State approves $675,711 incubator grant
by Jack McNeely
Feb 11, 2014 | 1461 views | 0 0 comments | 24 24 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The state department of education has approved funds for a workforce development incubator that will bridge the skills gap between Walker County’s high school graduates and the needs of its industrial partners, officials announced Monday.

“I hope this announcement ends the first chapter of a lengthy book of our ongoing economic growth and development,” said David O’Mary, director of the Jasper Industrial Development Board and chair of the Walker County Workforce Development Task Force.

The Alabama State Department of Education approved the $675,711 grant in mid-January pending a budget meeting, noted Deb Ellis of the Walker County Center of Technology. The final budget meeting is scheduled Friday at the Jefferson County Board of Education office in Birmingham.

“I am excited. I was told that our incubator project will be used as a model for the rest of the state,” said a proud Ellis during the task force meeting.

The workforce development task force was the brainchild of State Rep. Bill Roberts less than a year ago. Today, it is a collaborative effort by the city and county high schools, Bevill State Community College, numerous community leaders and representatives from business and industry.

“It shows what can happen when you work together,” said Rep. Roberts. “If we don’t develop our skills traits, we are going to suffer. Industry is key to our survival.”

Al Moore of Bevill State’s Sumiton campus echoed the sense of accomplishment. “It (the incubator) is great,” he said. “It will be a model for the rest of the state. I can see it growing.”

The Walker County workforce development incubator is located at the Bevill Industrial Park. David Cooper of ATN said the facility includes a 5,000-square-foot machine shop and additional space for an office and classroom.

Modifications are already underway to prep the building for the fall 2014 school semester.

However, nearly $130,000 is needed to complete the building modifications. Alabama Power has promised up to $40,000 while other industry is asked to invest in the modification project since the incubator will be used to train the industrial workforce.

The grant monies, meanwhile, can only be used to purchase equipment necessary to train individuals in the areas of industrial maintenance and/or precision machining.

The Career and Technical Education Bond Issue Competitive Funds are made available through the Alabama Workforce Act.