LEBANON, Ind. – State leaders praised the new Gene Haas Training and Education Center as part of the new Center’s dedication on Dec. 9 in Lebanon.
“All over Indiana, people should celebrate this great facility and what it means to Hoosiers – the opportunity to get a high-quality job,” said Jim Schellinger, president of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation. He said the Center will address the number one economic threat facing the state, talent attraction and retainment, and that Vincennes University is a good partner to address the problem.
“When I’m talking to prospective clients, I tell them that the number one advanced manufacturing university in the United States is right here, Vincennes University,” Schellinger said. VU is the chosen educational provider at the new Center, a partnership between the City of Lebanon and the Gene Haas Foundation.
Ground was broken on July 26, 2014, for the Gene Haas Training and Education Center, a 24,000 sq. ft. facility with seven flexible labs for CAD, manufacturing, materials testing, logistics training, and robotics instruction. The facility also includes 14 smart classrooms, lecture hall for 120 people, project room for high-tech collaboration equipment, offices, and conference room.
Among the instruction provided at the Center will be Computer Numerical Control machinist training programs using the latest, state-of-the-art CNC machine tools from Haas Automation, and industry-standard certification from NIMS, the National Institute of Metalworking Skills. A 16-week intensive training program will also be offered for veterans, doubling Vincennes University’s current capacity for veteran training in the field.
“Vincennes University takes great pride in working with stakeholders and partners to make this day possible,” said VU President Chuck Johnson. “We look forward to many exciting developments coming out of this Center. We think it is just the start for many great things for Boone County and the region.”
There is a severe shortage of skilled workers in Indiana’s precision machining and advanced manufacturing industry. At the same time there is a high rate of unemployment among veterans. This Center will address both issues as well as provide training for the general public.
Army veteran Stephen Harris, who graduated from VU’s CNC Machinist NOW program and is now its newest instructor, said he is grateful for the opportunity it has provided him. “Just so you know what the Gene Haas Foundation does – it paid for all of my costs to attend the program. Thank you very much,” Harris said. “I’m going to do the best I can for every student who comes through this program, just like my instructors here did for me.”
Speaking on behalf of Indiana’s Lt. Governor, Peggy Welch, director of Indiana Intergovernmental Affairs, said that VU’s commitment to training students is making a difference in the state. “The Lt. Governor really appreciates the partnerships and the focus VU has for training veterans,” Welch said.
Lebanon Mayor Huck Lewis said the new Center “will be an economic development driver for the region” that will serve high school graduates, veterans, and those who are underemployed or unemployed. “I hope that we have the educated workforce to bring more manufacturing and machine shops to Lebanon. That is the ultimate goal to be achieved through education,” Lewis said.
A VU alumnus, Lewis said his experience in the machining business in the aerospace industry for 25 years showed him that VU was the right partner for Lebanon. “When we hired someone who had gone through VU’s Tool and Die program, we did not have to train them, so I knew what VU has to offer,” Lewis said. He thanked VU and the Gene Haas Foundation for the partnership and he also singled out the Lebanon City Council and Redevelopment Commission for investing $6.5 million in the facility.
As part of the dedication ceremony, the Gene Haas Foundation donated $500,000 to Vincennes University for construction of the building – the last installment of the company’s $1.5 million pledge – and an additional $382,400 for scholarships.
“We invest in people. That is what a Gene Haas Training and Education Center is all about,” said Scott Gasich, vice president of Sales for Haas Automation.
Saying that VU’s reputation in advanced manufacturing training has spread internationally, attracting instructors to visit from Europe and Asia, Kathy Looman, administrator of the Gene Haas Foundation, thanked VU “for helping the HTEC program to grow to almost 3,000 schools worldwide.” She also praised Mayor Lewis’ vision. “I remember meeting Mayor Lewis two years ago. I was so impressed with his knowledge of manufacturing and thought if every politician had his knowledge of manufacturing, our country would be in an entirely different place now,” Looman said.
Dr. Robert L. Taylor, superintendent of the Lebanon Community School Corporation, said Mayor Lewis was the driving force for the project. “Special thanks go to Mayor Lewis. Without his vision we would not have this outstanding Center,” Taylor said, noting that generations of students will benefit.