Pittsburg commission approves fund for tech center

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — The Pittsburg City Commission has approved appropriating $300,000 in economic development loan funds for a proposed technical education center that would serve high school, community college and adult students while also providing a workforce for southeast Kansas businesses.

The vote Tuesday night came after more than two years of discussion about the center, which will cost an estimated $1.3 million. The Bicknell Family Foundation has donated $1 million to the project to buy a building and 18 acres, The Pittsburg Morning-Sun reported.

“Essentially, we’re trying to address the dire need for more robust workforce training here in southeast Kansas. (It’s) probably the most crucial need for economic development,” said Blake Benson, Pittsburg economic development director.

A building in the Pittsburg Industrial Park that is currently used by Fort Scott Community College will house the center, with an expansion to allow additional programs. The programs offered will include construction trades programs, such as welding, carpentry and masonry, as well auto technology, John Deere repair and culinary arts. Fort Scott Community College and Pittsburg State University will offer the various programs.

Pittsburg school superintendent Destry Brown said the district’s technical education program has grown from five or six students six years ago to more than 100 students just from Pittsburg. He said he expects the technical education center would draw students from all six county high schools and some from Cherokee County, as well as train adults.

Commissioner Patrick O’Bryan said the center will help the county respond to inquiries from outside businesses.

“They don’t only want to know how much our electricity costs and our water costs, they want to know what kind of employees do they have to select from here.” O’Bryan said. “Oftentimes, we just don’t have good enough number strength to show them. I think this will definitely move us forward on leveling that playing field.”

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