The city of Leominster, Mass., is proposing a plastics technology center to provide training and technical assistance to more than 100 plastics firms in north central Massachusetts.
Leominster officials launched the proposal Nov. 17 at a forum calling for collaboration between industry, the community and educational institutions. The city is preparing a business plan and appointing an industry-led steering committee for the center.
Trevor Beauregard, economic development coordinator for the city's office of planning and development, said the new center could be up and running within one to two years. He declined to speculate on upfront costs because they will depend on what kind of site officials choose for the center, a process he expects to take a few months.
Beauregard said he envisions machinery suppliers donating or loaning equipment. The center's operating costs, which will be much smaller than startup costs, could be shared by industry participants, he said.
Richard White, sales and marketing manager for mold builder Mark Tech Inc., praised the center's goals but had questions about how it will be funded.
``Will this be stretching resources?'' he asked in a telephone interview from Mark Tech's Leominster facility.
Most plastics companies are small and could have problems funding the center if governments do not help, he added.
White, a member of the North Central Massachusetts Plastics Council, said the council already has helped create a Center for Technical Education at Leominster's vocational high school. This center trains students in mold building and related careers, and has an enrollment of about 60. Machinery suppliers have donated or loaned about $700,000 in equipment for student training.
White said the existing center plans to expand to a full manufacturing training environment to include design and molding.
Beauregard said the new Leominster technology center would not compete with the high school's program but would expand on it. The new center could offer degrees and certificates to encourage local students to stay in the area rather than move to colleges elsewhere.
White said the new center is a good idea if it would help break down prejudice among educators against skilled trades, but he thinks a high degree of industry input would be needed to ensure that.