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The right gear for trucking school

LMC plots deal with Wisconsin hauler

By RALPH HEIBUTZKI

HP Correspondent

BENTON TOWNSHIP — Lake Michigan College will sell 6.5 acres of excess property at its Bertrand Crossing campus, which will allow it to start a truck driver training program there.

LMC Board members unanimously approved a deal Tuesday to sell the acreage on Bertrand Crossing’s northwest side to N&M Transfer Co. Inc. of Neenah, Wis., for $147,875.

Anne Erdman, vice president of administration, described the sale as an ideal opportunity for both sides.

N&M will gain a distribution center to accommodate its growth. LMC can use the site to host a program it’s been trying to start for awhile, she said.

“We’ll able to use the facility for training, and park our trucks there. It’s just a perfect match,” she said.

Erdman said N&M is a family-owned business that’s been gaining a foothold in the Michigan market.

The company rents space in South Bend and had been looking for a site where it could change drivers.

“We were the only place that had an open piece of property we weren’t using, that would allow them to do this,” Erdman said. “As it turned out, we had been developing a truck driving curricula, so it was meant to happen.”

N&M has hired Abonmarche of Benton Harbor to design the building, which it hopes to open in July 2019 with LMC getting its program going by fall of that year, Erdman said.

“It was just a perfect time for both of us,” she said.

Local companies had asked LMC to start a truck driver program for several years, but cost and space problems had stymied those efforts, said Leslie Kellogg, provost and vice president of academic affairs. “There’s a great need for truck drivers, but it’s a very expensive program to run – buying the trucks and outfitting the trucks,” Kellogg said. “You have to have facilities, like docks to back up to, and such.”

LMC’s new partnership with N&M offered a good way to deal with those matters, Kellogg said.

“They are providing us with two trucks that will

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be outfitted for educational purposes, and we’ll have use of their facilities during the off hours,” Kellogg said. “They tend to those use facilities very early in the morning. Their slow time is great for us to run a truck driver training program.”

The new program should provide a pipeline for employers, whether students end up working for N&M, or someone else, Kellogg said.

“They won’t be able to hire all of them so it will help serve the need of other companies that are looking for truck drivers. It’s a need I’ve heard, over and over again. People are looking for truck drivers,” she said.

In other matters, the board approved a revised resolution that allows the college to sell $20 million in bonds for its various construction projects – including its Napier Avenue main campus, which has been targeted for $33 million in upgrades.

The resolution includes various language tweaks that spelled out some administrative terms, but the overall terms of the sale haven’t changed, said Kelli Hahn, vice president of finance.

LMC is issuing the bonds for nine years, which it will repay from the proceeds of its 0.48mill capital improvement millage. Voters approved that measure in fall 2016.

Terms will be released after the bond sale closes, which Hahn expected to happen today.

“The money will come into the college’s checking account, we will be funded, and we will begin disbursing it, as we collect the capital millage proceeds to pay it back,” she said.

Hahn said the bond sale essentially works as a financing mechanism to start construction right away, instead of waiting until the college collects all of the money.

“The amount of construction – not only at this campus (on Napier), but Niles and South Haven – required a several-pronged approach that included fundraising from the community, a capital outlay grant from the state, the capital millage, and some institutional efforts to set aside funding, to meet the needs of the students, and the community,” she said.

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