Concept art shows the planned technical education center at Wallace State in Hanceville. (Courtesy of Wallace State)
HANCEVILLE – Wallace State's long-term goal of opening a technical education center to equip workers with new, in-demand skills got a significant boost Thursday, when U.S. Sec. of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced that the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) is awarding a $2 million grant to the college for the project.
The new technical education center will house a welding program and business incubator, according to the announcement. The welding program upgrades will support and expand a pipeline of technical education for the region, while the incubator space will support the convergence of various community resources.
According to grantee estimates, the project is expected to create 68 jobs.
“Under the Trump Administration, workforce development and training are of the utmost importance as some workers continue to struggle in communities across the United States,” said Ross in the announcement. “This new facility in Cullman will provide the innovative education workers need to compete for jobs in the global economy.”
Wallace State President Dr. Vicki Karolewics was pleased with the news.
“Since as early as 2012, we have been working diligently to secure funding for this project. Wallace State’s involvement in launching ZeroRPM and Sequence Health only strengthened our sense of urgency that a center of this type is essential to the continued growth of jobs through entrepreneurship in our community," said Karolewics. "Chancellor (Jimmy H.) Baker and the Board of Trustees of the Alabama Community College System shared our vision, and with their support and this funding, we will finally see this vision become a reality."
U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Alabama, U.S. Sen. Richards Shelby, R-Alabama and Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey all lauded the grant and the project.
“I am proud to work with President Trump in fulfilling his mission to support rural America,” Aderholt said. “These funds invest in jobs that help drive rural Alabama and provide a good quality of life.”
“Workforce development is a cornerstone in our efforts to increase the level of education of our citizens, and in turn, our efforts to continue growing Alabama’s economy,” said Ivey. “We are honored to have the support of the U.S. Department of Commerce and Secretary Ross to implement these much-needed programs to train our workers for some of the state’s most in-demand jobs.”
Commented Shelby, “Businesses and manufacturers across the country are actively seeking workers with technical skills. This significant investment will allow Wallace State Community College the opportunity to equip students with the necessary innovative training to meet this heightened demand. Further, the new technical education center will serve a vital role in promoting workforce development and fostering economic growth throughout Alabama.”
The project was made possible by regional planning efforts led by the North Central Alabama Regional Council of Governments (NARCOG) and the EDA.