The Innovation Center at Morrison Tech is rapidly proceeding, with construction of the exterior and infrastructure nearly complete. Chris Scott, Morrison Tech’s President said, “We’re right on schedule, and we expect the center to be operational by late August. This is the culmination of years of planning and effort, and it will be a symbol of Morrison Tech’s commitment to Engineering Technology and STEM education. It will provide unique opportunities for students, educators, businesses, innovators, and artists.”
Scott added, “This significant investment will enable the college to host numerous activities and foster collaboration between Postsecondary Education, K-12, and Private Industry. The regional workforce climate is very important to Morrison Tech, and we believe that regional success is furthered by a combination of quality school facilities and programs, thriving businesses, resilient local economies, and communities with a high quality of life. The Innovation Center is a product of this type of collaboration.”
Mr. Scott went on to explain, “This project has been a collaborative effort of several area organizations. The Morrison Area Development Corporation, Whiteside County Economic Development, Blackhawk Hills Regional Council, and the local Rural Development office of the USDA have all been key participants in the process.” The project is partially funded by a grant from the Timken Foundation of Canton, Ohio and a USDA Rural Business Development Grant. “Access to technology and the opportunities it brings are critical for the future of our rural communities,” said Douglas Wilson, USDA Rural Development State Director, Illinois. “It is a privilege to partner with Morrison Tech in strengthening the capacity for innovation within the existing community while supporting STEM education to help secure the community of the future.”
Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (D-IL 17th District) applauded the Center saying, “Morrison Tech is doing great work training our workforce for good-paying jobs in our community and I was proud to help secure federal funding for them to expand their operations. Funding for USDA's Rural Development programs are critically important to places like Whiteside County and I'll continue fighting to protect this job-creating revenue stream for small communities across the heartland.”
Illinois State Representative Tony McCombie (R - 71st District) said, “This is a great example of what can happen when community stakeholders come together and collaborate on a project that could be a ‘game changer’ for the region. It addresses some many challenges we face here – STEM education, workforce development, innovation and entrepreneurship – and I look forward to its opening this fall. This is a fabulous project.”
The center will be a designated space dedicated to prototyping, manufacturing projects and processes, fabrication, and other creative activities. The Center will contain a prototyping lab, a metal fabrication center, and various work spaces that can be used for construction, manufacturing projects, or makerspace activities. This center would offer state-of-the-art lab spaces, access to the newest in prototyping and fabrication technologies, and expert consultation and guidance for groups and individuals utilizing this space.
Another key goal of the Center is to raise awareness of careers in manufacturing, construction, and technology and expose students to hands-on technology and “real-world” projects. Gary Camarano, Whiteside County’s Economic Development Director added, “The Innovation Center is going to be an incredible asset for the community. Not only will it help Morrison Tech students, but it will also assist local businesses, artist, entrepreneurs and innovators. The ability to have a center that can assist in design, testing and prototyping, as well as networking opportunities is a huge plus for the region.”
The advantage to businesses utilizing the innovation center is that they can manufacture models or components for products of a specialized nature without having to invest significant capital in equipment or the design process. This would be critical for very small companies and entrepreneurs and very useful to established businesses as well.
Many local businesses provided written support during the application process, and gave input on the planning and technological capabilities for the facility.
Morrison Tech, a long-time STEM champion, fosters an innovative spirit among its students through its affordable education, well-regarded curriculum, and alumni network. In 2017, Forbes ranked Morrison Tech a Top 30 Two-Year Trade School in the United States. Today, the college is actively recruiting Engineering Technologies and Network Administration students. For additional information about Morrison Tech or the Innovation Center, visit https://www.morrisontech.edu/innovation-center or call Jodie Eaker at (815)772-7218 ex 207.