East Central College

East Central College is working with the city of Union to secure a community development block grant (CDBG) to help pay for a new job training center.

ECC is looking to renovate a 3,560-square-foot area in Hansen Hall where the school’s heating and air conditioning classes were held before moving to the Business and Industry Center in 2017.

“It’s an old space that really isn’t utilized,” Joel Doepker, ECC vice president of external relations, told The Missourian.

The project has a total cost of $547,866.66, with $150,621.95 of that related to mechanical, electrical and plumbing, including new HVAC.

“Ironically, the old refrigeration lab does not have HVAC equipment,” Assistant City Administrator James Schmieder said at a city parks, buildings, development and public service committee meeting Monday, Nov. 16.

The committee voted to move forward with working with ECC on the grant.

Schmieder said the city must apply for the grant with the Missouri Department of Economic Development, which could bring in up to $500,000. The city will see few direct expenses from the project, Schmieder said.

“As far as costs to the city, it’s going to take a little bit of my time to work with them on the application process,” Schmieder said. “I’ve already been on site visits to check out the space that they’re talking about. The mayor has to sign some documents. My personal opinion is this is a great support for an institution that is a huge part of our community, and it’s something the city can sponsor as part of our governmental agreement.”

The grant is paid through the city to the college, Doepker said.

“The college would then have the financial burden,” he said. “We really do appreciate the city working with us.”

The project directly benefits Union and other Franklin County communities because it will assist with job creation, Doepker said. The adult education classes that will be available there are short-term training that will get students into the workforce within three to four months.

“They were picked specifically to help our local area,” he said of the courses.

Health care is among the areas that will be assisted with the certified nursing assistant and certified medication technician courses offered in the renovated space. Other classes will be offered to help people become workplace safety technicians, logistics technicians and quality assurance technicians for products like cell phones, computers and cars. Environmental Protection Agency Certification also will be offered.

“These are the programs we could start with,” Doepker said. “We could certainly develop new programs as we go.”

While some of the programs already are offered at ECC, the new space would allow them to be more convenient to services such as academic advising, tutoring and counseling, Doepker said.

“It takes a lot of programs and puts them in the center of campus, where they will have easy access to student services,” he said.

The application for the CDBG grant is due in mid-December, Doepker said. If the request is successful, it will take three to four months to complete the renovations.

“They would have to go in there and do some demolition first, then they’ll create the office space and classroom space,” he said.

This is the first CDBG grant the city has applied for with ECC, at least in Schmieder’s six years with Union. The last time the city worked on a CDBG grant was for Corporate Drive in the Union Development Corp.’s Union Corporate Center.

Corporate Drive, which was completed in 2017, cost $808,510.32. Of that, $185,000 was covered by the grant.