MATC revamps south side Milwaukee building for worker

January 27, 2014

From jsonline.com: “MATC revamps south side Milwaukee building for worker” — Milwaukee Area Technical College’s failed enterprise center and business incubator on the south side has been converted into an education center that will provide academic and training programs in the largely Latino community.

For many years the MATC enterprise centers — one on the north side and one on the south side — provided low-cost rent designed to help launch new businesses and create jobs.

But a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigation in 2008 and 2009 showed many problems with the tax-supported business incubators. Tenants were behind in rent, expenses for the incubators exceeded revenue and there was little or no tracking to determine if the incubators created jobs.

The Milwaukee Enterprise Center North at 2821 N. 4th St. started in 1985 and was sold by MATC in 2011.

But MATC retained the Milwaukee Enterprise Center South, 816 W. National Ave., which opened in 1994.

For a time, the dislocated worker program run by the HIRE Center, in partnership with the Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board, was housed in the building to train workers who had lost their jobs.

But the investment board and the HIRE Center consolidated their operations at the investment board offices at N. 27th St. and W. North Ave. in October, said Dorothy Walker, interim dean of MATC’s School of Technical and Applied Sciences.

At the same time, MATC’s F building on N. 4th St., which housed some training programs, was sold to the BMO Harris Bradley Center next door, she said.

Some of the businesses in the incubator didn’t seem to grow well and the economic downturn contributed to the failure of the enterprise center, Walker said.

“As we looked at using space more efficiently and looking at new programs and new areas to best serve the community, we decided to re-purpose the MEC south with a focus on building more educational and training programs there,” she said.

“What we’re doing there now focuses on our core mission and meets the needs of the community.”

So the 127,000-square-foot south side building has undergone $2.3 million in renovations to accommodate the many training programs once located in the F building.

The MATC Office of Workforce and Economic Development, which works with businesses and industry to provide corporations with customized programs, has been moved to the south side.

The college is focusing on locating construction and trade-related training programs there because there are a lot of small contractors on the south side, Walker said.

Now called the MATC Education Center at Walker’s Square, it’s also close to Bradley Tech High School, which has a technical focus on construction. The college will look for ways to connect with the high school, she said.

Bay View High School also has some focus on construction and links there will be sought, she said.

The plumbing program has been moved from the F building to the south campus. The one-year program leads to a technical diploma, and it’s the only plumbing program offered at a technical college in the state, instructor and master plumber Mike Geiger said.

The training program also leads to apprenticeships in three unions — plumbers, steamfitter and sprinkler fitters, he said. Last week students were busy moving washers, dryers and water heaters into the new spaces to begin the plumbing lessons required.

The brick and masonry program also has been moved. The one-semester technical diploma program serves as a pre-apprentice program, said Dragomir Marinkovich, the associate dean for engineering and construction.

Next year the school plans to move its appliance technician program from the downtown campus to the south side, he said.

He said the trade programs are critical because it’s estimated that in the spring construction jobs will start picking up again and “these guys will be ready.”

Continuing education classes also are offered in upholstery and sewing.

Alfredo Luna, associate dean of the office of workforce and economic development, said he’s working with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin, the Walker’s Point Association and other nonprofits and businesses in the area to determine the needs of the community and how the center can help.

Walker said that in addition to construction, there will be a focus around energy, solar and water services.

The south center is not far from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s School of Fresh Water Sciences that’s being constructed on the south side and MATC will look for training areas related to water, she said.

Ald. José Pérez, who represents the area, said he’s excited about the new education center and the possibilities for developing training and jobs for so many who live within walking distance.

“With time, I think there will be so many services, such as registering for classes, filling out financial aid forms, taking classes and specialized training in the trades,” he said.

He’s especially interested in sustainability and water programs. He said that seems to be a natural progression for the area with the new fresh water sciences school, the water council and the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewage District, all located on the south side.

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