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Grant could help ACC expand welding, manufacturing programs

News Photo by Crystal Nelson Alpena Community College students James Morrison and Austin Eller complete a test as part of the college’s manufacturing program.

ALPENA — Alpena Community College is in the running for a $2.4 million grant that would allow the college to purchase new equipment and double the space for its manufacturing and welding programs.

The U.S. Department of Commerce grant would pay for 80% of the project, while the college would pay 20% in matching funds — or $600,000.

“This would be a good thing for the college to get this grant,” ACC President Don MacMaster said. “It would be the next project for the college after Van Lare Hall, which is also going well.”

Van Lare Hall is currently undergoing a $3.5 million renovation.

The welding and manufacturing programs currently share a space in the college’s Besser Technical Center.

The grant would allow the manufacturing program to move into the college’s former auto body laboratory, which would allow the welding program to expand into the remaining space.

Andrew Paad, instructor for the machine tool apprenticeship and millwright program, said the space is cramped.

“I try to make it as realistic or real-world as it can be, and, with the setup here, we just don’t have that,” he said. “It’s not like a real shop, it’s so inefficient.”

Paad said he would like to purchase some newer machinery. He said the program has some equipment dating back to the 1980s that could be replaced.

The college could also purchase multiple of the same machines, which would take some of the strain off of the ones that run nonstop and alleviate the need for maintenance

Paad said the grant would also free up money in his budget that would otherwise be used on the college’s machinery and would allow him to purchase tools. He said his second-biggest expense is tools.

MacMaster said students in the manufacturing and welding programs are either continuing their education after high school or are already working in the field and looking to advance their skills.

“Manufacturing is a booming sector in our local economy,” MacMaster said. “Retail is struggling, for sure, but manufacturing is really going well and that’s important because those jobs do support families and taxpayers in this region.”

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