ANDERSON — Two different groups with the same objective are seeking the $1 million that Madison County received from the development of a wind farm.

The two groups from Elwood are both seeking funding for the development of a robotics training program through the Hinds Career Center.

Rob Sparks, executive director of the Corporation for Economic Development, told the Madison County Council Tuesday that the group he is representing wants the $1 million as matching funds for potential grants.

“We believe the center will play a role in training employees for future jobs,” he said. “We could use the $1 million to obtain a $3.5 million federal grant.”

Sparks said a new facility would be constructed that could eventually comprise 100,000 square feet and include a business incubator.

He said the group would like a commitment from the Madison County Council for access to the $1 million within the next 30 days.

Red Gold has pledged up to $500,000 for the construction of a new career center and has donated land at the intersection of Indiana 28 and Indiana 37 for the location.

Attorney Mike Farrer, representing Elwood Robotics Technology, a non-profit organization, said the difference between the two proposals is the timing for when students would begin taking classes.

Farrer said the construction of a new building would take three to eight years and eventually the Hinds Career Center would move into the facility.

“We want to start our first class in January,” he said.

Farrer said there is currently a large former kitchen area in the Hinds Career Center that could be remodeled to start the robotics training center for an estimated $75,000 to $100,000.

He said Vincennes University has agreed to provide $263,000 in equipment to start the program in 2020 and to help design the curriculum.

Farrer said some of the $1 million in wind farm money would be proposed to pay the salary for a robotics instructor.

“We went to Ohio,” he said. “They already have 17 of these centers in operation. This is something we have to do.”

The program would be financially self-sufficient within the next three to five years, Farrer said.

He said the Hinds Career Center provides services to seven local school systems in four counties and enrollment has doubled recently to 400 students.

The Elwood robotics training center would be the first of its kind in Indiana and would begin classes in the second semester of the 2019-20 school year.

In 2016, the Madison County Commissioners approved a resolution that they had to authorize any expenditures from the $1.3 million economic development fund from the Wildcat Wind Farm development.

When the wind farm account was created by the commissioners in 2011, it was with a provision that the $1.3 million had to be used for economic development projects in northern Madison County.

The city of Alexandria has been awarded $300,000 for work on the industrial park.

Hinds Career Center, which opened in 1968 at 1105 N. 19th St. in Elwood, was Indiana’s first career center, according to its website.
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