AUBURN — Central Maine Community College announced Monday it has been awarded two federal grants totaling $1.85 million to renovate and expand the precision machining technology lab.

Last month, CMCC announced a $1 million grant for the PMT lab from the Gene Haas Foundation.

The largest grant announced Monday was $1.6 million from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration, according to a news release from the college. The grant was announced earlier this summer by Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce Matt Erskine, who cited this and four other grants as part of the federal government’s investment in Maine to help boost the state’s economy.

Secretary Erskine noted that CMCC’s precision machining program is the largest in the Northeast. It operates year-round to accommodate students and businesses.

Companies use the facility for employee training, product development and access to specialized equipment. The expansion project at CMCC is a timely one, given that area companies expect to need 900 new precision machining workers in the next five years.

Also, the Northern Border Regional Commission awarded the college a $250,000 grant for the precision machining expansion to help improve infrastructure and provide job training skills across Maine.

The commission is a federal-state partnership Congress created in 2008 to help alleviate economic distress and encourage private sector job creation.

CMCC expects to begin work on the project in 2017. The first phase will involve an interior renovation of more than 5,000 square feet; phase two will be construction of a 3,600-square-foot addition to accommodate new equipment and improvements to electrical power distribution, lighting systems and the ventilation system.

The facility will be named the Gene Haas Precision Machining Technology Center, in recognition of a $1 million grant toward the project from the Gene Haas Foundation, as announced last month.

The expansion of the facility will allow the precision machine program to build on the significant accomplishments funded previously under two grants totaling $2.3 million from the National Science Foundation, said Diane Dostie, CMCC dean of corporate and community services who spearheaded the grant applications.

Those efforts created a “virtual collaboration infrastructure,” an environment in which both design and precision machining students work on product design and development.

“This is an important industry in our local economy, and having skilled machine programmers helps manufacturers reduce down time, save money, and bid for quality work,” Scott Knapp, president of CMCC, said in a prepared statement.

Since 2010, CMCC has provided customized training to 34 businesses and 626 employees, Knapp said. The college is advancing the skills of machinists in the regional workforce, allowing local companies to be more competitive, Knapp said. 

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