Advanced Manufacturing Center envisioned at Northark

Advanced Manufacturing Center envisioned at Northark

Thu Aug 20, 2020 at 12:00 AM

Would it be smart to build an Advanced Manufacturing Center at North Arkansas College? That is just what Trustees discussed at a special meeting held Thursday. According to Wikipedia, Smart manufacturing employs computer-integrated manufacturing, high levels of adaptability and rapid design changes, digital information and technology, and more flexible technical workforce training.

“Building an Advanced Manufacturing Center would expand our existing programs and create a larger pipeline of skilled workers for area employers,” President Randy Esters noted.  “The key word is Advanced. The facility we are considering will train workers for jobs that do not exist yet, but they will in a few short years. We need a workforce that can work a traditional machine but who can also program computer driven machines.”

The two-story, $5-7M Center would house offices, instructional labs, classrooms, computer labs, and manufacturing shops for instruction and training. The roughly 30,000 square-foot building would likely house the manufacturing, machining, robotics, electronics, and IT programs.  All programs except for IT are currently located on the north campus.   

Dr. Esters told Trustees the taskforce had been busy reviewing four potential pieces of land:

  1. Site 1-A located by the baseball field (would require relocating the field)
  2. Site 1-B located on the side of the hill near the greenhouse
  3. Site 1-C situated on the hill where the greenhouse is currently located
  4. Site 2-A is located on Industrial Park road (privately owned).

site for advanced manufacturing centerThe taskforce narrowed the sites down to 1-B and 2-A.  Site 1-B on the hillside at the south campus would not require additional student services or parking lots. It would also be parallel with the long-term strategic goal of moving all functions to one campus. Cons were that this site does not have proximity to industry that 2-A has, and it would require more dirt work.

Site 2-A located on Industrial Park drive would place the building near current industries and Harrison High School. The site is relatively flat and has utilities nearby. Northark does not own that property but Boone County Economic Development Committee (BCEDC) has offered to donate it. However, if a new industrial park is developed in the county at a new location, the College could lose the advantage of location relative to major industries. Esters noted 2-A would add a separate campus location for the College to manage and would require an additional site for student services such as Advising and Financial Aid. The College serves six counties and there was concern that schools other than Harrison may see it as exclusively a Harrison project and not be inclined to participate.

The taskforce unanimously recommended site 1-B on the south campus for consideration. Trustees unanimously voted to proceed to the next step of the project. The site approval and go-ahead from the Board gives President Esters the opportunity to begin exploring funding sources including grants, institutional funding, and private donations. The exact design for the building has not yet been developed.  A formal bid process to complete the design will follow the determination of funding sources to be used for financing the project.

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