corporation, a public finance firm. Genandt said the college is confident that demand for classes will allow it to pay the financing back and eventually become a self-sustaining branch of MATC.

Packed classrooms in programs like nursing and welding have limited the college’s ability to bring in more students or programs, Genandt said, but the proposed center would allow MATC to pursue students outside of its typical area. The particular focus would be students from high schools in Pottawatomie County.

“It’s for us to capture a market we’re not capturing,” Genandt said. “Those students don’t come over here for classes. We have a great relationship with Manhattan High and get hundreds of students from there. But for students from Wamego High, Rock Creek — our campus is too far. So we’re going there to tap into that market. The school district is interested in us being there so we can provide those technical education opportunities.”

The center would mainly offer introductory courses for high school students to explore careers like auto repair, nursing and emergency medical technician training, and the college would not necessarily duplicate its Manhattan classrooms at the Wamego center.

Genandt said that with the new facility, MATC will work with Highland Community College, which also has a Wamego center and offers other training programs that MATC doesn’t offer, to meet the region’s needs. As the area’s technical college, he said MATC is responsible not only for training residents of the region but also developing the regional economy.

“We’re not leaving Manhattan,” Genandt said. “Manhattan is still our main focus, but this is a regional effort, and this is part of that effort.”