TALLMADGE — A business owner said he has "built his own minor league team" after he welcomed a machining training center into his Brittain Road building.
The Akron CNC Training Center in February moved its operation from Gilchrist Road in Akron to the second floor of Lehner Screw Machine, 1169 Brittain Road, in Tallmadge.
Tom Bader, the owner of Lehner Screw Machine, said the move occurred after he invited Lee Combs, the founder of Akron CNC, to tour the Lehner building. Combs started Akron CNC inside his own Gilchrist Road business — S.C. Manufacturing — 12 years ago, according to his daughter, Laurie Norval, who co-owns the training center with her father and serves as the facility’s director. Norval said her father sold the S.C. Manufacturing business a few years ago, but Akron CNC continued to operate inside a machine shop at the same Gilchrist Road location.
Norval said she and her father were looking for a new location for the training center. Bader said he had unused space available on the second floor of his building and offered it to Combs.
"[The second floor] was perfect for a classroom and it had offices," said Bader, who noted the area was previously used as a large conference room. "We had enough space here that we could give them approximately 850 square feet to put in their machines and their training lab."
After that conversation, Bader said he and Combs worked out a deal to have Akron CNC Training Center move in to Lehner’s second floor.
Norval said the adult training center has been operating from Lehner since early February. She said the training facility is intended to "fill the demand for machinists" in the area.
"We love it here," said Norval. "We’re happy to be here. The plant’s really nice and organized … It’s just a really nice progressive facility."
She said students who attend the center learn how to program and operate Computer Numeric Control (CNC) mills and lathes, as well as how to read blueprints. Bader added they learn the basics and the proper terminology for the equipment they will be using.
Norval said it is a four-month training program that trainees attend four hours a day from Monday through Thursday. There are morning, afternoon and evening sessions available, according to Norval. She explained her center is a "state-registered training program" through the State Board of Career Colleges and Schools in Columbus.
"We train them from scratch," said Norval. "No prior knowledge is necessary … We’re going to teach you what you need to know to get hired."
Bader said Norval is "a great resource" for information on potential employees. Bader said he is looking to hire a foreman and more CNC set-up employees, and added Norval is providing him with names and the company is conducting interviews.
"We help each other out," said Bader. "They can come off their machines, get hired and go right on to ours."
Norval said there are two graduates of Akron CNC who already work at Lehner Screw and she is hoping that more people who go through the program end up working at the Tallmadge company. She also noted that her center will provide training to current Lehner employees. For example, a current shipping employee is receiving training on machining, Noval said.
Conditional zoning certificate needed
Since the Lehner Screw Machine building is located in an industrial zoning area, Bader must obtain a conditional zoning certificate for the adult training center to operate from his building. The property is zoned as an I-1 Industrial District and a manufacturing use is permissible, according to the legislation that is currently before Talllmadge City Council. The certificate would allow the building to be used "as an educational institution in addition to the existing manufacturing," the legislation stated.
The certificate has been recommended for approval by the planning and zoning commission.
Regina Conti, deputy clerk for council, said the legislation must have three readings before council can vote on it. Council had a second reading on the legislation on March 14 and is scheduled to have the third reading at its next meeting on April 12.
Bader said he does not anticipate any problems with the certificate being approved because he thinks Tallmadge city officials are "thrilled that somebody’s taking a stand on the shortage of labor."
"It’s only going to put a gold star on Tallmadge’s map," added Bader.
Tallmadge Mayor Dave Kline praised the partnership between Lehner and Akron CNC.
"It’s a great operation," he said. "They’ll train these kids and put them out in the workforce."
Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at 330-541-9421, email@example.com, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.