Workforce Network Inc. received $40,000 from a budget amendment made by the Marble Falls Economic Development Corp. to help pay for rent and capital improvements at the nonprofit’s warehouse facility, 2413 Commerce St. in Marble Falls. Staff photo by Nathan Bush
The Marble Falls Economic Development Corp. board directed $40,000 of funding to Workforce Network Inc. that will unlock $4.6 million in job training for the Highland Lakes area. The EDC money will be used to rent a warehouse and finish out classroom space inside to provide hands-on training for various skilled trades.
“It’s a game changer,” said Gail Davalos, Workforce Network’s director of Stakeholder Relations. “When you have a grant of that magnitude ($4.6 million), everybody gets excited. Yet, when we go to implement it, everyone is faced with the cold reality that we don’t have all the infrastructure we need to carry it off. That was the predicament we were in, and (the EDC) rescued us from it.”
“The money that has been awarded to us is for training programs,” Davalos said. “It is not to build out facilities or acquire facilities. We are grant-rich and facility-poor.”
Davalos hopes to have the Good Jobs grant amended in the future to include funding for facilities.
“The Good Jobs Challenge grant can contribute toward rent, but it wasn’t put in the original proposal, so it would need a budget amendment,” she said. “We hope in years two and three that we need this warehouse, we can get (rent) covered under the grant.”
Half of the $40,000 from the EDC will go toward paying one year’s rent for a 3,000-square-foot building at 2413 Commerce St. in Marble Falls. The rest will go toward finishing out job-training classrooms inside the space.
The EDC approved the funding during its board meeting on Wednesday, March 1. Davalos spoke to the board, emphasizing the need for additional funding for facilities to help serve the workforce development program’s purpose.
“We are not in the facility business,” Davalos said. “Honestly, since it’s a workforce system that has to be sustainable, the community has to buy into it. Not only the employers but the community at large, including (the EDC) and other city and county leaders.”
With the money in place, the nonprofit plans to begin improvements by creating two separate classrooms inside the rented space to offer training for skilled trades such as plumbing, electrical, and HVAC. Once completed, the jobs program will be able to hold two classes at once, four nights a week.
While the EDC’s contribution does not cover all of the renovation costs, Workforce Network partners Matt Winsborough of Winsborough Construction, Charles Malone of All-Systems Electrical Solutions, and James Forest of Complete Care Plumbing have offered their services for free or dramatically discounted rates to complete the rest.
The nonprofit hopes to begin classes at the renovated facility later in 2023.
“We hope to be in the implementation phase by this summer so that we can start recruiting students and start a phased approach on classes,” Davalos said. “We’ll ramp up the latter part of 2023.”
Marble Falls EDC Executive Director Christian Fletcher said approving the budget amendment was a no-brainer for the board.
“(Workforce Network’s) efforts focus on some critical needs in our area, and the EDC is more than happy to support them,” he said. “Their success in getting workforce-related grants is commendable, but their efforts would be severely curtailed if they can’t secure proper classrooms and training spaces for all the classes they will be running over the next three years.”
EDC Board President Steven Reitz, owner of SRCI Design Build, shared Fletcher’s sentiment.
“I think (the board) knows where I land on the plumbing, HVAC, and electrical side of this thing,” he said. “We struggle so much with folks getting into the trade. Having them have some sort of experience and training is so valuable to the guys that are bringing them up through the ranks.”