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STREATOR — Recent years have seen the job market trend increasingly toward careers requiring skills in computation, engineering and manufacturing, and the desire for education to meet those demands has expressed itself in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics academic discipline.
And Woodland High School is putting itself ahead of the curve, becoming the first school district in Livingston County to implement a STEM curriculum for all its grades, K through 12.
But ambitious programs such as these require a bit more than sheer determination and sweat — they need a serious capital investment.
That’s where the beneficence and patronage of Greater Livingston County Economic Development Council, along with Country Financial and Streator Onized Credit Union, is crucial: after the GLCEDC helped procure a seed grant of $31,000 for Woodland, the insurance agency and the bank pitched in as well.
With the investments, Ryan McGuckin, superintendent of the Woodland School District, said that Woodland had teamed with Texas Instruments to add its line of TI-Nspire series of graphing calculators to the school’s repertoire.
He believed that the science teachers and math teachers had been able to utilize such technologies to “revolutionize the curriculum,” making it even ready to tackle “the 22nd Century” when it arrives.
Hannah Cox, the STEM teacher at Woodland, works with the grant equipment and gave a specific accounting of its impact in the classroom.
“My students get to learn about things that they don’t necessarily get to see in an everyday chemistry class or an everyday math classroom,” she said. “They get to build it … They get to see how it actually works on a small-scale, and how it should work on a large-scale.”
A project that Cox is particularly excited about is the arrival of futuristic Texas Instruments TI-Innovator Rovers, purchased by the school due largely to the largesse of Country Financial.
“With Country Financial, they were able to give us money to buy what are called Texas Instruments Innovator Rovers, which are these little robots that we’re able to use with the calculators we have now,” she said, explaining that the Rovers could essentially be piloted once connected with a calculator.
“It’s really cool and I’m really excited about it,” she added.
Kevin Derossett, the representative of Country Financial of Dwight whom Cox had first approached about procuring cutting edge tech, said humorously that today’s technology made him nostalgic for a time when “you could make a computer screen flicker like a strobe light.”
On a more serious note, though, he said Cox’s enthusiasm was “inspirational” and a “great opportunity to give back to the local community.”
Lori Christopherson, a representative of SOCU, added that her employer is pitching in for consumable supplies for Woodland.
“We were told that they needed consumable products so … we found out what that need was,” she said. “We wanted to make sure we were giving back to the community in that regard.”
In addition to the recent bequests from SOCU and Country Financial, McGuckin also expressed gratitude to the GLCEDC for helping kick off Woodland’s significant expansion of its STEM curriculum.
“If not for the generous grant from the (GLCEDC), we couldn’t do this,” he said.
CEO Adam Dontz said that after the initial grant, which he likened to a seed, was planted, he was encouraged that other community organizations and businesses helped the school bear fruit.
“I think we were the initial contributor to help Woodland really develop its STEM program, and what I was really pleased by was that from our initial contribution, not only has Woodland received additional benefit and partnerships with Country (Financial) and SOCU, but then they’ve also brought in other local businesses like Iberdrola and others.
“I was happiest to hear from what Ryan conveyed is that, stemming from what we did, it has really become a community effort.”
The Daily Leader
By Paul Westermeyer
January 18, 2018
The Daily Leader
April 21, 2017
WJEZ interview with Caterpillar’s Pontiac Factory Manager Steven Harding and Adam Dontz of the GLCEDC.
November 19, 2016
Pontiac Daily Leader
November 15, 2016
Pontiac Daily Leader
September 15, 2016
CIProud.com (link to article)
We’re used to seeing Caterpillar in construction zones, but in Pontiac, we are seeing construction zones in Caterpillar.
“By restructuring and making the space more efficient and by having a large facility, a million square feet, we could leverage a lot of existing resources here,” the facility’s product manager Susan Toher said.
The CAT facility in Pontiac is going through a $12 million upgrade to make room for the production and people they are getting from plants in Thomasville, Georgia and Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Shannon Ziegler was working in Thomasville when he learned the company was consolidating.
