Government, industry, and education officials joined Central Maine Community College (CMCC) students and employees at a dedication ceremony on October 27 for the official opening of the Gene Haas Precision Machining Technology (PMT) Center at the College.
The College began work on the project in spring 2017. The first phase involved an interior renovation of over 5,000 square feet, including the relocation of the quality control room, offices, computer class, and locker room to update and improve overall functionality. Phase Two was the construction of a 3,600 square foot addition to accommodate recent equipment acquisitions, and improvements to existing electrical power distribution, lighting systems, and the mechanical ventilation system.
The Gene Haas Foundation awarded the College a grant of one million dollars toward this expansion project. Founded in 1999 by Haas Automation founder and Stewart-Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas, the Haas Foundation has granted more than $12 million to institutions that champion advanced manufacturing education. The Haas Foundation has been a generous supporter of the PMT program and machinist-based continuing education at CMCC for many years.
In addition to the Haas funds, the College secured a grant of $1.6 million from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA). Officials from the EDA have noted that not only do many companies use the machining center at CMCC for employee training and access to specialized equipment, but that this expansion is a timely one given that area employers expect to need an additional 900 precision machinists in the next five years.
The College also received a grant of $250,000 from the Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC) as part of $2 million in funding it has provided to upgrade infrastructure and provide job-training skills across the state. The NRBC is a federal-state partnership Congress created in 2008 to help alleviate economic distress and encourage private-sector job creation throughout the northern counties of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York.
“The expansion of the PMT facility will enable the program to build on the significant accomplishments funded previously under two grants totaling 2.3 million dollars from the National Science Foundation (NSF), noted Scott Knapp, president of CMCC. Those efforts resulted in the creation of a “virtual collaboration infrastructure,” an environment in which both design and precision machining students work in concurrent or virtual product design and development; and the development of curriculum for 3D machining and CNC machining that address industry needs in high-end skills that are directly applicable to the precision manufacturing environment.
Richard Bolding, chair of the PMT program at the College, noted that skilled graduates are in high demand and that many of them have jobs by the end of their first year on campus. “The expansion of the PMT program will help support the growth of good-paying, high technology jobs in the region and throughout the state,” Bolding added.
The PMT program at CMCC, the largest in the Northeast, offers a two-year associate in applied science degree, a one-year certificate, and an advanced certificate. Students are trained in conventional and CNC (computer numeric control) machining. Graduates of the program are employed as machine operators, CNC machinists, tool and die makers, quality control inspectors, machine assemblers, machine tool designers, CNC programmers or field service representatives.
Photo caption 1: Precision Machining student Nicholas Kondax cuts the ribbon at the dedication of the Gene Haas Precision Machining Technology Center at CMCC. Looking on from left are Kathy Looman, administrator for the Gene Haas Foundation; Amy Landry, executive director of the Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments; Kondax; Alan Brigham, economic development representative from the EDA; Mark Scarano, federal co-chair at the Northern Border Regional Commission; and Diane Dostie, recently retired as dean of corporate and community services at CMCC.
Photo caption 2: Working at a Haas VM 2 vertical mold machine, student Cameron LaMadeleine measures the tolerance of a part to determine if it is in tolerance. The expansion of the precision machining lab at CMCC has provided much-needed space for this and other recently acquired machining equipment.