Grayson College officially unveiled its $1.4 million Advanced Manufacturing Lab for the school’s current Career and Technology Center during a ribbon cutting Friday afternoon. The lab will provide space for large industrial machinery, classrooms and storage space, and will largely be used to educate students participating in the Advanced Manufacturing Program.

The machinery for the lab was paid for through donations and grants and around 150 attended the ribbon cutting ceremony. Workforce Development Texoma Executive Director Janie Bates said $200,000 was already leveraged from the workforce commission and more may be on the way.

“We are expecting another $100,000,” Bates said. “That is a huge part of the $696,000 it takes to make this the type of manufacturing lab that it needs to be.”

Bates explained the consortium began meeting three years ago to develop the program.

“We are very excited about this building,” Bates said. “It’s been a long time coming. It’s great to have this finally open and it’s so beautiful. We have all this wonderful new equipment that was made possible by the grants and by our local employers giving us money to match.”

The Advanced Manufacturing Program was established in 2016 to assist high school students with preparing for a manufacturing career. Organizations involved in the program include 30 employers under the Texoma Advanced Manufacturing Consortium, the Sherman Economic Development Corp., the Denison Development Alliance, Workforce Solutions Texoma, Grayson College and multiple high schools.

Chair of Advanced Manufacturing Technologies Alan McAdams said the degree plan was mainly put together by the local industries.

“There are three different awards they can earn,” McAdams said. “The goal is to have them begin the program in the 10th grade. They should have their level one certificate complete by the beginning of their senior year in high school.”

The summer after their senior year, students take two final courses. One of the courses is an internship with a local manufacturing company. The students are paid and receive college credit for the internship. At the end of the summer, students receive their Level 2 certificate and can begin work full time.

McAdams said the college hopes the students will want to continue pursuing their associate’s degree after beginning work.

“Hopefully their employer will help them pay for that,” McAdams said. “The industry has guaranteed not one student will pay tuition nor buy a book while in high school. They pick up the entire cost.”

The 6,500-square-foot space will house seven brand new lathes and seven new mills. Bates explained the driving force for the development of the program was the low unemployment rate and therefore lack of employees for local industries.

“When we realized we would have to grow our own, that was what started everything,” Bates said. “What kept it going was the support of these local employers for this project.”

Grayson College President Jeremy McMillen said the lab was built larger than originally planned to accommodate local growth.

“We’ve moved so far in Grayson County that we’re hoping it is big enough,” McMillen said. “If we have that problem, it’s a good problem to have.”

McMillen went on to say community support has been invaluable in keeping the project on track.

“All of this equipment was paid for by a matching grant from the Texas Workforce Commission, as well as donations from manufacturers, SEDCO and DDA,” McMillen said. “As an educational entity, when you have others invest in you in that way it lifts your spirits.”