group of ten people with shovels

A sunny, if cold, Thursday morning saw the groundbreaking for a new facility that will expand opportunities for students in Allegan County. Allegan Area ESA officials, staff, students, community members, and project partners gathered on March 28 to celebrate the beginning of construction for the new $7 million Auto Tech building. The 22,000 square-foot facility will consist of two 1,700 square-foot classrooms as well as two 7,000 square-foot hand-on workshops.

“This is all about meeting the needs of our students,” said Tech Center Director Rich Okoniewski. “We have had a backlog in the Auto Tech for years and this will allow us to double the number of slots available in that program.”

line of students holding shovels

The groundbreaking ceremony featured speeches by Allegan Area ESA Board President Larry Collier, Allegan Area ESA Superintendent Bill Brown, OAK Site Superintendent Steve McCaskey, and Michigan House Minority Leader Senator Aric Nesbitt.

In his remarks, Mr. Brown shared that the project will not cause the district to incur any debt. “Through our careful planning and prudent financial management, we have successfully allocated the necessary funds to cover the entirety of this seven-million-dollar project without taking out any loans. This achievement underscores our dedication to maximizing every dollar entrusted to us by our community.”

The Tech Center is supported by a county-wide Career and Technical Education millage. These funds enable students to attend the Tech Center at no cost to them or their local school district.

“Through hands-on learning experiences and industry-relevant curriculum, our Tech Center has empowered students to discover their passions and pursue their dreams,” said Mr. Collier. “The Tech Center has been instrumental in preparing our students for success in the workforce, college, the military, and beyond.”

The new Auto Tech building is scheduled to open in April 2025.

Top photo (l-r): Tech Center Director Rich Okoniewski, OAK Site Superintendent Steve McCaskey, Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations Abby Lloyd, Senator Aric Nesbit, Tech Center Assistant Principal Ben Bever, Maintenance Supervisor Mark Jackson, Board Treasurer Leslie Ballard, Board President Larry Collier, Board Vice President Rick Day, Superintendent William Brown.

Second photo (l-r): Auto Tech students Zach Roberts, Jayden Brecker, Jack Ordway, Hailee Kievit, James Butler, Auto Tech Instructor Greg Sagodic.