By Ed Runyan
It took an act of Congress and $250,000 from Gov. John Kasich’s budget bill, but the village of Lordstown expects to acquire in the coming weeks title to two U.S. military buildings in the Ohio Commerce Center.
When the title transfers, the village will begin cleaning up and preparing the 7-acre site off state Route 45 so it can begin using one building for storage, paved areas for fire training and help turn the former Kunkel Army Reserve Base into a workforce training facility for Eastern Gateway Community College.
The budget money was approved to create the Tech Belt Oil and Gas Learning Center, a place where the college could provide hands-on learning for the oil and gas field, but the college believes it could offer other types of training there as well.
Among them are programmable-logic controlling, which involves use of computers to automate electromechanical processes such as control of machinery on factory assembly lines; commercial driver’s license training; and mechatronics, which combines areas such as mechanics and electronics.
Eastern Gateway provides CDL training at its Steubenville campus and expects to offer mechatronics in the coming months.
GM Lordstown is especially interested in having a location to train workers in programmable-logic controlling, and other employers also would have access to training there, said Mark Siccarelli, director of workforce development and community outreach at Eastern Gateway.
The project is expected to be a collaboration with Hiram College, which will offer junior- and senior-level coursework and possibly master’s-degree-level courses, Siccarelli said. Discussions also have taken place regarding participation by Kent State and Youngstown State universities.
Eastern Gateway is “committed to its classrooms being in downtown Warren,” but it can offer more training in Trumbull County if it gets the Lordstown facility up and running, Siccarelli said.
Before that can happen, however, Eastern Gateway will need to obtain additional money for operating costs, such as furniture, electronic equipment, welding units and ventilation systems, Siccarelli said.
An effort is under way to obtain those additional grant dollars, because the center “has to make economic sense for the college,” and the college doesn’t have the money to equip it on its own, he said.
The $250,000 will be used to renovate the two buildings, and the village is spending about $70,000 of its money for acquisition costs, said Arno Hill, Lordstown mayor.
The military did a good job of decommissioning the buildings around 2007 and 2008 so they are in good shape, Hill said. The larger building has two large bay doors and space for classrooms. It needs to be painted and cleaned.
“There’s a lot of potential,” Hill said of the site during a recent visit. The seven acres include a closed road that runs from Route 45 into the Commerce Center and past the two buildings.
Hill said as a government body, Lordstown can have the road dedicated as a public road, and that would make another 70 to 80 acres of industrially-zoned, available land on the north side of the road available for development.