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Pritzker touts start of Heartland's new electric vehicle worker training program

JB at HCC event 2.jpg
Charlie Schlenker
Gov. JB Pritzker looks on Thursday as Heartland Community College/Rivian instructor Tony Foos disassembles part of an electric vehicle at the college's temporary program headquarters in Bloomington.

Gov. JB Pritzker came to Bloomington-Normal on Thursday to celebrate the start of the Electric Vehicle Energy Storage worker training program at Heartland Community College.

The Heartland program, which has received $7.5 million in state money, is temporarily headquartered in a building on Martin Luther King Drive in Bloomington; state capital funds will help construct a permanent facility on the Heartland campus in Normal.

“Thanks to our collaboration with industry partners like Rivian, and with the significant impact of the Manufacturing Training Academy grant, Heartland Community College is poised to become a regional leader in advanced manufacturing education,” said HCC president Keith Cornille. “We anticipate seeing 360 students complete training over the next five years, and to have our state-of-the-art facility open and hosting students on our main campus in 2023.”

Pritzker has repeatedly emphasized EV investments to bolster that tech sector in the state.

“Companies coming to Illinois will find our exceptionally talented workforce ready to fill the jobs they’re creating," he said. "That's thanks in large part to community colleges like Heartland that educate our next generation of leaders and serve as economic engines for our state.”

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Charlie Schlenker
Students learn about the technology in several kinds of electric vehicles in the training program offered by Heartland Community College.

Public officials at Thursday's event said they expect EV-related jobs to double in Illinois over the next four years.

“This is an example of what is possible when you have cooperation from multiple levels of government and the private sector, all working toward a common goal,” said state Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington. “This program will not only help us grow a workforce that is competitive in an increasingly global economy, but it will also help grow local jobs and businesses that are part of an industry experiencing exponential growth.”

Reporters asked the governor about the status of negotiations to bring a Samsung electric vehicle battery plant to Normal. Illinois and reportedly Ohio are finalists in the pursuit of the $1 billion plant that could create 3,200 jobs. Pritzker said he could not talk about the prospect, but used the opportunity to stump for a legislative package of economic development incentive tools now before the General Assembly that is in its veto session.

"I do want to point out that what we're reviewing now when we talk about the electric vehicle EDGE tax credits program discussed in the legislature, that's very important not just for battery manufacturers, and for electric vehicle manufacturers, but for everybody that's in this industry," said Pritzker.

On another topic, Pritzker said he views the congressional district remaps under consideration as drafts, not the final product. The maps have attracted criticism for long and thin boundaries that group stronger Democratic party urban areas together at the expense of regionality. Pritzker said lawmakers are still working on it.

"This is how the legislature works. You put a proposal out there. You have hearings about it. You listen to the public, you debate within committee and outside and ultimately you try to put together a compromise," said Pritzker.

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Corrected: October 22, 2021 at 8:33 AM CDT
This story has been updated to reflect that Heartland Community College received $7.5 million in state money for its electric vehicle programs, not $15 million. The other $7.5 million went to downstate Southwestern Illinois College.
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