“It all sunk in, you know, yeah, we’re going to be losing our jobs, but we’re going to make the best and we’re going to do the right thing and we’re going to keep our integrity high,” the third shift group manager said.
He is part of the select few who were able to move back to Pontiac. It’s the same facility where he originally got his start with the company.
“How could you not want to come back to a facility and a community like this,” Ziegler said.
“We have had a few folks that transitioned with the business. Many of the jobs, most of them were hires from the local area,” human resources manager Kevin Kramer said.
Robert Armour is one of those locals.
“I know a couple people who have worked here, so I decided I’d give it a shot,” he said.
He’s been with the company for just two weeks. And he’s not alone.
The Pontiac facility has hired 80 new employees with plans to hire at least 80 more much to the delight of those in the area.
“To see everything grow into Pontiac, it’s going to be fantastic,” Ziegler said.
Aside from the open space, the company chose Pontiac because Livingston County was able to offer them incentives to stay put.
The transition should all be complete by the end of this year.
September 16, 2016
Pontiac Daily Leader (link to article)
The sprawling, 1 million-square-foot Caterpillar facility of Pontiac opened its doors to the press Thursday morning, as officials gave local media a short presentation and fielded questions, as well as taking the visiting journalists on a tour of the plant — a rare occurrence in the 38 years that Caterpillar has operated within the building.
The local Caterpillar plant has had plenty of reason to show off in recent months. Since the $1.6 million deal between the heavy equipment corporation and several municipal and school entities within Livingston County was finalized earlier this year, the local operation has added 80 new employees, and has plans to add 80 more by January.
The essence of the agreement was for the governmental bodies to pay Caterpillar approximately $1.6 million to retain its current employee base of 550, and to offer additional money for jobs the plant creates, along with a tax abatement on the table if certain job creation criteria are met over the next five years.
The Livingston County Board, the main financial backer, had clawback provision protection should Caterpillar renege on the deal in some way — namely, by closing the plant.
During the presentation, Susan Toher, the plant’s product manager, said that the addition of the jobs also coincided with the closure of Caterpillar facilities in Thomasville, Ga., and Santa Fe, N.M., and those plants’ operations and equipment consolidating in Pontiac.
During the tour of the plant, Steven Harding, the plant’s facility manager, pointed out that $12 million in equipment investments had been added to Pontiac, and that areas of the facility that were empty would soon be completely full.
Before the consolidation, Toher noted that the Pontiac facility, a fuel systems plant, made fuel injectors and pumps. After the consolidation, she said that the after-treatment parts previously made in Santa Fe — which she compared to catalytic converters in vehicles — would now be made in Pontiac. She said that the company had done a lot of “moving around and reconfiguring” to make space for the incoming equipment.
On the decision to consolidate, Toher said that a corporate analysis was done to assess advantages and disadvantages of where consolidation would occur, and found that the Pontiac location’s square footage would allow for “leverage of existing resources.”
Toher said that much of the additional work being done at the facility is similar to what had been done before, but some new jobs would require skilled labor, such as welding, which had not previously existed at the Pontiac plant.
Kevin Kramer, the plant’s human resources manager, said that most of the hires following the consolidation were local, estimating that 25 to 30 of the recent hires were transfers from the Santa Fe and Thomasville plants.
The deal brokered between the public and private sectors was not reached without critique; when asked about such criticism, Kramer said the decision “showed us that the community really values Caterpillar and its presence in the community, and we view it as a very positive thing.” He hoped that Caterpillar’s own involvement in the community, such as its $100,000 donation to United Way, showed that the positive relationship was reciprocal.
After the tour, Caterpillar employee Shannon Ziegler, who is a Livingston County native, Pontiac facility veteran and, most recently, a transfer from the Georgia facility, said he was not at all surprised that Livingston County had stepped up to make the Pontiac plant as attractive an option as possible following consolidation.
“This town as always been good for all the businesses here, but it was just amazing (hearing about the deal),” he said. “It just really sunk right to your heart.”