On Oct. 8, officials with Hazard Community and Technical College announced that the Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration (EDA) has awarded a nearly $3.9 million grant to the Kentucky Community and Technical College System to renovate an existing technological building at Hazard Community and Technical College's technical campus to house the College’s new Advanced Manufacturing and Construction Center of Excellence.
Joel Frushone, director of the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration and Office of External Affairs and Communications, said the EDA grant will be located in a Tax Cuts and Jobs Act Opportunity Zone, and will be matched with $970,000 in local funds and is expected to retain 610 jobs. In total, the project will amount to approximately $4.8 million.
“These dollars will be used to upgrade infrastructure, technology and make major renovations to two buildings on the HCTC technical campus. The two buildings, they were built in the early 60s and they need these upgrades,” said Gov. Andy Beshear. “These dollars will fast-forward HCTC's ability to provide the high-skill training we need to create good paying jobs that, right now, are in such high demand.”
HCTC officials said the major renovations coming to the technical campus will be focused on the Industrial Education building and the Transportation building.
The Industrial Education building, which is 55,000 square feet, will have heating and air conditioning added to the labs, and will have improvements made to the ventilation, electrical, plumbing and more. The renovation will occur in approximately 29,000 square feet of the building. The roof and elevator will be replaced and an additional elevator will also be added. The building will house the newly-named Center of Excellence in Construction and Advanced Manufacturing and will provide programs in construction, electricity, welding, heating and air conditioning, machine tool as well as tool and die, manufacturing engineering technology and cosmetology.
A total of 5,400 square feet of the Transportation building will be renovated to accommodate the automotive program. Also housed there are the heavy equipment and diesel technology programs. Renovation of the remaining square footage is funded through two other grants received at HCTC. One is for $2.5 million from Abandoned Mine Lands and the other is for $600,000 from the Appalachian Regional Commission Power Grant.
HCTC President Dr. Jennifer Lindon said this grant was much needed and will change the path of the area.
“We feel this will be a game changer for us,” said Lindon. “Now we can modernize the facilities and provide them with the resources so the programs can operate well in teaching our students. The Industrial Education building, for instance, was built in the 1960s and is in great need of upgraded infrastructure and technology. We are creating synergy by moving programs that can share space. This is why we are relocating transportation related programs together and the manufacturing and construction programs together.”
“The Kentucky Community and Technical College System plays a critical role in improving the quality of life for countless citizens across the Commonwealth,” said Frushone. “Your new Advanced Manufacturing Construction Center will provide opportunities for a community that once relied and thrived on coal to diversify and receive the training needed to secure well paying jobs. Specifically, the 29,000 square feet of renovated space will offer programs in construction technology, electrical technology, heating ventilation and air conditioning technology and diesel technology.
“This region needs those skills this center is absolutely going to do that,” said Frushone. He continued, stating that by establishing this new center and broadening the programs available in the area, HCTC will be helping strengthen the entire region.
“By increasing your capacity to train workers to compete for jobs in the advanced manufacturing sector, you're diversifying, strengthening and growing Kentucky's economy,” said Frushone. “By taking vacant land left behind from surface mining you're using your opportunity zone in a progressive manner to diversify your work.”
“This is a huge win not only for Hazard but our entire region of Eastern Kentucky. This funding will help HCTC provide the high skilled training Kentuckians need and deserve for high-wage, high-demand jobs. Eastern Kentucky has so much to offer and more opportunities than ever,” said Senior Advisor Rocky Adkins.
Officials said this project was made possible by the regional planning efforts led by the Kentucky River Area Development District, which EDA funds to bring together the public and private sectors to create an economic development road map to strengthen the regional economy, support private capital investment and create jobs.
This project is funded under the Assistance to Coal Communities (ACC) program, through which EDA will award funds on a competitive basis to assist communities severely impacted by the declining use of coal through activities and programs that support economic diversification, job creation, capital investment, workforce development and re-employment opportunities.
Frushone said through President Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, Opportunity Zones were created, spurring economic development in economically-distressed communities nationwide, and the EDA is thankful to be able to help the areas.
“Since day one of his administration, President Trump has been working to ensure that America is safer, stronger and more prosperous than ever before,” said Frushone. “Under this president, we've accomplished countless goals to stimulate economic growth, protect national security and ensure fair trade and reciprocal trade across the country.”
Other officials agreed, claiming that Trump's work and this project will help grow the area in many ways.
“The Trump Administration is working tirelessly to champion areas around the country that have been adversely impacted by the downturn of the coal industry, such as in Perry County,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “The new Advanced Manufacturing and Construction Center of Excellence, to be located at Hazard Community and Technical College in Perry County, will provide opportunities for those in the coal community to receive the training they need to secure well-paying jobs and the project’s location in an Opportunity Zone will further expand and diversify the local economy.”
“Hazard Community and Technical College’s new Advanced Manufacturing and Construction Center of Excellence will provide training for those seeking work in the manufacturing, construction and technology sectors and will support the college’s electrical program to prepare graduates for entry into the electrical field workforce,” said Dana Gartzke, performing the delegated duties of the assistant secretary of commerce for economic development. “The project’s location in an Opportunity Zone will provide additional incentive for even more business to locate in Perry County, creating additional employment opportunities for graduates.”
Sen. Brandon Smith said this project would not only help secure those jobs, but would also help break the poverty cycle and aid in solving other issues in the area.
“That money will be well spent here and will change the course of a lot of children that will come up this hill and park or walk and will come in this building and come out with a vocation that will provide for them and their families for generations to come,” said Smith. “For us, embedded poverty is something we fight all across Appalachia. There's no better tool in our tool box to break the cyclical aspect of embedded poverty than education.”
HCTC officials said they expect to serve more than 600 students in a five-year period.