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EV training center in Decatur will support auto industry growth

MONTGOMERY — Alabama is building a $30 million workforce training center in Decatur that will focus on electric vehicles and emerging technologies in order to position the state’s auto industry for the next chapter of its growth, Gov. Kay Ivey announced Monday.

The facility will be on the campus of the Alabama Robotics Technology Park, a unique $73 million center across from Calhoun Community College. It is operated by Alabama Industrial Development Training that helps companies train workers on advanced R&D and manufacturing technologies.

Robotics Technology Park is across U.S. 31 from Calhoun Community College in Decatur. (Alabama Department of Commerce contributed)

“Alabama is already a recognized leader in workforce development, and this training center concentrating on EVs and new technologies will add an important dimension to our capabilities,” Ivey said.

“This investment shows that we’re fully committed to making Alabama an even greater force in the global auto industry in the future.”

AIDT Director Ed Castile said design work has begun on the facility, which is projected to span 40,000 square feet at Robotics Park, where there is room for growth on 40 acres.

The training center is expected to be operational in 18 to 24 months.

“Our main goal is to help the state’s automakers continue to grow during the transition to electric powertrains and assist them as they embrace new technologies that are evolving all the time,” said Castile, who also serves as Deputy Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“We just want to make sure we have workforce that has the ability to thrive in this new environment, so it’s a natural extension of what we do at Robotics Park.”

IDT and Commerce have been working for some time on developing programs for the new training center, which included visits to EV battery factories in Japan and Europe. A technical committee composed of auto industry leaders and others has also been formed to offer guidance.

In addition, a group of academic partners has been assembled as allies to advance the effort. This includes the Alabama Mobility and Power Center at the University of Alabama, the Alabama Community College System, and the state’s K-12 school system.

“The auto industry is being confronted by the strong headwinds of disruptive technologies today, and it’s vital that we’re prepared to help Alabama’s autoworkers adapt to the industry’s shifting directions,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

Plans for the training center come as Mercedes-Benz and Hyundai have launched production of EVs at their Alabama manufacturing plants, and companies in the EV battery supply chain have begun locating in the state.

The activity is expected to accelerate amid massive industry EV investments.

The Alabama Legislature approved funding for the new training center during its last session through a bill sponsored by state Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur.

“Robotics Technology Park has long represented the gold standard for workforce training and a tremendous resource for Alabama and the companies that use it,” Orr said. “That makes it the perfect home for this new facility focusing on advanced automotive technologies, which will ensure an important industry in our state will continue to thrive.”

Castile said Goodwyn Mills and Cawood (GMC) is designing the training center to be expandable and easy to reconfigure to meet future demands. GMC is familiar with the Robotics Park site, having worked on the three training buildings there.

He said the center will become a catalyst for auto industry growth in the state.

“Alabama’s status is really growing in the automotive industry, and workforce will be a key component as we try to keep up with and even get ahead of what’s going on in the industry,” Castille said. “Everything we can come up that supports the development of our workforce is a step forward.

“I’m confident this is going to be a huge step for us.”

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