BTC board picks Milton for worker training facility

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Frank Schultz
Friday, February 22, 2013

— More students will acquire skills to fill an expanding manufacturing workforce in southern Wisconsin if Blackhawk Technical College’s new venture succeeds as officials hope.

The college’s district board voted unanimously Thursday to lease a vacant manufacturing building in Milton and convert it into an “advanced manufacturing training center.”

The college will move its manufacturing programs to the new center, which is scheduled to open for the fall semester in 2014.

The lease will cost $155,125 per year for 10 years, with options for two five-year extensions and the option to buy at any time, said college President Tom Eckert.

The district plans to borrow $4.21 million to renovate and furnish the 105,100-square-foot building at 15 N. Plumb St. in Milton.

The Janesville Transit System bus that already stops in Milton will include a stop at the center, said Renea Ranguette, vice president for finance and operations.

With staff, utilities, maintenance and associated costs, the center would cost an estimated $528,725 a year to operate, according to a memo prepared for the board. Tuition and fees would cover $370,350 of that cost, for a net increase of $158,375 to the college’s operating costs.

The Wisconsin Technical College System Board still needs to approve the lease for the project to go forward.

Board Chairman Kevin Leavy was asked what was the worst that could happen with the project. He said he was playing devil’s advocate when he speculated the investment could be wasted if the demand for the training does not materialize.

Ranguette responded that studies are projecting many job openings just to replace retired workers in this region for the next 10 years, and local leaders are “poised” to bring more manufacturing into the area.

“We probably aren’t going to have enough space,” Eckert added. “But right now this is the answer. I’m absolutely convinced the need is there.”

Eckert said local manufacturers are “wildly excited about this.”

The current manufacturing programs at Blackhawk’s central campus have a capacity of 170, while 299 have qualified for those programs, Ranguette said.

The Milton building will provide much needed space to expand programs, Eckert said.

The programs that would relocate to Milton are computer-numerical control technician, computer systems technology, electro-mechanical technology, industrial engineering technician, industrial mechanic, mechanical design technology, welding and heating/ventilation/air conditioning/refrigeration.

Scott Kramer of Plunkett Raysich Architects gave the board an overview of the renovations, which are expected to showcase the clean, bright atmosphere of a modern manufacturing facility.

Kramer and said the firm has also been meeting with employees, administration, board and students as part of a “visioning process” that could lead to a “re-branding” that could change the look of the new center in Milton as well as that of the central campus.

Last updated: 8:08 am Monday, April 29, 2013

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