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Elkhart County agrees to contribute $500,000 to Ivy Tech expansion

The Elkhart County Council voted Saturday, Jan. 11, to give $500,000 to Ivy Tech Community College for its new World Class Lean Advanced Manufacturing Training Center, an addition to its campus near Elkhart.
Posted on Jan. 11, 2014 at 12:00 a.m. | Updated on Jan. 11, 2014 at 12:36 p.m.

GOSHEN — Ivy Tech Community College is $500,000 closer to adding on to its campus southeast of Elkhart.

The Elkhart County Council voted Saturday, Jan. 11, to contribute to the college’s $14 million expansion, which includes the construction of its new World Class Lean Advanced Manufacturing Training Center. The center will provide training and certifications for people interested in the automotive and recreational vehicle industries.

The county’s redevelopment commission approved the request last fall for $500,000 from the Northeast Corridor Tax Increment Financing District, which has a balance of about $3.5 million.

“At the meeting, they specifically requested funding for site preparation, roads and utility improvements,” County Plan Director Chris Godlewski told the council Saturday, adding that redevelopment commission members agreed the new center would contribute to “job creation, skills enhancement and the general prosperity of the region.”

County Commissioner Mike Yoder told the council that Ivy Tech would not receive any funds from the TIF district until the project is under way.

“Part of the reason the county is being upfront now and trying to push this is because it shows they have local support,” Yoder said, adding that other businesses and organizations will follow in the county’s footsteps with contributions.

County Councilman David Foutz said he hopes the presence of a state-of-the-art facility like the one Ivy Tech plans to build will draw more commercial development to the area.

Ivy Tech purchased 43 acres behind its campus off of C.R. 18 near C.R. 17 where the 55,000-square-foot center will be built. The school plans to graduate about 400 students with certificates and degrees from the training program each year.

“One of the things that we were seeing in the factories is people advertise five positions, and they get 200 people applying for the job, and they end up with seven possibly qualified people because there’s no system for certification,” County Council President John Letherman said.

The skills needed to work in the automotive and recreational vehicle industries are much more technologically demanding than they used to be, Letherman added.

“There is a tremendous need for auto mechanic skills, and auto mechanics now is not a crescent wrench and hammer,” he said. “A lot of it is electronics. If you look at the electronics in the average car now, they’re just way, way off the chart. They’re very few people who can fix this stuff or know anything about it, and with all the RVs and motorhomes that are built here, we’ve been told that’s a skill they really need to have some training in.”

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