The vacant Lowe's home improvement store on Grand Avenue in Gurnee will be converted to an Advanced Technology Center by the College of Lake County.
The project is intended to strengthen the manufacturing workforce and offer welding and computer numerical control, commonly called CNC, programs beginning in Fall 2021.
Manufacturing is the backbone of Lake County's economy and CLC is "committed to ensuring a skilled workforce talent pipeline exists to support industry needs and future growth opportunities," board Chair William Griffin said in a news release.
According to CLC, Lake County is the second largest manufacturing county in Illinois, employing more than 50,700 people and generating $35.7 billion in annual economic output.
Richard Ammon, CLC's dean of engineering mathematics and physical sciences, said a fourth industrial revolution or Industry 4.0, involves automation using smart technology.
"Our students will play an important role in this new era of manufacturing and breakthroughs in emerging technologies such as robotics, 3D printing, automated vehicles and artificial intelligence," he said in the release.
According to CLC, the new facility will strengthen Lake County's position at the forefront of "modern, global technologies through innovative workforce development initiatives."
The 142,073-square-foot building at 7735 Grand Ave. is situated on 14.3 acres, said Lindsey Nemcek, CLC public relations manager. The property was purchased for $4.9 million, she added.
The purchase grew out of a process that began in March when the college invited the National Coalition of Advanced Technology Centers to assess the area. Job growth is outpacing the number of skilled workers and the organization found the region could benefit and is ready to invest in an advanced technology center.
That sparked a site search and in September, the CLC board approved a resolution to buy the Lowe's property. It was selected because it is close to the CLC main campus in Grayslake, has accessible parking, access to public transportation and is convenient for industry partners, Nemcek added.
Gurnee Mayor Kristina Kovarik said the village is proud to host the center.
"Advanced manufacturing in Lake County is not only an economic driver for the region, but it also offers a rewarding career pathway for many of our students," she said in the release.
CLC President Lori Suddick said the college will engage local manufacturers, vendors, workforce and economic development and education and community agencies in the design and launch of the new center.
Students and faculty industry experts will be helping to complete the design, which is expected in February.