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Renton developing Aerospace Training Center
With $2.5 million from the state, the City of Renton is developing the Renton Aerospace Training Center at its airport where Renton Technical College will train much-needed aerospace workers.
An architect has been hired to determine whether it makes sense to remodel the former Renton Chamber of Commerce headquarters on Rainier Avenue for the training center or to build new after tearing down the roughly 50-year-old building.
RTC would train 120 students per quarter, with a staff of four faculty members – two full-time and two part-time, according to RTC President Steve Hanson. RTC would offer Aerospace Manufacturing Assembly Mechanic certificate training, The college established the program in 2011 to train assembly mechanics.
The college may offer short-term training in areas such as tooling and quality assurance, he said. The Precision Machining Technologies Program will remain on the main campus.
RTC will use a portion of a $2.1 million Air Washington grant the Department of Labor to support the expansion of the new center. Increasing the capacity to train workers is a key priority of the grant, he said.
Renton led the lobbying efforts to obtain the $2.5 million from the state’s capital budget, in partnership with RTC and The Boeing Co., to develop the center, said Suzanne Dale Estey, the city’s economic development director.
“We want to make sure this is a legacy project for the aerospace industry and the community,” said Dale Estey, who added the city’s sense is that the aerospace industry is in Renton for decades to come.
Boeing is already producing its 737 at the Renton plant at record levels and that rate will continue to increase, to 42 planes, if not higher. At the same time Boeing is anticipating an increase in retirees, so it will need to replace them with new trained workers.
The goal is to complete the design in six months, then begin construction early next year, with the building ready to accept its first students in 2014, Dale Estey said.
The training center is part of a plan Dale Estey drafted in June 2011 to help develop and support the existing aerospace industry, including suppliers, in Renton and to attract new companies.
“It’s a very holistic approach to try to make sure this isn’t just a cyclical phase but a long-term opportunity for this community,” she said.
The city is also capitalizing on the momentum generated in the state to keep production of the new 737 MAX in Renton; other airplane manufacturing centers tried to lure the 737 MAX.
Alex Pietsch, the director of the Governor’s Office of Aerospace, said access to a trained workforce is key to the expansion of the state’s aerospace industry.
“Given the huge demand for new airplanes over the next 20 years and with the large percentage of Boeing’s existing employees at or approaching retirement age, we need to be training as many workers as possible to fill the jobs that are available now and those that we know will be there in the future,” he said, pointing out that Boeing estimates there is a demand for 34,000 airplanes during the next 20 years.
“That’s why the Legislature felt it was so important to establish additional training centers around the state. Given Renton’s prominence in the industry, home to the 737 final assembly line, it was a natural location,” he said.
Before taking the job in Olympia, Pietsch was the administrator of the City of Renton Community and Economic Development Department.
The property overlooking the Renton Municipal Airport is intended to have an aviation use, under the city’s plan for the airport, which totals 167 acres.
The building is currently about 3,200 square feet in size, but it’s anticipated the training center will need about 4,000 square feet. The building would remain on the existing footprint because RTC wants to preserve parking for students and staff at the center, Dale Estey said.