Hartford City OKs $17,000 to upgrade high school industrial education facilities

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Darrel Radford, News-Times

Jacob Everett and Scott Croner came to Tuesday’s Hartford City Redevelopment Commission meeting Tuesday hoping for a $10,000 commitment for an industrial repair and maintenance project at Blackford High School.

Their presentation was so effective and the idea was so good, the pair left with nearly twice that amount.

Members of the RDC Commission unanimously and enthusiastically approved the use of $17,000 in tax increment finance dollars to help upgrade facilities here in the northwest wing of the high school.

Tax increment financing is a special tool used to generate money for economic development in a specific geographic area. TIFs allow a city to re-invest all new property tax dollars in the neighborhood from which they came for a designated period of time.

Everett said the RDC’s action Tuesday was a prudent use of the funds.

“I think that’s something we want to look at hard in this community – how can we leverage the TIF to help the school,” Everett said. “Since Scott and I arrived, we’ve been working hard to increase training opportunities. We do have a good balance in our TIF funds now and to me this would be a good investment.”

The project would:
• update the industrial maintenance lab
• create a room for computers
• create a room for small projects
• create a large lab for welding and neumatics instruction.

“We’re not trying to do random acts of industrial technology here,” Croner said. “We’re trying to be very purposeful in our programming for Blackford County and Hartford City. We want to line up well with where our local industry needs are and we’re very much driven by outcomes. We want outcomes for our kids so they can be very much employable.

“With our advanced manufacturing, the kids can earn five courses of dual credit and five industry-recognized cerifications,” Croner said. “Also with our industrial repair and maintenance students can learn to be a jack-of-all trades guy, a guy who can come in and work on the neumatic system, the heating and cooling system, do some welding.”

“Those guys are impossible to find right now,” Everett said.

Croner said not only would it be good for the students, but it could help the Blackford school district grow as well.

“We want to use this as a recruitment tool,” Croner said. “We have 535 kids who attend our high school building. We want those kids to walk into this lab and say ‘hey, this place is cool. I want to come take this class and find out what’s going on down here.'”

RDC President Bill Hess was excited about the possibilities such a program upgrade could bring.

“I think so many times we worry about the four-year education and not everybody is a four-year student,” Hess said. ” But where are we getting our plumbers, our electricians, our welders? This is perfect here to me. The thing I like too is Blackford County is being innovative. No one else has this. We so often talk about the job openings here and how we don’t have young people who can fill them. This attacks that problem.”

Mayor Ben Hodgin echoed the sentiments and said the RDC move keeps a real sense of momentum going.

“Hartford City is becoming a hot item,” Hodgin said.

Interest in these kinds of programs continues to grow, according to Croner. He reported there is already a full class enrolled in the industrial care and maintenance program next year.

“We have 20 in the Advanced Manufacturing and 10 in the Advanced Manufacturing II class,” Croner said. “We’ve got a high level of interest right now. And those are just Blackford County students. At some point and time we would like to have kids from Jay County and Southern Wells. And even though they are not part of our vocational district, we’d love to have Eastbrook.”

Afterward, both Everett and Croner were elated with the RDC’s support.

“We’re very grateful for the RDC support,” Croner said.

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