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Schools, manufacturers working to “grow our own”

January 28, 2019

Through endeavors like the advanced manufacturing design technology and welding technology programs and Hastings 2.0, local education institutions are working to “grow our own.”

The Hastings Economic Development Corp.’s 45th annual meeting, Thursday evening at The Lark celebrated the work that colleges and school districts in Hastings are exerting to develop young talent and the future workforce.

Guest speakers Dean Moors, executive director of the Central Community College foundation; and Bill Hitesman, CCC-Hastings campus president, spoke about updates to curriculum as well as the CCC-Hastings campus.

Chris Hochstetler, Hastings College dean of innovation and creativity, also a guest speaker, spoke about Hastings 2.0 as well as the importance of creativity to the future workforce of Nebraska.

CCC broke ground in September 2018 for a 32,000-square-foot renovation and expansion of the Hamilton Building after meeting the CCC Foundation met its $5 million fundraising goal six months ahead of schedule.

The Hamilton Building is home to CCC’s advanced manufacturing design technology and welding technology programs.

A 17,000-square-foot addition will be constructed on the south side of the existing building to house the AMDT program. A 15,000-square-foot renovation of the existing building will follow and will house the welding technology program.

Construction of the addition will begin immediately, while the renovation will commence in one year. The total cost of the project is $10.3 million, of which $5.3 million will come from college reserves, with the intention of no long-term debt.

“We’re going to see retention in our industry and we’re going to see growth and it’s going to come from our young students of today,” Moors said. “They have an incredible skill set.”

He said when the advanced manufacturing design portion of that project is completed the hope is it to will generate 25 to 40 positions into the workforce annually.

’You think about that long term, it means a big deal for this community and we’re excited about it,” Moors said.

Hitesman spoke about other planned improvements to the campus including a renovation of the Platte Building and a walking trail.

The wind turbine on the CCC campus that came online in December 2016 has generated 120 percent of the campus’ energy needs in its first two years.

CCC is also working on potential partnerships for an energy technology program with companies that are either based in Nebraska or have a presence in Nebraska to train students to work in the renewable energy field in Nebraska.

Hochstetler, who is just completing his first 100 days at Hastings College, spoke about Hastings 2.0, which includes several changes when students enter Hastings College next fall.

Among those are iPads for all students, a travel component in the second year, a restructured semester schedule and new curriculum.

With the 2-7-7 and 7-2-7 week semester schedule in the new program, the idea is that students most likely would travel during one of the two-week blocks.

Hochstetler had several brochures with information about Hastings 2.0 available Thursday.

He called Hastings 2.0 the “pointy end of the spear” when it comes the ways Hastings College is training the new workforce.

“There’s a lot behind 2.0 that’s not in this brochure,” he said.

He is part of that training as dean of innovation and creativity.

“I believe at the core of a human being is this thing called creativity,” he said. “It doesn’t belong to just artists, sculptors, painters, people who draw, musicians, actors. They don’t have a lock on creativity. They are creative people. Every human being is born with this inside of them. It’s what makes us human.”

Creativity is integral to humanity, he said.

“My goal is that gets inculcated into the entire curriculum of Hastings College,” he said. “That’s the broad head of the spear.”

That includes establishing a network within the state and country to support experiential learning for a liberal arts education.

“That network needs to be maintained, it needs to be grown, it needs to be developed more.”

There’s no community in Nebraska like Hastings, he said.

“Look at the people in this room right now, Hastings College is Hastings, the community and the community of Hastings is Hastings College,” he said. “There’s no distinction here.”

Thursday was also the first annual meeting with Michael Krings as executive director. He thanked past board members as well as past executive directors Dee Haussler and Dave Rippe.

“The past 40-plus years and all the volunteers who have been involved in this corporation and with Dee and Dave’s leadership, this corporation is in an amazing position,” Krings said. “It’s positioned very well to address the needs of what this community has and being able to really move the community forward. We have the philosophy, we have the resources to really impact change in this community.”

Throughout the last 45 years, HEDC has focused on industrial development, being proactive with infrastructure and property, he said.

He spoke about ongoing work in North Parks Commons, which includes both residential and commercial development.

He also spoke about planned projects in industrial park north including new streets Utech Circle and Utech Avenue to open up more development opportunities there.

He thanked the HEDC executive committee as well as Bob Wilson and Maggie Vaughan, HEDC director of talent solutions.

Vaughan served as interim director for about a year after Rippe left to become director of the Nebraska Department of Economic Development and before Krings took office. Wilson oversaw HEDC real estate operations during that time.

Vaughan said 2018, for most of which she was interim director of HEDC, was an exceptional year.

“I’d be lying if I said this last year wasn’t challenging because it was incredibly challenging, but it was also the most rewarding year I have had thus far,” she said.

She received daily encouragement from HEDC board members.

She spoke about HEDC’s talent initiative, which includes school connect and career connect programs preparing local students for the workforce.

Hastings has a strong SKillsUSA program. Two members of that program: Alex Kemnitz and Adolfo Diaz won gold in the additive manufacturing competition of the 2018 SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference.

In Vaughan’s job, she focuses on talent, marketing and entreprenuership.

“Knowing those three things can make an impact on our community and I get to be a part of it is probably one of the best feelings in the world,” she said.

She honored Hitesman, as well as Hastings Public Schools superintendent Craig Kautz, with plaques.

Both men announced recently they would retire. Vaughan worked with Hitesman and Kautz through their involvement in the Hastings Manufacturing Pathways Advisory Team.

David Brandt, incoming HEDC board vice president, honored outgoing HEDC president Pat Mertens with a plaque. He also thanked Vaughan and Wilson.

“We all genuinely want to drive Hastings forward and continue to do the great things that are working here that have been started with Dee and the folks, all in this room that have served on the board,” Brandt said. “We want to continue doing that, carrying the flag forward for Hastings.”

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