Voters Back Muskegon Tech Center

    MUSKEGON — The business-labor-education coalition that backed a successful drive to build a new technical education center in Muskegon County will remain intact to help develop the facility’s curriculum.

    The Muskegon Area Intermediate School District will rely on advice from varying groups in each curriculum area as it formulates courses for the center, planned as a joint project with Muskegon Community College. Working closely with the groups that helped to develop the tech center proposal, which Muskegon area voters approved last week, is essential to assuring that program offerings match today’s workplace, Muskegon Area ISD Superintendent Michael Bozym said.

    “The people that know what’s required of those jobs are the people who are working in the fields right now,” Bozym said. “There are industry standards for each of those programs and we have to live up to those standards.”

    Voters within the Muskegon Area ISD last week approved a 1-mill property tax levy that will initially generate $3.4 million to operate the technical education center. The Muskegon Area ISD will build new classrooms adjacent to MCC’s facility at a cost of $5 million to $6 million, as well as use existing college facilities to house classes.

    MCC will finance the construction with a bond sale, with the Muskegon Area ISD paying off the bonds through lease payments to the college.

    With the proposal approved, the goal is to launch half of the 22 technical training courses next fall and the rest in the fall of 2004, when a 50,000-square-foot addition to the MCC facility is opened with eight to 10 new classrooms and training labs.

    Muskegon County presently lacks a local career and technical training center, forcing high school students in the area to travel to neighboring counties, most often Newaygo County, to get the vocational training they need. The partnership between MCC and the Muskegon Area ISD is designed to provide for a seamless transition for high school students from technical training to the two-year community college, including transferring college credit hours.

    Approval of the tech center proposal came on the third try. Muskegon area voters twice rejected previous proposals, most recently in 1996.

    That led to what Bozym described as a “more modest” proposal that earned approval on a vote of 7,287 to 5,313.

    Bozym credits the passage to the strong support given to the proposal by both business and labor interests that helped to craft the plan and campaigned on its behalf.

    “I don’t think we could have done it without the business and labor community,” he said.

    Among the technical training courses planned are construction and manufacturing trades, health occupations, network engineering and PC repair.           

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