County OKs $100K toward education center efforts


Kent Fisk

HANCOCK COUNTY — The county is contributing $100,000 toward efforts to create a facility providing vocational and adult education.

The Hancock County Council voted unanimously earlier this month to approve the funds from the county’s economic development income tax.

The project, which stakeholders refer to as the Hancock County Innovation and Education Center, is led by a steering committee of county school and government officials along with other community leaders. Hancock Health is also a major player in the endeavor and hired a consulting firm to assist.

Kent Fisk, a Hancock County Council member, said the county’s contribution to the initiative will go toward next steps like starting the architectural process for a future development, preparing a request for proposals from developers interested in building the facility, and ironing out other details.

“We’re in the process now of getting the where, and how big, and what’s actually going to be in it,” Fisk said.

Rob Matt, senior vice president of Hancock Regional Hospital, who’s leading the hospital’s involvement in the project, appreciates the county’s help.

“I think it speaks to the county leadership recognizing the importance of this project,” Matt said.

Fisk and Matt noted there have been efforts in the past to create a facility for vocational and adult education in the county, but that they didn’t get much traction.

“Part of the reason was we got too caught up in building a building before we got caught up with what we’re going to do in the building,” Matt said.

A combination of factors makes it different this time around, he continued. School systems are anxious to expand vocational education. Hancock County lacks adult education opportunities. The county’s rapid growth is bringing thousands of jobs. Employers want a place to send their leaders and employees to receive further education.

Matt said those involved in the initiative are working to determine who the facility’s education providers will be, who students will be, the demands of those students, desires of county school corporations for career and technical education, and needs of the area for workforce and adult education.

“We’re trying to identify all of that before we get close to a building,” Matt said.

He added that the architectural work and forthcoming request for proposals will help define a budget for the project so a plan can be implemented for identifying funding and funding models.

“We would like to be in a position to make a decision about a building and a location by the end of fall 2022,” Matt said.

Matt thinks the hospital’s Hancock Gateway Park at Mt. Comfort Road and Interstate 70 would be an ideal site for the innovation and education center. Hancock Health owns about 200 acres at that location where it operates a health care facility, and plans are underway for a senior housing campus and Starbucks. The entire site is zoned for a variety of uses, including retail and commercial.