Wilder Business Center to serve northeast Iowa
Wilder Business Center to serve northeast Iowa
What is the best-kept secret at Northeast Iowa Community College?
The answer is Business and Community Solutions. However, that is about to change as NICC has opened the doors to 8,000 square feet of meeting space in the newly renovated Wilder Business Center.
The new space is easily accessible from Highway 150, south of Calmar. In fact, turning west onto the campus, it is the first building visitors see.
The Wilder Business Center’s completion concludes the last major construction project coordinated by NICC. The project was funded in part through the $35 million bond levy, which won passage in December 2007, as well as a $1.1 million Economic Development Assistance Public Works grant.
The public is invited to tour the new conference facility, view program demonstrations, experience state-of-the-art technology services, and connect with event-planning specialists at the free event from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday, April 25.
The Wilder Business Center, ideally located on the Calmar campus, will serve as a hub for conferences and meetings, with professional training services available to communities in Allamakee, Clayton, Fayette, Chickasaw, Howard and Winneshiek counties and beyond.
The newly renovated facility allows NICC to support the smaller businesses within the district that spans 5,000 square miles, according to NICC President Dr. Liang Wee.
Inside the building is a handicapped-accessible auditorium with seating for 200 people, along with various multi-function classrooms that are fully equipped with wireless Internet access, laptop connections, built-in multimedia and sound systems, as well as catering services.
Inside the specialized facility are a health lab and a business computer lab, equipped with 17 computers.
“We need to make sure we serve the businesses and the people we work with,” said Wee.
“With everything we did, we were mindful of how we could integrate it to the campus, while providing something unique for the business world,” added Dr. Wendy Mihm-Herold, vice president of Business and Community Solutions. “Our CIS department did a wonderful job researching the technology required to make the center state-of-the-art.”
Mihm-Herold admitted that one of her concerns had been the implementation of the newest technology.
“We need to make it stand out. We wanted a professional training facility available to the business communities,” said Mihm-Herold.
The state-of-the-art technology also allows participants to connect with video and audio communication from multiple locations.
Planning for the center
The Wilder Business Center wasn’t a primary goal of administrators and the board of trustees in 2007, when the bond levy was passed.
“We knew we needed to do something. As time went by, we saw the opportunity and worked it into the levy. The concept crystallized much later. This building has unlimited potential,” said Wee.
In 2009, discussions began in earnest for the facility when the space housing the library, learning center, computer labs and other offices moved from Wilder to the new Student Center.
At the time, the Business and Community Solutions was located within the administration building.
“Our office does a considerable amount of training, so we were utilizing space at the dairy center, industrial technology building, Max Clark Hall, or wherever we could find space to have training,” added Mihm-Herold.
Soon discussions of the overall renovations occurring at the college were taking place. Administrators and the board of trustees considered what made sense for locating various services, as well as what the goals and visions of the divisions of the school were.
“We then had to step back and look at what we wanted to offer in the facility and what departments should be included in the Center,” said Mihm-Herold.
Doors of opportunity
Since the doors were opened in January, the response has been overwhelming as businesses look to NICC for assistance in training options.
The college recently paired 27 companies in the advanced manufacturing industry with area K-12 teachers, principals, counselors, and superintendents with surprising results.
“Our goal was to bring the two groups together to see how we could collaborate to best support education and help produce the type of graduates our employers will need in the future,” said Wee. “Come to find out, those 27 companies alone expect to hire 1000 individuals within the next two to three years.”
In March, NICC hosted the STEM Festival with expectations of 200 individuals participating, but those expectations were exceeded as over 550 people took part in the inaugural event with 29 exhibitors.
“It was an exciting day for students. Everyone picked something they liked. The great thing about the event was that adults were learning with the students, and that is what we had hoped to accomplish,” explained Mihm-Herold
Currently, a six-county area is implementing a Human Resource Alliance Group, which will bring together human resource personnel, managers, and others from local businesses to learn about HR techniques, laws, rules and more.
In addition, a business consortium with 18-20 businesses meets monthly.
“This is just a flavor of what we are offering,” said Mihm-Herold. “We will constantly be bringing people in and asking what their needs are and how we can assist them.”
What is Business and Community Solutions?
“Anything we can do to help move businesses forward means they are able to invest more into the local economy. Hopefully it also allows the companies to expand and hire more employees,” expressed Wee.
With approximately 3,500 program offerings serving 30,000 individuals annually, Business and Community Solutions is always willing to to develop training opportunities to suit a business or community’s needs.
Program managers within the department now have a permanent home where they are able to communicate with area businesses daily.
The communication, in turn, allows NICC to be even more sensitive to the needs of the businesses, as well as provide the programming and training to meet their needs.
Wee hopes the technology in which NICC has invested will save businesses money so their dollars can be invested in something else, thus helping the local economy grow.
He also envisions an economic impact on the increased revenue flowing into the local community as businesses utilize the center.
“People coming to the Center may need to purchase gas or food or do other shopping while in town,” Wee stated.
NICC completed the remodeling and repurposing of the original Wilder Resource Center, built in 1975, into the new Wilder Business Center in January.
Businesses can work with NICC officials to decide on the type of training, select the appropriate trainer, and decide what specifics the trainer needs to concentrate on. NICC can provide the trainer or host an individual of the business’s choosing. The college will also provide materials and snacks.
Anyone with questions can contact one of the event-planning specialists at (800) 728-2256, ext. 399.
Thursday’s open house will have numerous elected officials on hand plus representatives of state and national officials.
“We want everyone to know that this is their local business training center. This is for the community. Come see the facility to see what is available. Sometimes people think we can only provide services for credit courses, but that is not the case. We can offer anything - we stretch the imagination,” said Mihm-Herold.
Wee emphasized, “NICC is here because of the voters, residents and businesses in our district. We do things because we listen to what they need, and their support allows us to be relevant.”
He added that NICC will continue to listen to businesses, consumers, and voters acknowledging that NICC was created 40-plus years ago because of the community.
Wee concluded, “Be our guest on Thursday, April 25. Come and enjoy what we are doing collectively. It isn’t just about NICC, but the people of Iowa working together for the people of Iowa.”