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MGCC Awarded $3 Million Grant Toward New Workforce Training Center in BV

Washington, DC (Oct. 19, 2022) - U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo has announced that the Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) is awarding a $3 million grant to the Mountain Gateway Community College Real Estate Foundation for renovation of a workforce development center to service a community impacted by unemployment and the downturn in the coal industry.

This project will support the establishment of a manufacturing training center, to be located in a 18,750 square-foot building that once housed the Courtesy Ford dealership at 2019 Forest Avenue in downtown Buena Vista, to meet local employers’ existing and future workforce needs, as well as an entrepreneurial innovation laboratory. This EDA grant will be matched with $750,000 in local funds and is expected to create or retain 110 jobs and generate $2 million in private investment, according to grantee estimates.

“We have now raised over $4.5 million toward the estimated $5.3 million project,” said MGCC President Dr. John Rainone. He said he was confident that the remaining amount will be raised.

The project, from its inception until now, has been underway for almost two years, he said. “I am beyond thrilled that we received notification of this grant from the EDA for what will be a new Workforce Center in the Rockbridge region, adding to the many programs already offered and which will continue to be offered at our Rockbridge Regional Center, also in Buena Vista.

He said he anticipates that that the construction and renovation will begin in early 2023, completed in about 10 months, and be ready to accept students by the fall of 2024.

Dr. Rainone added that the new workforce training center, to be named the Wilson Workforce Development Center, after Buena Vista native and VMI graduate Joe Wilson, who made the purchase of the building possible, also will not supplant or replace any of the workforce programs offered on the main campus in Clifton Forge. Wilson, a retired businessman who resides in Fredericksburg, has been very supportive of the Virginia Community College System for many years.

The CTE (Career and Technical Education) programs to be scheduled at the new Wilson Center will include heavy trades such as heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), electrical and plumbing, diesel mechanic, machine tool, welding, building trades and Commercial Driver’s License (CDL.) All of the training falls under the FastForward program, which offers tuition assistance for Virginia residents to train for in-demand jobs.

“We have a service area of 18,000 square miles,” he noted. “I am so pleased that we will be able to offer this training in the trades to such a large portion of our service area, namely the cities of Buena Vista and Lexington and Rockbridge County.”

The entire project has been a collaborative effort, with input from the Lexington-Rockbridge Chamber of Commerce, the Shenandoah Valley Partnership and the Shenandoah Valley Workforce Development Board, and several local employers, among others. Dr. Rainone said they all expressed a need for a trained labor force.

“The Wilson Center will expand the College’s capacity to deliver in-demand training and award industry credentials in a number of in-demand areas,” said Dr. Rainone.

Several federal and state officials and representatives praised the EDA grant:

“The Biden Administration is committed to ensuring that our works have the skills they need to compete for good-paying jobs in the communities in which they live,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo. “This EDA investment will expand workforce development programs in the Rockbridge area to ensure that local residents and businesses can grow and thrive.

“The Economic Development Administration is pleased to support efforts in the MGCC service area to diversify and grow the region’s economy,” said Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Alejandra Y. Castillo. “This project will support workforce development efforts needed to spur diversified business growth in this region of Virginia.”

“Investing in education creates a gateway to opportunity and is an essential component towards attracting more businesses to Virginia,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin. “I am proud to see the Rockbridge community benefitting from these grants.”

“I am glad to see these funds go to the Buena Vista community in order to promote workforce development and support the region as it works to diversify the local economy,” said Senator Mark Warner. “This federal investment will help make sure that workers are able to compete for and in succeed in new and growing industries.”

“I’m excited that the Mountain Gateway Community College Real Estate Foundation is receiving federal funding to establish a manufacturing training center,” said Senator Tim Kaine. “This will help ensure Virginians have access to job training programs and promote economic growth in the area.”

This project is funded under the Assistance to Coal Communities (ACC) initiative, through which EDA awards funds on a competitive basis to assist communities severely impacted by the declining use of coal. ACC projects support economic diversification, job creation, capital investment, workforce development, and re-employment opportunities.

For more information, contact Dr. Rainone at jrainone@mgcc.edu or (540) 863-2827.


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