Thursday, November 22, 2007
Northwest, city partner at tech center
By SUE WATSON
A hefty crowd of 53 attended the Holly Springs Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours November 8. The affair was held at the city’s Regional Technology Center, headed by Ken Robinson.
The tech center is housed in the former John Deere Tractor Equipment Company building on Highway 311. The building was purchased by the city and converted into a space for offices and banks of computers. Classes are taught in basic computing and advanced computing and the building is used for seminars.
Out back of the office building, IT is working to put together workforce training in welding and forklift operation.
Northwest Community College has been a loyal partner to the city, providing instructors for courses.
Robinson was brought on board by Mayor Andre’ DeBerry and city aldermen to get the center built, equipped and programs started.
Robinson said small cities and towns have to plan for economic changes like the city of Holly Springs has done.
“A number of small towns in Mississippi took a bad economic hit when they didn’t plan for change,” Robinson said. “So we focused on technology and a training center.”
Northwest has partnered with the city through its workforce training program and helped to get regional status for the center, Robinson said. Regional is everything within a 250-mile radius of the center, he said.
The center provides job opportunities by training the workforce for job opportunities.
“A lot of our partnership is to address some of those training needs,” he said. “It took a lot of effort to get here.”
On site to help with computer classes is Anna Morrison, her salary provided by Northwest.
Robinson said the center’s growth is measured inch by inch rather than in miles.
“For everyone who wants to improve and go back and learn, you have to start to learn,” Robinson said. “You have the ability and you do something about it.”
Special guests were recognized – Bill Smith with NWCC; Cedric Divine; Eddie Wood with NWCC; Don Barnes with Access Control Group; Kevin Brent with Motorola; Napoleon Smith, a local carpenter who is working to establish classes in cabinet making and work ethic; aldermen Nancy Hutchens and Tim Liddy; and students who have taken classes at the center.
Hutchens once worked in the building with John Deere.
“This place has a lot of memories for me because when this place became John Deere, my office was over there and this room (conference room) was the parts place - kind of dark and dingy,” she said.
Hutchens was the bookkeeper.
In the future, Joyce Brazell, with NWCC, will help the city use Global Positioning Technology to help map the service lines and cut-off valves in the city, many which have long been buried underground and forgotten.
“Through Northwest, we’re able to bring specific training for local government,” Robinson said. “Later it will help business and industry.”
Public service issues affecting law enforcement, fire and utility departments can be addressed using a systems approach, Robinson said.
“You are only seeing a very small amount of what we do,” he said. “We want to help existing companies before new companies come. We want to be able to rise together.”
DeBerry said the whole purpose of the technology center is to take economic development and drive it through technology.
“The board of aldermen has been supportive and helping us,” he said. “I’m proud of what we’re doing here and I thank the board for its support. Ken is a blessing. He’s from this area and comes back with a wealth of knowledge. He has a vested interest because this is home. At the end of the day, it’s about creating opportunities for jobs.”
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