AUBURN — Government, industry and education officials joined Central Maine Community College students and employees at a dedication ceremony on Oct. 27 for the official opening of the Gene Haas Precision Machining Technology Center at the college.

The college began work on the project in spring 2017. The first phase involved an interior renovation of more than 5,000 square feet, including the relocation of the quality control room, offices, computer class and locker room to update and improve overall functionality.

Phase Two was the construction of a 3,600-square-foot addition to accommodate equipment acquisitions, and improvements to existing electrical power distribution, lighting systems, and the mechanical ventilation system.

The Gene Haas Foundation awarded the college a grant of $1 million toward the project. 

In addition, the college secured a grant of $1.6 million from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA). Officials from the EDA have noted that not only do many companies use the machining center at CMCC for employee training and access to specialized equipment, but that the expansion is a timely one, given that area employers expect to need an additional 900 precision machinists in the next five years.

The college also received a grant of $250,000 from the Northern Border Regional Commission as part of $2 million in funding it has provided to upgrade infrastructure and provide job-training skills across the state. The NRBC is a federal-state partnership Congress created in 2008 to help alleviate economic distress and encourage private-sector job creation throughout the northern counties of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York.

Those efforts resulted in the creation of a “virtual collaboration infrastructure,” an environment in which both design and precision machining students work in concurrent or virtual product design and development; and the development of curriculum for 3D machining and CNC machining that address industry needs in high-end skills that are directly applicable to the precision manufacturing environment.

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Precision Machining student Nicholas Kondax cuts the ribbon at the dedication of the Gene Haas Precision Machining Technology Center at CMCC. Looking on from left are Kathy Looman, administrator for the Gene Haas Foundation; Amy Landry, executive director of the Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments; Alan Brigham, economic development representative from the EDA; Mark Scarano, federal co-chairman at the Northern Border Regional Commission; and Diane Dostie, recently retired as dean of corporate and community services at CMCC.

Working at a Haas VM 2 vertical mold machine, student Cameron LaMadeleine measures the tolerance of a part to determine if it is in tolerance. The expansion of the precision machining lab at CMCC has provided space for this and other recently acquired machining equipment. (Dennis Griggs photo)