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Industrial authority provides $50,000 in matching funds for facility construction

RUSSELL SPRINGS, Kentucky (June 22, 2017) — The new Lake Cumberland Regional College and Workforce Center will be a building for economic development in the community, not just a building for Russell County Schools. 

It’s a point Superintendent Michael Ford is sure to make when discussing the center, which board of education members learned would become reality last month when the state’s Work Ready Skills Initiative Advisory Committee granted $5.7 million for the project. And it’s a point that’s illustrated when flipping through the grant application’s 128 pages, which includes 48 letters of support from industry leaders and community partners from Adair, Russell and Casey counties. 

“We want this to be a building for the entire region and community,” Ford said. 

The Kentucky Work Ready Skills Initiative is a $100 million statewide bond program aimed at developing a highly trained, modernized workforce in the state to meet the needs of employers and promote sustainable incomes for Kentuckians. Grant proposals were required to have a 10 percent match from local partners.

The Russell County Industrial Development Authority joined forces with the school district early in the project, participating in community meetings and committing to a $50,000 match. Executive Director Bennie Garland stressed the importance of supporting programs that will train, support and grow the workforce in Russell and surrounding counties.

“Programs like these will only lead to stronger industry recruitment and enhanced economic development,” Garland said. “When our workforce is strong, our community is strong. RCIDA is committed to supporting that effort.”

The center, which officials expect will produce its first graduating class in May 2019, will serve 2,215 high school students and 620 adults in all five primary Kentucky Workforce Investment Board sectors — advanced manufacturing, health care, technology, construction trades and transportation. The project is expected to total $11.4 million, Ford said.

Partnerships with Lindsey Wilson College, the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, Eastern Kentucky University and Western Kentucky University will allow the center to provide associate’s to bachelor’s (or A to B) programs, where students work toward an associate’s degree in high school and enroll in an institution of higher learning to complete a four-year degree. Certification programs will also be offered, and adults will have access to programs in the evening. 

The center will also continue to foster and develop apprenticeship programs with local industries, like one that currently exists with Dr. Schneider Automotive, that offer flexible performance-based credit by allowing students to spend time during the school day receiving on-the-job training. 

As part of the area’s Collaborating Across the Regions (CAR) partnership, students from Adair, Casey and Russell counties will be able to attend classes at the center, or at hubs in Adair and Casey, thanks to in-kind funding for bus transportation. With a similar $230,000 grant, Adair County Schools will expand its health sciences programs for the region. Casey County currently serves as the training hub for transportation-related programs. Russell County’s center will focus on expanding the information technology and advanced manufacturing sectors.

The design development phase of building construction will begin in July, with construction anticipated to start in 2018.

Ford and Garland said important to the project’s success was the support of State Rep. Jeff Hoover and State Senator Max Wise, as well as the many businesses, educators and community members in the tri-county region who devoted their time and input in developing the grant application. Ford also thanked RCIDA, who “was an absolute partner from the get-go.”

“We didn’t get the first round of funding [for the project], but we were all the better for it because we had such good, rich discussions at our community meetings,” Ford said. “RCIDA has been a true partner, not just because of their $50,000 match, but because of their leadership and mentorship.”

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