By Shelby Stills
Estill County held the grand opening of its new $14.7 million area technology center (ATC) on July 23.
Gov. Andy Beshear joined Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) Commissioner of Education Jason E. Glass; Senate President Robert Stivers; Sen. Brandon Storm; Koffi Akakpo, president of Bluegrass Community and Technical College (BCTC), and local leaders from Estill and Powell counties for the ribbon cutting.
“I’m here today as your governor, but I’m also here as a father of two young kids,” said Beshear. “I want for them what I want for all of our kids: the chance to learn and grow into the best adults they can be, and the opportunity to have productive careers that provide for them and their families. My administration will always put education first and I appreciate the forward thinking of leaders that laid the groundwork for this incredible project.”
The 40,00 square-foot facility will be the new home of the Estill County Success/Virtual Academy and will serve about 300 students from Estill, Powell and surrounding counties.
The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) awarded a $4 million grant to the Estill County Board of Education in 2019 to help build the ATC.
“This process began with a question for Sen. Albert Robinson in 2016, ‘How can we get an ATC in Estill County?’” said David Horseman, associate commissioner in the KDE Office of Career and Technical Education. “Since that time this project has progressed and found a way through bipartisan support, local, state and federal funding to provide more access and opportunity for Estill County and Powell County students.”
The project, located in a Tax Cuts and Jobs Act designated Opportunity Zone, also was granted $5.7 million from the Work Ready Skills Initiative, $5 million in local funding, and is expected to help create more than 500 jobs, retain 450 jobs and generate $19.4 million in private investment, according to the EDA. Beshear’s Better Kentucky budget also included more than $740,000 to cover the facility’s operating expenses this year.
The ATC is collaborating with BCTC, a regional technical college, to offer support and education to students that includes industrial maintenance, health sciences, information technology, diesel technology, engineering and other technical education. The ATC offers dual credit opportunities for high school students, postsecondary classes in the evenings and provides training for displaced workers seeking new career paths.
“I am happy to see the Kentucky General Assembly investing in the expansion of career and technical education in Kentucky,” said Glass. “Technical centers, like the new Estill County Area Technology Center, are key to preparing the future workforce of Kentucky. Our students will develop the latest and most in-demand skills in high-demand areas, including health and computer sciences. It’s a win for our students who will be gaining the skills they need for exciting careers and a win for our communities, which will have the trained workforce they desperately need to keep growing.”
The project was funded under the Assistance to Coal Communities program, through which EDA awards funds on a competitive basis to assist communities severely impacted by the declining use of coal through activities and programs that support economic diversification, job creation, capital investment, workforce development and re-employment opportunities.
“This is an investment in the people of Estill and Powell counties, and in the future of the entire commonwealth,” said Beshear.