PAINTSVILLE, KY – The Grand Opening Celebration of the HAAS eKentucky Advanced Manufacturing Institute (eKAMI) was held on Tuesday, February 20, 2018 in Paitsville, Kentucky. Government officials, educators, industry professionals and business owners attended the dedication, where live-cutting demonstrations were performed on the latest, cutting-edge HAAS CNC machines.
The development of the Paintsville HAAS Technical Education Center (HTEC) in east Kentucky was the product of a collaborative effort among many stakeholders with a common passion and goal to retrain the region’s exceptionally skilled workforce for new careers in the Advanced Manufacturing industry. Along with the strong support of Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin and the project’s first financial contribution of $1.5 million from the Gene Haas Foundation, HAAS Factory Outlet, a Division of Midwest Manufacturing Resources, has been involved since eKAMI’s inception, providing technical, educational, and financial resources. HAAS is the #1 all-American manufacturer of CNC machine tools, with founder Gene Haas, also well known in the motorsports arena, having founded NASCAR’s Stewart-Haas Racing and Formula One’s Haas F-1 team.
According to Kathy Walker, Founder and Director of HAAS eKAMI, “The people of Kentucky are incredibly excited that a global figure like Gene Haas believes in the ability of our workforce, as demonstrated by his substantial financial commitment to the eKAMI project. His appreciation for the innate mechanical competence and problem-solving mentality of our people speaks volumes about the potential for a brighter future in Appalachia. Through this initiative, the region can begin to provide a meaningful solution to the global demand for high-tech manufacturing personnel. Simply put, we have what industry needs – a highly-skilled, innovative workforce prepared to meet the challenges of 21st Century advanced manufacturing. The HAAS eKAMI training center connects those dots.”
According toWalker, the decline of coal mining, the underpinning of the local economy, has resulted in the displacement of nearly an entire region of workers. Since 2008, the industry has lost more than 8,000 direct coal mining jobs, and at least 24,000 indirect jobs related to heavy machinery, transportation, and other ancillary businesses. Though historically cyclical, the coal industry’s most recent downturn is more permanent, forcing families who have lived in the area for generations to move out of the region in an effort to find work.
For the past 30 years, eastern Kentucky has been home to entrepreneur Kathy Walker, who has been searching for sustainable solutions for the area’s declining job opportunities. “Transitioning our mining workforce into careers in the advanced manufacturing industry is a logical step. We are just building on a firm foundation of natural talent, a skill set handed down for generations and further enhanced in the coal mines. We are fitting a round peg into a round hole, focusing on what we DO have rather than what we don’t.” Walker notes, “The first movers to the area will certainly enjoy the advantage of a loyal, well-trained workforce with an unparalleled work ethic. We are confident that the ‘Miners-to-Machinists’ initiative of east Kentucky will make a meaningful contribution to the manufacturing renaissance in America.”
For more information about the HAAS eKentucky Advanced Manufacturing Institute, visit www.ekyami.com.