GOSHEN — The vision of a new, $14 million advanced manufacturing training center for Elkhart County took a large step forward Saturday morning following a meeting of the Elkhart County Council.
During Saturday’s meeting, council members voted unanimously in favor of allowing the Elkhart County Redevelopment Commission to provide $500,000 toward infrastructure improvements for the proposed center, which Ivy Tech Community College officials want to construct directly behind the current Ivy Tech Elkhart County campus on C.R. 18.
The vote follows a similar vote of approval by Redevelopment Commission members made during their October 2013 meeting.
During that meeting, representatives from Ivy Tech put together a presentation outlining the college’s plans for the new advanced manufacturing center while also explaining why the organization feels such a facility is necessary for the continued advancement of Elkhart County and the region.
According to Thomas Coley, chancellor of the Ivy Tech Community College North Central and Northwest regions, Elkhart County has approximately 2,000 unfilled manufacturing jobs, a statistic tied to a shortfall in workers with the necessary skills and technical training to fill those positions.
With manufacturing accounting for a significant percentage of both employment and earnings in Elkhart County, Coley said, it is vital that the county increase its number of graduates with manufacturing-related degrees and certificates. There is currently no stand-alone facility dedicated to advancing the manufacturing profession in northnentral Indiana.
That, he said, is where the new training center comes in.
The proposed 55,000-square-foot facility has been designed to facilitate hands-on training on the most up-to-date equipment available. Specific elements proposed for the new facility include:
• A lean principles-based 10,000 square foot flex lab utilizing cellular configurations;
• A 15,000-square-foot automotive and recreational vehicle center;
• Welding labs;
• HVAC training labs;
• Classrooms designed to facilitate collaborative learning;
• A digital library/resource room;
• Computer simulation labs; and
• Corporate college skill assessment and training rooms.
As for the type of instruction that will be available through the new facility, Thomas Killian Jr., executive director of resource development for the Ivy Tech North Central Region, said that Ivy Tech is looking at providing a stackable educational model with exit points at eight weeks, 16 weeks, 24 weeks, 32 weeks and 40 weeks depending on the extent of mastery a student wishes to achieve.
While still in the preliminary stages, Killian noted, Ivy Tech has already made a $1 million investment in the project through the purchase of 43 acres of land directly behind the current Ivy Tech Elkhart County campus, where officials hope to construct the new training center.
However, with an overall projected cost of $14 million, Killian said there is still plenty of funding that needs to be secured before the idea of the new training center can become a reality.
During Saturday’s council meeting, Elkhart County Commissioner Mike Yoder voiced his belief that a $500,000 expenditure by the county now toward construction of the proposed advanced manufacturing center would go well toward encouraging many more businesses and local entities to throw their financial support behind the project.
Elkhart County Council President John Letherman was quick to agree.
“There’s a tremendous amount of support from industry, and I think there’s support from the (Elkhart) County Community Foundation and a lot of other places,” Letherman said. “But the county’s participation in this is the sign of local support that they really need to make it happen. This is to show community support from the overall community, and this is probably the first step in multiple corporate gifts far exceeding this, and probably support from community foundations and other communities to try and get this thing built.”
Inside Funding for county lobbyist at Statehouse put on hold. A2