The ATC Is A Monument To Its Mission

May 17, 2002
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Grand Rapids Community College and Ferris State University mark one of the most significant milestones in education this week as the institutions celebrate a decade of learning in the Applied Technology Center.

When U.S. Rep. Paul B. Henry spoke to dedicate the center, “advances in technology” was heralded but certainly unseen in eventual scope. Just a decade ago technology was best described as CAD-CAM programs — and learning them was an important key to area manufacturers who then were only beginning to see the advantages of “just in time deliveries” and ISO standards.

The partnership then created between two educational institutions were unheard of. The demonstrated ability of the business community to financially aid ATC creation and those partnerships with state and local government were unprecedented in education. The ATC itself drew “tourist” groups from educational institutions from around the U.S. throughout the ‘90s. While “lifelong learning” was just beginning to fill a few classrooms on campus, the ATC provided the community the now necessary continued training and retraining as technology advances at rocket speed. Indeed, this was among the most important program goals. Ten years ago The Right Place Program President Birgit Klohs explained, “The issue of a trained work force has become the No. 1 issue for most employers.”

More than 60 area companies donated equipment and talent to provide a basis for learning and skills building. Gov. John Engler noted at the time, “by bringing the latest advances in technology to the college classroom, the employees of tomorrow will have greater skills and be able to readily adapt to changing technology.”

Grand Rapids Spring & Stamping President James Zawacki noted continuous education of the workforce was “the only way to compete with foreign industries.” James S. Nicholas, president and CEO of Nicholas Plastics, noted West Michigan had become a “Plastics Valley” similar to California’s “Silicon Valley,” though he believed there was a tremendous need for a technically oriented plastics engineering and training program. The plastics industry in greater Grand Rapids has since continued to grow. The number of businesses that assisted creation of the ATC does indeed read as a “Who’s Who” of local industry and includes Cascade Engineering, Lacks, Alofs, Harbor Industries in Grand Haven and WBDC Group. More than 17 professional organizations are represented from the American Chemical Society to American Culinary Federation.

Manufacturing programs are only part of the scope, and the ATC is now home to what is recognized as one of the top culinary arts programs in the country whose students run a world-class restaurant. Sysco Frost-Pak Food Service President David DeKock was division chairman for funding the program.

The ATC is testament to continuous learning, and the advent of the GRCC M-TEC expands upon its mission.

At the time of the ribbon cutting Zawacki noted, “This is a big plus for the community.”

Perhaps no one knew how much.

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