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MAC opens new Industry & Technology Center

Despite the intense heat, around 200 people came out last week to take part in the ribbon-cutting and open house held on MAC’s Park Hills campus for the new Industry and Technology Center. (Kevin R. Jenkins)

Supporters brave heat to attend ribbon-cutting, open house

Kevin R. Jenkins,

About 200 people gathered at Mineral Area College last week to attend a Thursday morning ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house to recognize the grand opening of the new 80,500-square-foot Industry and Technology Center on the school’s main Park Hills campus.

The ceremony, held in conjunction with the Park Hills-Leadington, Farmington Regional, Desloge, and Bonne Terre chambers of commerce, took place at the building’s front entrance, followed by a brief program in the lobby and concluding with tours of the building.

The program began with a rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner sung by Army National Guard combat medic and MAC student Alyssa Sample, followed by a “blessing of the building” by the Rev. Ron Beaton, pastor of Memorial United Methodist Church in Farmington.

Gilgour: “A new century”

Addressing the crowd, MAC President Dr. Joe Gilgour said it was a day the college had anticipated for a long time, and it signaled “a new century at Mineral Area College.”

“We start our 101st year with this addition to our campus, and it will be really changing how workforce development and customized training are going to happen in this region for generations to come,” he said. “There’s going to be a huge impact on this community forever as students come through, generation after generation. But there’s already been an impact.

“Just the construction of this building, this 80,000-square-foot facility, brought in 200 employees to work on this building, over 40,000 hours to put this together — which generated just in wages, not tools and equipment, but just wages — $1.3 million that went right back into this economy for people that work here, that were now spending their money on their families in our economy right here, locally. So, I’m really thankful it’s already started. Even before the students are here, it’s making a huge impact on the community.”

Words of thanks

MAC’s new 80,500-square-foot Industry and Technology Center models the open metal structure concept used by US Tool and many other industrial companies in the United States and around the world. (Kevin R. Jenkins)

After recognizing the state legislators, members of the St. Francois County Commission and chamber of commerce leadership, Gilgour thanked the school’s board of trustees and staff, and members of the MAC Foundation. He also thanked US Tool Group CEO Bruce Williams and Tony Myers, US Tool Group Human Resources vice president and MAC Foundation president, among others who were in attendance.

Gilgour continued, saying, “I want to thank [state representatives] Dale Wright and Mike Henderson. I think my first meeting here after I was announced as president was with Dale. He explained to me this project that had been going on for a long time, and so these two have been working tirelessly for Mineral Area College.

“They help us, not just with this building, but also with a lot of other things and our communities. We are so fortunate in this region to have our state reps who work so hard for our communities, but these two have really fought for MAC everywhere, and they know it. They’ve done a really great job.”

Rep. Henderson

The program’s first speaker, Rep. Henderson, R-Desloge, said he wanted to talk about how the building came to be, “this thing that’s going to change our region, going to change St. Francois County, and that’s huge for MAC — how did it get here?”

Henderson said it wasn’t because of he and Wright.

“It was the business leaders years ago who came together. Bruce Williams is one of them, and I want to mention Tony Myers right here. Tony headed that up. I remember talking about it at one of the meetings at Catfish Kettle. How do we get this done?” Henderson recounted. “We brought a lot of business leaders together. They had the vision for this. And then Dr. Gilgour came in behind him and said, ‘MAC can do this.’ The MAC board bought in and said, ‘Mineral Area College can be a part of this. We can do this.’”

Henderson concluded his part of the program by thanking Governor Mike Parson, Rep. Wright, and Missouri Senator Elaine Gannon for their efforts in making the new building possible.

CEO Williams

Introducing the program’s final speaker, Gilgour noted that US Tool CEO Williams had not only helped MAC with the center’s vision but also made a $250,000 donation to get the building’s construction off the ground.

Addressing the crowd, Williams said, “A group of us literally sat around dreaming about this for years and years. Mit Landrum, Tony, myself, other people in the industry, and educators dreamed about this day today. And it’s here today. It’s just unbelievable.

US Tool CEO Bruce Williams recalls when MAC President Dr. Joe Gilgour and Executive Director of Development Kevin Thurman brought plans for the proposed Industry and Technology Center to his office. He wasn’t impressed. (Kevin R. Jenkins)

“I represent the manufacturing part of the community, and I’m here to say to the educators, to our state representatives and to Governor Parson, thank you, thank you from the bottom of our hearts because we need the skills and the graduates from these programs to move our companies forward and help our community be successful. So, I talked to Mitt yesterday and said, ‘Mitt, tell me about the early, early days, even before I got involved’ — and Mitt was involved in all that.

“He said, ‘A decade ago, two decades ago, there were 20 training facilities in Missouri and none of them in southeast Missouri.’ He said our community really needed advanced training. We had UniTec — UniTec is fantastic. US Tool has the blessing of receiving graduates from UniTec and from Mac all the time, and they are fantastic,” he said. “They are great additions to our team, so we really, really appreciate it. But during that time, we went for a big property tax increase, and it was huge, and it was a big expensive building and all that, and it failed. But four years ago in 2019, when Joe came here, the MAC board, foundation and Joe restarted the initiative and said this is priority one.

“And that’s when the work really started that ended up in the success here.”

A new vision

Williams recalled two years ago when Gilgour and Executive Director of Development Kevin Thurman first approached the CEO with architectural plans for the building.

“Joe and Kevin came into my office, sat down, and said, ‘We want to show you this project. We’ve got this big rendering of this big, very fancy brick building, and all the classrooms and stuff like that. They showed me the whole thing and spent about an hour going over it. I said, ‘This is very exciting, but it looks like this building has been designed by educators,’” he said. “And they said, ‘What do you mean?’ I said, ‘Let’s go for a walk. You have to understand how industry works. We basically stick a couple of poles in the ground, stretch some sheet metal around it, and we do the manufacturing inside because we can’t afford to build big fancy buildings.

“And when your graduates come out of your programs, what are they going to go into? They’re not going to go into a brick building. They’re going to go into a metal building — an open structure metal building.’ They were like, ‘I don’t know.’

“So, we went on a tour, and I said, ‘Look, this department right here — that’s your welding area. This is your CNC (Computer Numerical Control) technology area. Look at these fork trucks driving around in an open structure.’ A bell rings. We have a bell that says it’s lunchtime. Let’s create an environment where when they go to work, they say that’s not that different, so they bought into it.”

A week later, Gilgour and Thurman returned to Williams’ office with the architect.

“He had spent a year on this project — all the renderings and all that stuff,” Williams said. “He came in like, ‘What does that mean? They said you had some kind of idea you wanted to go over with me.’ I said Let’s not talk; let’s go out in the plant.’ And I did the same thing — walked out to the open structure — and that guy goes, ‘I get it.’

“I hope that contributed to turning things around and helped change the direction that a lot of colleges, school districts and communities are headed. We don’t have to have big fancy buildings. We need to have buildings that keep the rain and the wind off.”

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