Arkansas college’s $14M center to offer workforce training in Blytheville

Courtesy of the Arkansas Northeastern College Facebook page

BLYTHEVILLE, Ark. — When Arkansas Northeastern College opened its new Center for Allied Technologies, it consolidated three facilities, enhanced its role as a leader in custom training and education and brought the world to its doorstep.

Built for more than $14 million, the center opened on the Blytheville campus at the outset of the school year and will offer customized training for the manufacturing industry, cohort programs in a number of fields and career-based programs for secondary students who can also earn college credit.

Beneath the U.S. flag outside the center’s glass foyer fly the flags of Argentina, Canada, Germany and Japan — significant donors to the center’s construction and partners in its training mission, Arkansas Business reported.

“Those flags are there because our different donors have headquarters in those countries,” said ANC President James Shemwell, who has served since 2013.

Donor companies include Japan’s Nucor-Yamato Steel, Denso (automotive technology) and Kagome (food products); Canada’s steel pipe and tube maker Zekelman Industries; and Argentina’s pipe and tubing making maker Tenaris.

In all, 24 private donors contributed $1.8 million to the center, Shemwell said. And the fundraising continues.

Thanks to its partnership with German metal industry leader SMS Group, ANC has also unveiled the Arkansas Steel Academy. In 2019, the new academy will become the first in the nation to offer the kind of steel industry training previously only available in Germany through SMS Group’s Techademy division.

“This is the first satellite operation they’ve had and this one will serve North America,” Shemwell said.

In addition to turning out skilled workers for vital industries, Shemwell said the Center for Allied Technologies would be another boost for a local economy already benefiting from the presence of industry.

“We really believe this will help us in terms of economic development,” he said. “Of course we’ve been successful in Mississippi County recently with Big River Steel.”

ANC has long been nationally recognized for its custom training, but Shemwell recounted a visit with a local plant manager who said the program was world class but the facilities weren’t first class.

The new center consolidates the Harry L. Crisp Center, a former Texaco distribution plant donated to the school in the 1990s; The Burdette Center, formerly the Cotton Boll Technical Institute, built as a trade school about 50 years ago; and the ACME center, where students learned aircraft and metals engineering deep in an industrial park off a state highway.

In combining the three facilities into the 90,000-SF Center for Allied Technologies, ANC not only has state-of-the art conveniences, technology and teaching tools, it has reduced its footprint by about 30,000 SF.

Shemwell said the center is “a building that is built for this purpose instead of retrofitting other facilities,” and estimated operational cost savings of $100,000 a year.

The center features modern labs and classrooms behind storefront windows, so visitors can observe without interrupting. It will house customized training operations in electrical and mechanical engineering, metallurgy and more, as well as the more traditional, college-style cohort programs in steel industry technology, aviation maintenance, HVAC, construction, electrical work and welding, among others.

The new facility will also house the ANC Technical Center, which offers high school students six different, career-based programs in which they can also earn college credit.

“You really need a facility that will allow you to better attract people into these programs,” Shemwell said.