FM program may go to Tryon park

PERTH – The planned Tryon Technology Park and Incubator Center may include a college classroom.

Fulton-Montgomery Community College may put technical classroom space at the new park starting with the fall 2015 semester, officials said.

The college and the Fulton County Industrial Development Agency, which owns the 515-acre former state youth detention center campus on County Highway 107, are working together on putting a new FMCC heating-ventilation-air conditioning curriculum program at the business park. The HVAC program at Tryon would also include refrigeration instruction.

“I just don’t think we’re addressing the skilled trades as much as we could,” FMCC President Dustin Swanger said Wednesday. “We’re in the process of developing the curriculum now.”

Swanger, also chairman of the Fulton County Center for Regional Growth Board of Directors, said the need for local skilled labor is apparent.

“I’ve heard from local business that they’re struggling to find local people,” he said.

Swanger said the state Department of Labor has identified the HVAC and refrigeration fields as a “high growth area” for employment.

“That’s definitely an area people need to be educated to work,” he said.

“The college has been looking at an employment issue in the region,” IDA Executive Director James Mraz said Wednesday.

He said HVAC and refrigeration businesses want skilled labor, and FMCC is researching what’s needed.

“They have contacted programs for folks in these trades,” Mraz said.

Currently, he said, the FMCC campus on Route 67 has no space for this instruction, and the IDA conferred with Swanger about using Tryon.

Mraz said the site can be used for regional business training.

Mraz said the IDA, in conjunction with FMCC, has applied for a grant through the Northern Borders Regional Commission. Swanger said the grant application seeks $120,000.

The commission – a combination federal and state agency – gives grants to strengthen local economies and encourage job creation and work-force readiness. Mraz said the grant funding would pay for renovation work at Tryon.

“It’s a very exciting opportunity,” Mraz said of FMCC’s curriculum plan.

The Tryon business park project is in its first phase of construction. Work is being done by Jablonski Excavating of St. Johnsville. The state previously awarded Fulton County $2 million for the initial infrastructure work. The county is also seeking an additional $1 million from the state for a second phase of work.

Swanger said he’s contacted the Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery Board of Cooperative Educational Services and other colleges about the potential HVAC-refrigeration curriculum at FMCC. He said he has conferred with Kathleen Schiefen, provost and executive vice president of academic affairs at Genesee Community College in Batavia, Genesee County, who ran an HVAC program.

Swanger said if FMCC’s HVAC-refrigeration program is successful at the Tryon park, it could “potentially” lead to other college instruction at Tryon.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.