Conway in Line for Manufacturing Workforce Training Center


Conway in Line for Manufacturing Workforce Training Center
Gov. Asa Hutchinson (right) and Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston. (File) (Scott Carroll)

Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday announced the creation of the Arkansas Manufacturing Workforce Training Center, a joint venture between the Arkansas Office of Skills Development and the Conway Development Corp. 

Conway officials said the 100,000-SF facility will be located on the east end of Conway's Central Landing development, which is the former site of the city's airport. The governor did not provide a timeline for development, but the Office of Skills Development said it expects the design and architecture phase of the project to be completed sometime in the spring.

Hutchinson, who announced the project at the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce's annual meeting in Little Rock, said the facility will be visible from busy Interstate 40. Total investment in the project could reach $40 million, he said.

"It will serve the entire state with the latest in CNC, automation, robotics, industrial maintenance, craft skills, plastic injection molding and other needs of manufacturers," he said. "This site will serve the training needs of incumbent workers, new hires and upskilling unemployed individuals in our state."

Corey Parks, vice president of economic development for Conway Development Corp., said in a news release that the project fits well in a city that boasts multiple institutions of higher education.

"For 131 years, our community has welcomed young people from across Arkansas to begin their higher education journey," he said. "We are honored to continue this history of preparing the state's workforce by hosting incumbent workers in Conway to develop skills that will impact their futures and their communities."

During Tuesday's chamber meeting, the Office of Skills Development asked attendees to complete a survey about their workforce training needs, the results of which will inform the design of the center.

Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston said the center will be a "job creator."

"We will be better able to support our existing manufacturing companies as they keep their employees up to date on current skills, but it will also act as one more tool in our tool kit in attracting new and expanding businesses to the state looking for a talented and skilled workforce," he said.

Hutchinson, a term-limited Republican governor in his final weeks in office, said expanding access to state workforce training centers has been a priority during his eight years in office.

He said that when he began his first term, 55 high schools did not have access to such centers. Today, 100% of Arkansas high schools have access to "quality workforce training centers," he said. He marked the opening of a center on Monday in Piggott (Clay County).