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Leaders break ground on new Heartland Community College EV and training facility

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Heartland Community College officials, state officials and others at Thursday's groundbreaking.

A ceremonial groundbreaking Thursday morning at Heartland Community College signaled the start of construction on a new $17.5 million facility aimed at training students for electric vehicle-oriented professions.

Called the Electric Vehicle Energy Storage (EVES) Manufacturing Training Academy (MTA), the 45,000-square-foot building north of the Student Commons building will give a permanent home to Heartland's EVES program, which has been underway since late 2021.

"This will be the very first academic facility designed for the training of students in electric vehicle and energy storage in the state of Illinois," said HCC president Keith Cornille. "In fact, just earlier this summer, we kicked off our agriculture facility project ... and I stated at that time, it's been some time since our college campus's footprint has seen some changes. These new changes ... are designed to move our community forward."

Construction on the six-bay EV lab is expected to begin within a week, with the goal that the building will be finished by the fall 2023 semester and ready for students by January 2024, said HCC public information director Steve Fast. Getting students in the building, he added, depends on how quickly equipment can be installed; if it takes longer than expected, the facility may not be ready to accept students until 2025.

About 200 students each year are expected to go through programs of study that will make use of the EVES MTA. In addition to the obvious courses — those that deal with electric vehicles or energy storage — the MTA also will house students in other programs, including industrial technology and manufacturing programs like HVAC training.

"We have seen the makeup of the manufacturing workforce change throughout our state and here in our local community — and as a result, we've heard from community partners and business leaders that employers need a workforce with more specialized training," Cornille said.

"We have also seen the need for career pathways that are flexible and stackable in nature to reach not only students looking for an entry into a career, but also to provide opportunities for those who are already working in these fields, but just need some of their skills to be refined."

Among those at the groundbreaking event Thursday was current student Kyle Klein, who asked to speak about his experiences. Klein, currently a stay-at-home dad, is planning to re-enter the workforce now that his children are older. He'd shown interest in EV-related work, but told a friend he believed the only option available for training was in Ohio. A friend informed him otherwise.

"It's pretty cool that it's right here, because I had no idea they were doing anything like this," Klein told reporters in a separate interview. "And I got pretty excited when I learned about it. It's like, that's perfect."

HCC began training students in EVES-related studies in late 2021, accepting an inaugural class of 12 that August, but the training was not located at the campus on Raab Road. Funding for the facility has come from borrowing, as well as around $1.5 million in private contributions and about $7.5 million in state grant funding.

HCC was one of only two colleges in Illinois to receive money from Gov. JB Pritzker's Rebuild Illinois capital plan. Fast said the other college was in the Metro East area.

Attendees of Thursday's event included Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity assistant director Khama Sharp, Bloomington Mayor Mboka Mwilambwe, Normal Town Council member Kathleen Lorenz, an state Sen. Dave Koehler, D-Peoria.

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Lyndsay Jones is a reporter at WGLT. She joined the station in 2021. You can reach her at lljone3@ilstu.edu.
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