A once empty parking lot sees life again

The growth and development of business and industry in Fort Dodge and the region has sparked a need for a qualified and skilled work force. Iowa Central continuously strives to meet the needs of business and industry. Part of that commitment is shown in the development of the East Campus. Iowa Central acquired what was formerly known as Smithway MotorExpress or Western Express facilities, and has established a Training Center. The emerging space and training needs of both Cargill and CJ BioAmerica fueled the need for training space, which also put Iowa Central on the fast track to get the facilities remodeled, but the goal is to have a center, and training, accessible to all business and industry in the region, as well as individuals looking to retool themselves.

Iowa Central took possession of the facility in September 2012 and has invested in remodeling to accommodate the needs. We were able to convert some open space into two new classrooms and enlarge the restrooms upstairs as well as remove some offices downstairs to create a computer lab.

Working with Cargill and CJ BioAmerica has been a true partnership. From day one, Iowa Central worked with both companies on the development of customized training. Iowa Central provided some fundamental training in general areas which prepared the individuals for on-site training. Following that, the companies have been able to drill down and provide training very specific to job requirements.

This space has primarily been occupied by Cargill since Dec. 10, and CJ started training Jan. 14. The space has worked well and we have been able to accommodate both companies. On a typical day there could be 150 employees at the East Campus participating in training activities, and at times there could be well over 200 individuals on the East Campus.

The Iowa Central East Campus has been reshaped to house three classrooms, a computer lab, three conference rooms, a large meeting room and two large industrial training/multipurpose areas and numerous offices. These facilities have been equipped with the technical capability for interactive presentation, Wi-Fi throughout, and external computer source plug-ins. The industrial training/multipurpose area offers all the amenities needed for industrial training, this would include air and multiple voltage power sources and network communication ports, as well as an adjoining classroom. Iowa Central is also installing a 16-by-16 foot overhead door so large equipment could be brought in for training purposes. This space also has the ability to be broken into various areas so that it can house multiple training programs at the same time.

Some examples of training that has already been delivered include training on pumps, electrical, basic fermentation and refinery and safety. These classes were tailored to meet the needs of specific businesses. Other course work include topics that cover soft skills, such as team building, communication and how to work well with others. The facilities have also been utilized to host events that include individuals such as the director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority, the director of the Department of Education and the lieutenant governor.

The advantages of participating in course work at the East Campus include, access to parking, easy to navigate, convenient location, technology friendly classrooms, entirely wireless site, and friendly faces that greet you. This space can also provide a company an off-site location for employee meetings, without everyday disruption.

One of the largest challenges is trying to predict what type of space will be needed in the next five years. This new space will give Iowa Central the ability and flexibility to rapidly change with the needs of the region.

The facilities are a constant work in progress based on the changing needs, but plans have been made for events such as the Farm Ag Show, The Toy Show, the Home and Garden Show, the Holiday Vendor Event and various service club organization meetings.

Currently Iowa Central’s Economic Development Department is housed at the East Campus. The team of Mary Bruhl, Sarah Rahe and Shelly Blunk works with the region’s business and industry to meet their training needs. The job training programs are administered through this department which can help to fund existing, new or expanding businesses train their workers. These programs are widely utilized through the nine counties that we serve and have been used to support training in areas from computer, supervisory, and safety training, to more industrial training including welding, pumps, machining and electrical.

In the future this facility will house the college’s noncredit offerings such as computer classes, real estate, insurance, safety classes, and classes that are customized to meet the needs of business and industry. These facilities will ensure that the college is positioned to accommodate future employee needs for other possible companies locating in the region. It will also be advantageous for existing companies to utilize the space for their training needs, the possibilities are endless.

If you are interested in visiting about your company’s training needs or would like to explore using the East Campus for training stop out, or give us a call. We will be happy to help.

Shelly Blunk is director of economic development and industrial training at Iowa Central Community College.