It takes a team to grow the business community.
Gateway Technical College, the Kenosha Area Business Alliance, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, the Kenosha County Job Center and private industry have formed a partnership that not only has brought more jobs and a bevy of companies across the Illinois border, but has helped to ensure companies have a properly prepared workforce.
Since 2013, more than 8,000 jobs, $1.2 billion in capital investment and more 10 million square feet of development have been absorbed by companies that have either expanded operations or relocated to Kenosha County, according to statistics released by KABA.
While financial incentives and support services have been an attraction for some companies, the training of workers to fill some of the more specialized skilled and technical jobs has been another key attraction.
Heather Wessling, KABA’s vice president of economic development, calls the marketing effort a “team of partners” working for a cause. She said the WEDC provides business development tax credits and training grants, while the Job Center works with the companies to develop grant and training opportunities.
“We’re like an extension of their human resource team,” said Wessling of the partnership.
The Kenall experience
In 2013, Kenall Manufacturing, a specialty lighting company, had outgrown its Gurnee, Ill., headquarters. Officials considered several locations, but the company was wooed to Kenosha County more than three years ago because the marketing team that included KABA and Gateway, provided the right incentive — workforce training.
Randell Hernandez, the company’s executive vice president of operations, said the deciding factor was the partnership that had Gateway actively involved in the training.
“There was a lot of proactive movement on their part,” Hernandez said Thursday during an editorial board session with the Kenosha News. Referring to Gateway’s involvement, he noted that the college has developed programs to meet its special workforce needs.
“If the college doesn’t have one, we customize one to provide the training a company needs,” explained Debbie Davidson, Gateway’s vice president for business and workforce solutions.
When Kenall developed Indigo-Clean, a special bacteria-killing lighting system for the healthcare industry, it needed electronic assembly employees. Gateway developed a program and packaged the instructors to accommodate the need.
The relationship is mutually beneficial as Gateway has received state-of-the-art lighting for the Kenall Protective Services Training Center and Indigo-Clean lighting for its surgical training rooms.
Filling a need
Since 2011, Gateway has provided training for more than 50 companies. It has trained more than 1,500 employees since the 2013-14 academic year administering more than $900,000 in Workforce Advancement Training grants. Training areas include robotics, die cast, computer numeric control operation and much more.
The college provides on-site training for existing employees and offers training for students who become an employee pipeline for companies.
“We provide whatever a company needs,” said Davidson.