Purdue Cal launches manufacturing center, fundraising campaign

2014-04-09T13:49:00Z 2014-04-09T17:32:19Z Purdue Cal launches manufacturing center, fundraising campaignJoseph S. Pete joseph.pete@nwi.com, (219) 933-3316 nwitimes.com

HAMMOND | Purdue University Calumet's new Commercialization Center will be home to the popular local radio station WJOB next month, and a manufacturing center later this year.

Currently, the university offers training for advanced manufacturing jobs in four different places on its Hammond campus. But a $2.74 million federal grant will help the school consolidate that job training at its new Center for Manufacturing Excellence and Competitiveness inside the off-campus business incubator building. The university may tweak the name of the Commercialization Center to reflect the increased emphasis on manufacturing, which also will include academic research, such as how factories can streamline their production processes.

Purdue Calumet Chancellor Thomas Keon said the new manufacturing center will take up about a third of the space in the 18,000-square-foot Commercialization Center at 7116 Indianapolis Blvd., a few blocks west of the campus. The university is looking to raise $1.5 million to renovate the remaining space into offices for entrepreneurs and start-up companies.

"What I have found since we purchased the building is that it's not as easy to raise funds in Northwest Indiana as in Orlando," he said.

NIPSCO kicked off the fundraising campaign to turn the rest of the building into a business incubator by donating $40,000.

The Merrillville-based utility chose to invest in the Commercialization Center, because it will generate ideas and entrepreneurial endeavors that will benefit the community, Executive Vice President and Group CEO Jim Stanley said.

WJOB is already moving office furniture into the Commercialization Center, and work should begin soon to renovate about 6,000 square feet for the manufacturing center. Purdue Calumet College of Technology Dean Niaz Latif helped secure a $2.74 million Department of Labor grant that will help the university train 300 military veterans and displaced workers over the next four years.

Anyone interested in a career in advanced manufacturing can enroll free of charge for a 21-week program that results in certifications in industrial electricity, programmable logic controllers and mechanical components. About 70 people have signed up so far, and more than half of them are either unemployed or only working part-time.

Local companies such as Glenmount, Hammond Machine and Morrison also have referred workers to the program so they can learn vital skills, such as how to troubleshoot industrial motors and monitor electrical systems. Smaller advanced manufacturing companies often lack the budget for job training, and rely on Purdue Calumet to prepare employees so they are qualified to do high-skilled work, Latif said.

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