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EDA recognized for $2 million role in welding expansion

Economic Development AdministratonA special virtual event Thursday afternoon honored the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s support of expanded welding facilities at Pennsylvania College of Technology.

A $2 million public works grant from the EDA was the acknowledged catalyst for the additional instructional space in the Lycoming Metal Trades Center – “an incredible facility that will truly transform tomorrow,” as characterized by Bradley M. Webb, dean of engineering technologies – that was dedicated in February.

President Davie Jane Gilmour stands before a plaque, unveiled at the ceremony, that commemorates the college's integral partnership with EDA.
President Davie Jane Gilmour stands before a plaque, unveiled at the ceremony, that commemorates the college’s integral partnership with EDA.

“Coupled with support from individuals and industry leaders, totaling nearly $4 million in private investment, opportunity now exists for an additional 45 students to pursue an applied technology education each academic year,” he noted. “While the space is quiet today, this facility delivers 35,000 square feet of expanded opportunities for more than 300 students to hone their skills in what is now the largest instructional welding facility in the United States – and home to a curriculum with a reputation that spans the globe.”

College President Davie Jane Gilmour, whose remarks were bookended by a slideshow of photos from the impressive space and the undraping of a plaque noting the EDA’s involvement in the project, said the federal agency’s investment “ignited the spark that will continue to burn brightly for years to come.”

“We thank you for your steadfast confidence in our mission,” she continued. “We are honored to be a vital contributor to the skilled workforce of our great nation and beyond. Our students and alumni are changing the world for the better because you have invested in their futures. Their Penn College experiences go well beyond specialized welding skills; they are developing as community and industry leaders.”

Noting the welding program’s nearly perfect graduate-placement rate, the president related the job satisfaction of several alumni and recapped “the experience of a lifetime” that faculty and students enjoyed while fabricating (in partnership with Penn State) a Living Chapel for the Botanical Garden of Rome.

Dennis AlvordKeynoting the ceremony remotely was Dennis Alvord, deputy assistant secretary for economic development for the EDA, who recalled that the college’s application was instantly deemed to have “significant merit” when submitted to the Philadelphia office for competitive review in 2017: “We find that the best projects always rise to the top. And with limited funds, I can also tell you that the EDA only funds the projects that provide American taxpayer with the biggest bang for their buck.”

“Penn College rightfully sits where it should be, ranked among the best colleges in the U.S.,” he added, “and your focus on providing students with a comprehensive, hands-on technical education not only empowers your graduates for success, but is critical to Pennsylvania and our entire nation’s future economic competitiveness.”

“The real hero in this story is Penn College,” Alvord said, applauding the institution’s history as a locally driven economic powerhouse. “We know a good strategy when we see one.”

Also speaking over webcam was U.S. Rep. Fred Keller, R-Kreamer, who cited the partnership’s success in preparing students for postgraduate success in the workforce – a crucial element as the country and commonwealth work to rebuild an economy adversely affected by COVID-19.

Attending via Zoom were a number of other representative stakeholders in the expansion project, including Frank Mazza from the office of U.S. Sen. Patrick J. Toomey; Scott L. Metzger, chair of the Lycoming County Commissioners; Kristen Moyer and Elizabeth Lockwood from the SEDA-Council of Governments; corporate donors from Miller Electric and Fronius; architects and contractors from Murray Associates Architects, Vassallo Engineering and Surveying, Marx Sheet Metal and Mechanical, and Myco Mechanical; Amanda Wintersteen, assistant director of federal relations at Penn State; and members of the Penn College Foundation and the Welding Advisory Committee.

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