An informal open house held Sept. 21 at US Tool Group in Farmington to kick off the Mineral Area College Foundation’s Centennial Campaign for the Park Hills-based community college ended with a big surprise for the school’s president, Dr. Joe Gilgour, courtesy of US Tool CEO Bruce Williams.
The centennial campaign is raising funds for programming and other needs for the school’s new Industry and Technology Center, softball fields, renovation of the Arts and Sciences Building, construction of a FEMA storm shelter, an Associate of Fine Arts endowed chair, and student scholarships.
Following a time set aside for socializing and employee-led tours of the company’s massive headquarters in the Farmington Industrial Park, the crowd — made up of US Tool and MAC employees, as well as local political and community leaders — gathered to hear from Gilgour, CEO Williams and US Tool President Brent Williams.
Gilgour welcomed the approximately 60 to 70 people attending the event as the school is still in the midst of celebrating its 100th anniversary.
“This is a really neat event that we’re doing kicking off this capital campaign, especially in our 100th year,” he said. “I think that what’s so exciting about that is we’ve spent a lot of time already in this 100th year talking about the past and the great things that have happened at Mineral Area College and Flat River Community College over 100 years. The nice thing about the 100th anniversary is that we also talk about the future and what the next 100 years are going to bring.”
Gilgour noted that, throughout its 100-year history, the school has always been responsive to the community.
“The health community — we have one of the best nursing programs you’re going to find in the state,” he said. “Our law enforcement program — we have law enforcement all over the place who have been through our Law Enforcement Academy. Every highway patrol state trooper in the state — anyone who has gotten a criminal justice degree — it goes through Mineral Area College. That’s just an example of the quality of programs that we have where students can stay here and get that training and go work in their local communities.
“You can’t go to a hospital and not see a MAC nurse. You can’t get pulled over on 67 without a MAC employee or MAC student pulling you over. Thirty-five years ago, MAC students that wanted to get their bachelor’s degree or master’s degree had to leave town to do that. They’d get an associates degree at MAC and then they’d transfer elsewhere. A lot of people who got associates degrees are in this room and you came back or you stayed here. But what about those students who left and never came back?”
Gilgour went on to say that some communities in the region ended up dying because students didn’t have the opportunity for training and education that would keep them local.
“We’re covering all the bases here, so that’s really great,” he said. “But back then we didn’t do that, so we started a partnership with Central Methodist University, so students could stay and get their bachelor’s and master’s right here in this community.”
Gilgour shared a story about his first meeting with CEO Williams soon after coming to MAC as president.
“Kevin Thurman and I brought a drawing of a tech building that MAC had had for a long time — I don’t know when that drawing was done. He said, ‘You’ve got to meet Bruce Williams.’ So, we came out here to US Tool and we showed Bruce this drawing and Bruce almost threw that drawing in the trash. He said, ‘This is not a technical training facility.
“What you need is this. What you need is what you who took tours saw today. What you need is when students walk into a place like this they aren’t overwhelmed, they’re not blown away. It’s familiar to them. You need a training facility that shows that dirty jobs like machine tools, for instance, that they can see it’s not a dirty job.’”
Williams told Gilgour he wanted a training facility on the MAC campus that would prepare students to work in an environment like US Tool’s. Because of Williams’ critique of the original building plan, the school decided to receive input from regional businesses and industries on what kind of facility would best train potential workers, leading to the final design for the school’s 80,500-square-foot Industry and Technology Center that is now under construction.
Addressing the crowd, Bruce Williams expressed his excitement, and that of his son Brent, about the new center’s potential to train students for the workplace.
“We have students coming from MAC, and they have skills already,” he said. “They know Excel, they know manufacturing technology — and that’s what helps make us successful in serving our customers.
“MAC tech is going to take that to another level. We’ll have UniTec. We’ll have MAC tech. This is super exciting for our community, and it’s going to put us ahead of other communities. Everybody is struggling to get skilled employees and people that can provide prosperity to the community. We can bring jobs into the area, but we have to have trained, fantastic employees — and we do now because of UniTec and because of MAC.”
Turning to Gilgour, Williams said, “Joe, we’ve got a number of other industries, and we have a lot of people here today.”
Then turning to the crowd, Williams continued, “Not only is this an announcement of the project, but just so you know, this is a fundraiser, so I’m glad all of you brought your checkbooks and wallets. I’m going to kick this off and make the announcement that we are going to be donating $50,000 to the project.”
Handing the check to Gilgour, Williams said, “This one you can cash immediately.”
Handing a second check to Gilgour, Williams said, “Now, I’ve got another check for $50,000. Please don’t cash that until next September.
Handing a third check to Gilgour, Williams said, “This is for $50,000, and please don’t cash that until 2024.
Handing a fourth check to Gilgour, Williams said, “We have another $50,000 check for 2025 and here’s another [$50,000 for 2026] — $250,000 for the centennial campaign.”
Looking out at the crowd, Williams said, “And we would like to challenge all of you to give your own donations. Something similar, OK? So, the challenge has been set. We want you to come and support this program.”
Kevin R. Jenkins is the managing editor of the Farmington Press and can be reached at 573-783-9667 or firstname.lastname@example.org