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Creation of BTC manufacturing center delayed

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Frank Schultz
August 9, 2012

— An expansion of Blackhawk Technical College will not start as early as first hoped.

Creating an advanced manufacturing center in Beloit remains a goal, however, BTC President Tom Eckert said Thursday.

Eckert said in May that work on the manufacturing center might start yet this year, but that's no longer the case. Now, the earliest work could start is spring 2013, Eckert said.

The project would involve remodeling 130,000 square feet in the Beloit Ironworks building, which is the former Beloit Corp. building in downtown Beloit owned by Hendricks Commercial Properties.

"Ideally, it would be great to start in the spring, but I just don't know whether that's possible," Eckert said.

Eckert said scheduling conflicts have held up planning for the project.

"We're going to meet with Hendricks Development on Aug. 17 to talk further about moving forward," Eckert said. "At this point, we don't have a date (to begin work). We're going to be working that out with them later this month to see where we stand and when we're going to get moving."

The center would be different from previous BTC expansions in that it would take a major infusion of private money, possibly in addition to grants.

Eckert said a fundraising plan has not yet been set. He said he hopes to raise the $10 million to $12 million needed for the project.

Normally, a building owner would remodel to suit the client and distribute that cost in the lease payments, Eckert said. BTC could not afford those lease payments, which is why the money needs to be raised up front, he said.

BTC's budget would then cover the ongoing operational costs, including the lease and utilities, Eckert said.

"We need to bring the price down to what can manage," he said.

Eckert guessed the remodeling could take a year, which pushes the opening to at least spring 2014.

The advanced manufacturing center would help BTC deliver skilled workers to local manufacturers, Eckert said in May.

Renovations would establish a state-of-the-art, project-based school that would be a showcase for 21st century manufacturing, officials have said.

The center would house programs in welding; precision machining; heating, air conditioning and ventilation; electro-mechanical/robotics; and industrial maintenance.

Moving classes to Beloit would free up space for remodeling at the main campus between Janesville and Beloit, Eckert has said.



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