Muskegon Community College board decides on programs to move downtown

MUSKEGON, MI — Saying they want to help spur Muskegon’s
economy, Muskegon Community College trustees have decided that manufacturing
and possibly entrepreneurial training programs will be located downtown.

A committee recommended the college also locate a 200-seat
performing arts facility downtown, but trustees said there may not be enough
money for that. MCC Board President
Donald Crandall said he was cautious about duplicating performance space that’s
already downtown.

The downtown facility, part of a $24 million college improvement and
expansion project approved by voters last fall, was discussed during the board’s
work session Monday. The site for the downtown programs will be discussed
during a board retreat in April.

The college’s applied technology programs have waiting lists
to get in and could be expanded with a move downtown, said MCC Vice President
for Academic Affairs Teresa A. Sturrus. Applied technology programs include CAD, machining, industrial
technology, graphic design, alternative and renewable energy, electronics and
welding. Sturrus said she’d also like to see advanced manufacturing and
robotics added to the lineup.

Crandall said manufacturing growth in Muskegon County is
promising, but the skills gap needed in today’s modern production facilities
needs to be addressed. And Sturrus said community colleges are being encouraged to help develop entrepreneurs who will start new businesses.

“The biggest problem we have is we don’t have trained
personnel to take care of the jobs we’re creating,” Crandall said. “It’s the
No. 1 critical need over the next five years to grow our economy.”

Dave Stradal, coordinator of the college’s entrepreneurial
studies program, said the college’s downtown committee recommended establishing a “maker’s space” and a retail
incubator. The maker’s space would provide equipment for inventors and artists
to create prototypes, and there could also be private spaces they could rent to
keep their own supplies.

The board was supportive of the maker’s space, but Crandall
said he would not want to duplicate a retail incubator already at the downtown
Russell Block building.

The downtown facility would also offer some “wrap-around” general
education classes that applied technology and entrepreneurial students would
need to take, such as technical math and workplace safety courses, Sturrus
said. And other programs with an interest in being downtown, such as social
studies’ experiential learning and business training, could use the applied
technology classrooms as well, she said.

If the applied technology programs move downtown, visual
arts programs would take over the current applied technology space on campus,
she said. Automotive technology programs want to move into the existing visual
arts space, she said.

The downtown committee had recommended the college locate a
10,000-square-foot “black box” performing arts facility downtown to accommodate
200 people. It would be one without fixed seating that could be used as a
flexible space, including for lectures and meetings, Stradal said. In addition,
the creative arts department is seeking a media room for video and audio
projects, he said.

The board put the arts facilities at the bottom of its downtown
priority list, which is topped by applied technology and followed by entrepreneurial studies.

“What it’s going to come down to is how much money we have, ”
Crandall said.

Lynn Moore covers education for MLive Muskegon Chronicle.
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