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MidAmerica Industrial Park receives $3 million grant from U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration

06/28/2024

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MidAmerica leadership to add $1.2 million capital investment to expand workforce development and training

MidAmerica Industrial Park leaders announced today a significant boost to its workforce development programs as recipients of a $3 million grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration. The grant, announced by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, will support the construction of new classroom and laboratory spaces, along with the procurement of cutting-edge equipment at the MidAmerica Center of Excellence. MidAmerica’s Board of Trustees approved an additional $1.2 million capital investment to augment the EDA’s investment for a total investment of $4.2 million in workforce development.

In a news release by the EDA, U.S. Sec. Raimondo said this grant is part of a long-term strategy and is pivotal in revitalizing the middle class by building critical infrastructure and fostering job creation nationwide. Furthermore, the investment will enhance the region’s workforce development, equipping workers with essential skills for high-quality jobs and stimulating private investment.

David Stewart, CEO of MidAmerica Industrial Park, emphasized the importance of this grant in reinforcing the park's commitment to economic growth and workforce excellence. “This investment will not only elevate our training capabilities but also position MidAmerica as a leader in innovative technologies,” said Stewart. “We are dedicated to preparing our region’s workforce for the ever-changing future of advanced manufacturing and technology.”

Opened in February 2019 with a capital investment of $4.5 million, the MidAmerica Center of Excellence provides customized, comprehensive training in advanced manufacturing and serves as a best-in-class career center for more than 80 employers and 4,500 employees at MidAmerica. Portions of the EDA grant and MidAmerica investment will expand the current 25,000 square-foot training center by an additional 5,000 square feet for $2.6 million and purchase specialized, high-tech equipment for $1.6 million. In total, the capital investment of $8.7 million in the MidAmerica Center of Excellence meets the demands of current employers and anticipates the needs of future, new employers.

“This expansion and investment will also support the development of the systems, programs and supporting infrastructure for advanced manufacturing technical training programs,” said MidAmerica Director of Workforce Scott Fry. “These programs are designed to meet the demands of Industry 4.0 technologies, including mechatronics, robotics and automation applications. It allows MidAmerica and our training partners to scale existing programs to develop critical skill sets at multiple levels. This ensures the local workforce is equipped to interface with advanced manufacturing processes.”

The MidAmerica Center of Excellence is one portion of MidAmerica’s long-term strategy in workforce development and retention. Called MidAmerica Delivers, the program serves as the best-practices model for the State of Oklahoma. It includes investing and donating 18 STEM labs in local schools throughout the region, and a High School Ambassador program which introduces Career Pathways to jobs at MidAmerica. Annually, the program reaches more than 2,000 graduating seniors in the schools surrounding MidAmerica.

“The development of relevant curriculum in partnership with industry, local K-12, career tech and higher education institutions will ensure that training is delivered at each academic level,” Fry said. “Creating a scalable model at each level, which can be easily replicated and distributed in local school districts and postsecondary institutions, is a key aspect.”

Additionally, the programs will provide certificate and accredited programs with multiple entry and exit points, incorporating virtual and augmented reality versions of equipment and technology to replicate facilities and amplify career connections. Internship and apprenticeship models will be developed in partnership with companies to provide work-based learning opportunities.

Key partners in this initiative include MidAmerica Business Leaders Association, Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance, Northeast Tech, Rogers State University, OSU Institute of Technology and the Cherokee Nation. These collaborations play a crucial role in the successful implementation and sustainability of the training programs.

“The MidAmerica Center of Excellence will play a crucial role in addressing the workforce needs of industries in Northeast Oklahoma and Northwest Arkansas. By providing state-of-the-art training facilities and programs, MidAmerica Industrial Park continues to attract top-tier talent and foster regional economic development,” Stewart said.


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