ELYRIA — The kind of technology that allows a smartphone to know when the user wants to send a message or alerts a nurse to the vitals of a heart patient when she is using an automatic blood pressure cuff has to get its start somewhere.
If the officials of Lorain County Community College have their way, that start will be on their campus. In the past five years, the college has been piecing together a network of buildings, innovations and laboratories to drive sensor technology and Micro Electromechanical Systems and Wednesday it was announced that the federal government was funding yet another component to that very complicated puzzle.
The college will receive nearly $1.2 million through the U.S. Economic Development Administration to fund the construction of a 1,000-square-foot lab that companies will be able to use to manufacture and test new products. The investment will allow the companies to bring products to market sooner and open up the possibility of more than 200 new jobs in Lorain County.
“This funding will create a one-of-a-kind resource for companies of all sizes to accelerate the commercialization of sensor technologies into products and access new markets,” said LCCC President Roy Church. “And, that results in more high-skilled, good-paying jobs for Lorain County Community College and University Partnership graduates and the community.”
The lab will be inside the college’s Richard Desich SMART Commercialization Center for Microsystems, a stone’s throw from the Entrepreneurship Innovation Center, where a state-of-the-art clean lab is housed. The center is the same building a Buffalo-based company, Spectre Corporation, relocated to in 2011 to advance its manufacturing of pressure sensors.
The company has since moved into a manufacturing center in North Ridgeville, where it now employs nearly 20 workers. Most of the Spectre employees are LCCC graduates trained on equipment in the SMART center and educated through the college’s University Partnership Program.
Tracy Green, the college’s vice president for strategic and institutional development, said Spectre is a success story the college aims to duplicate.
“There are many companies that do not have access to this type of equipment when they are developing, testing and manufacturing a new product,” she said. “The flexibility that such proximity to a collegiate institution offers companies a ready workforce. Students are trained on equipment and can be hired for any new jobs that will be created.”
Earlier this year LCCC launched a new associate degree and certificate program in mechatronics technology focused on micro electromechanical systems.
Lorain County may not seem like it’s geared for advanced technology manufacturing, but Green said just the opposite is true.
“We are seeing more and more sensors being involved in manufacturing and cutting across several leading industries for this region, including biomedical and automotive,” she said.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Cleveland, said the grant and subsequent lab can be used by the college and business partners to leverage more than $13 million in private investment.
“These federal resources will lay the groundwork for small businesses throughout Lorain County to have a better shot at creating new opportunities and jobs,” he said. “Small businesses are essential to our economy, and through this award, Lorain County Community College can lead the way in economic development.”
Green said the lab should be running within nine months. The college also secured a state grant that will be used as matching funds to fund the project without local dollars.