Attendees for Friday's Highland County Workforce Development Center grand opening included local and regional officials as well as representatives on state and federal levels. Many local businesses and entities were also represented. (Photos by Angela Shepherd)
Attendees for Friday's Highland County Workforce Development Center grand opening included local and regional officials as well as representatives on state and federal levels. Many local businesses and entities were also represented. (Photos by Angela Shepherd)
Highland County and the village of Greenfield opened a Workforce Development Center on Friday, Oct. 28 with a grand opening celebration that included a ribbon-cutting ceremony and a Chamber coffee and commerce event, as well as tours, demonstrations and a reception.

Attendees included local and regional officials as well as representatives on state and federal levels. Many local businesses and entities were also represented.

According to Highland County Economic Development Director Julie Bolender, the center “allows our educational partners to expand their reach and course offerings to create a workforce that will be the very cornerstone of growth. 

“Without a trained and capable workforce, our current industry suffers, and we do not position our county for new sectors to put down roots,” she said. “Ohio is welcoming new industries weekly. We must be ready to welcome them to Highland County.”

The Highland County Workforce Development Center is a county initiative, Bolender said, with support given currently by Laurel Oaks Career Campus, Southern State Community College and the village of Greenfield. In the coming weeks, she said, partnership opportunities will be announced, which will allow those who wish to invest “more significant opportunities and dedicated time throughout the year.”

The center, which is located at 1300 Jefferson St. in the Jefferson Street Business Center on the west end of Greenfield, is the first of its kind in the area. There are two classrooms as well as three shared work spaces, and each space, she said, has the latest technology, like virtual reality and artificial intelligence, and “provides a comfortable place to learn and work.” Internet, phone and private space are available. 

Aspire classes, through Southern State Community College’s Adult Opportunity Center, will include adult literacy, GED preparation, college readiness, and reading, writing and math improvement courses, Bolender said. Additionally, the courses are free. Those who would like to enroll in the Aspire program may do so by calling 800-628-7722 or by emailing aoc.sscc.edu.

Also offered at the center are medical assisting courses through a partnership with the Laurel Oaks Career Campus. Additionally, employers can reserve the classroom and work spaces for things like meetings, employee training, seminars, upskilling and career fairs, she said. 

For now, Bolender will be coordinating the use of the center. She may be reached by phone at (937) 661-3010 or by email at  jbolender@co.highland.oh.us.

On Friday, Highland County Commissioner Jeff Duncan welcomed everyone at the commencing of the ribbon-cutting event. He spoke about how workforce development is a “top priority” in the county and how the board of commissioners has been discussing the ways to make more locations like this happen. He thanked everyone who had a hand in making the center a reality, including Bolender, who he said “tied all the ends together” to help make the center happen. 

Dr. Nicole Roades, president of Southern State Community College, provided a history of how the center came to be, which included the many obstacles presented by the pandemic. She said the center was “essentially a one-stop shop” that complements the existing services at the location, which is the building that houses Highland County Community Action and Ohio Means Jobs.

Just prior to the ribbon-cutting, representatives of U.S. Sen. Rob Portman’s office and U.S. Rep. Brad Wenstrup’s office presented proclamations and gave their congratulations on the project and spoke of the successes likely to come because of it. 

Greenfield councilman Phil Clyburn said he hoped the rooms of the workforce development center “never get dusty” and that their continual use will help those who use them to build success. 

Council members Brenda Losey and Mary Ellen McMurry spoke about how exciting the center is and the success that is possible because this resource is now available in Greenfield. 

“Always understanding that the very foundation of economic development is workforce development, I was pleased to read in its economic development plan that the Village of Greenfield wanted to build a brick-and-mortar workforce center,” Bolender said earlier this week. “Through the diligence of Dr. Nicole Roades and Amy McClellan of SSCC, funding through the Growing Rural Independence Together (GRIT) grant was procured for Highland County. This grant funding allowed us to build and outfit this amazing center. We appreciate our partnership with Highland County Community Action and feel at home in the new Jefferson Street Business Center.
 
“Now more than ever, we must have the tools necessary for our businesses to grow, and that begins with a qualified and capable workforce,” Bolender continued. “This center will help to position Highland County as the county where current businesses thrive and new industries put down roots.”