The El Dorado City Council approved Thursday an economic development funding request to help improve the local talent pool for local industries.
Robert Reynolds, chairman of the El Dorado Works Board, presented the funding proposal of $145,871 to purchase equipment for South Arkansas Community College’s (SouthArk) new Advanced Management Training Center, which is under construction on the college’s east campus.
Reynolds said the money will cover a bid for the purchase of electrical and instrumentation training to help establish an Electrical and Industrial (E & I) and Mechanical non-credit program and to enhance the existing Industrial Technology credit program.
The EWB, which administers the city’s 1-cent sales tax for economic development, voted in favor of the request on March 13 and agreed to present it to the city council for final approval.
Reynolds told city officials Thursday that SouthArk teamed up with several industries to conduct a survey how the area workforce can better meet the needs of manufacturers in South Arkansas.
SouthArk and local industries approached the city with similar requests to purchase a Hands on Training (HOT) unit in 2013 and a total of $138,250 in 2015 to purchase equipment for SouthArk’s TRUST (Tanker Railroad Unloading/Loading Safety Training) program.
Reynolds reported Thursday that hundreds of students and incumbent manufacturing workers in the area have trained on the equipment since it was installed at SouthArk.
TRUST, which focuses on safety for unloading and loading truck and railroad car tankers, is also part of the AMTC.
While discussing the E & I and Mechanical program on Thursday, Reynolds said, “Now, industries are sending employees up to Morrilton for training.”
“The industry has changed quite a bit. It’s a lot more technical than it used to be. We need a different type of worker,” added Robert Hanry, plant manager for Conifex.
“If it’s not Morrilton, then they go to Louisiana, and we don’t them in Louisiana. We want to keep them here local for training,” Hanry explained further.
El Dorado Chemical and Canfor were also among the nine companies that approached SouthArk about doing the survey.
Reynolds said the companies have 32 positions that need to be filled, and over the next three years, 182 jobs will be available as older workers retire.
Some of the jobs are for millwrights and technicians in the areas of maintenance, electrical and industrial, and instrumentation and controls, Reynolds told the council.
He said money for the funding request would come from the economic development component of the El Dorado Works plan.
Fifteen percent of the 10-year, El Dorado Works tax is dedicated to economic development and directed toward projects that increase employment opportunities and funding for the management of economic development operations.
Dr. Barbara Jones, president of SouthArk, said the 14,000-square-foot AMTC building is expected to be completed in May, with a grand opening in June.
The college is working with Robert Edmonds, director of public works, to install the E&I and Mechanical Equipment.
“There’s about a three-month lag from purchase to installation,” Jones said.