PLAINFIELD – Rows of large panels simulating electrical, hydraulic and other systems spanned one of the many learning spaces.
Not far away, a warehouse with a fleet of fork-trucks, towering box-filled shelves and a $1-million robot awaited students looking to train in material handling.
Classrooms and labs spanned throughout, including those filled with anatomy models for medical assisting students.
It may be in Hendricks County, but it’s a big inspiration for an initiative in Hancock County to bring a facility offering workforce training for adults and career and technical education for high school students.
MADE @ Plainfield opened in July 2021. The two-story facility spans nearly 100,000 square feet and plans are already underway to expand. Inside, it’s made up of dedicated space for Ivy Tech Community College, Vincennes University, WorkOne and the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, as well as flexible classroom space and offices.
Stakeholders in Hancock County hope to accomplish something similar with what they’re calling the Hancock County Innovation and Education Center.
“I think a lot of people in our community really value access to education, and that’s everywhere, but really having access here at home,” said Brandy Wethington Perrill, executive director of Hendricks College Network, based at MADE @ Plainfield. “…Our friends over here in Plainfield were talking about expanding some opportunities for their students with both Ivy Tech and Vincennes, and since they both did exist in our community and we knew they wanted to grow, that conversation just got rolling and it just got bigger and bigger and bigger.”
Veridus Group, an Indianapolis-based consulting firm hired to help bring the Hancock County Innovation and Education Center to fruition, did the same for MADE @ Plainfield.
The Plainfield facility has a working warehouse for training in warehouse operations and inventory management. Students practice on toy-filled boxes for Toys for Tots, the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve program that distributes Christmas presents to children. The training operation had existed in a previous location that the town of Plainfield had invested in Vincennes University to provide several years ago, and was moved to MADE @ Plainfield.
“They wanted to have the training that our community demands,” Perrill said, noting the area’s extensive logistics sector. “That’s kind of the thought behind this entire place. We want to make sure that everything we’re doing here is informed by the workforce needs.”
Toyota’s material handling division sends employees to train there from all over the country, as does Amazon, which donated three $1 million robots – two for taking apart and putting together, and one for training on its processes.
“They’re trying to duplicate the environment of the logistics warehouses that are in the community,” said David Rainey, director of owner’s representation for Veridus Group.
Another of the learning spaces in MADE @ Plainfield is filled with units simulating electrical, hydraulic, motor control and other systems for students to train on.
“This can really apply to a lot of different industries,” Perrill said, including logistics, racing, agriculture and food.
The units are on rollers so they can be easily moved around and swapped based on what’s being taught.
“There’s nothing in this room that is set up to where it can’t be switched out to a new technology, to a new training,” Rainey said. “We’ve got plenty of power, we’ve got air, we’ve got everything they need. If technology changes, they need to start training on something else, they can bring it in.”
Ivy Tech has a testing center in MADE @ Plainfield for workforce certifications and proctored exams, complete with computers, cameras and lockers for participants to leave their belongings in. The post-secondary educational institution also has space for student services like financial aid and advising.
WorkOne, which provides employment and career services throughout Indiana, has an office in MADE @ Plainfield as well. Perrill said the organization’s presence in a workforce training facility is fitting.
“The main motivation of that is they want people looking for what’s next in their careers,” she said.
The Indiana Department of Homeland Security has some administrative offices in MADE @ Plainfield, and conducts fire safety training there.
Indiana State University offers a master of business administration degree at the facility.
Also in the building are labs for medical assisting classes, computer labs, conference rooms, smaller “huddle” rooms and a “learn anywhere” classroom wired with cameras and microphones.
About 10,000 students went through the doors of MADE @ Plainfield last year, Perrill said, ranging from those in need of services from WorkOne to learners taking classes for a semester or months at a time.
One difference between MADE @ Plainfield and the Hancock County Innovation and Education Center is that the latter is planned to offer workforce training to high school students. Those in Hancock County currently have to travel out of the county to study at career centers.
“The only thing that is really different between this concept – what we did here at MADE – and what we’re doing in Hancock County is that in Hancock County all four school corporations are heavily engaged, and are going to have dedicated CTE (career technical education) for their schools where students will come,” Rainey said. “…It’s going to bring some challenges as we start to integrate and bring together adult students and high school students; there’s challenges that we’ve got to figure out.”
MADE @ Plainfield also has a large community room that gets plenty of use, Perrill said, including for breakfasts, employee training, networking events and events organized by the Indy Chamber.
“It’s busy all day every day it seems,” she said.
Such a space is part of the vision for the Hancock County Education and Innovation Center due to the lack of large meeting areas in the county. Alaina Shonkwiler, director of community & economic development for Veridus Group, said it could be part of phasing the project.
“As we look at the classroom spaces and the flex spaces and the warehousing and all of those components – the dedicated community space could be a phase two if it came down to the cost of the project being an obstacle,” Shonkwiler said.
Veridus Group anticipates the Hancock County facility will need to be 125,000 to 140,000 square feet, putting it at an estimated cost ranging from about $45 million to $63 million. A first phase of under 100,000 square feet would bring the estimated cost down to about $38 million to $45 million.
The town of Plainfield funded MADE @ Plainfield about three years ago, when construction costs were lower, for $35 million. The project was backed by tax increment financing funds – tax revenue from new business development – which is the same strategy Hancock County officials are leaning toward.
Perrill said MADE @ Plainfield is sustained by its partners based on the space dedicated to them.
Rob Matt, senior vice president of Hancock Health and a member of the Hancock County Innovation and Education Center’s steering committee, said the initiative has so far been provided $100,000 from the Hancock County Council. Matt said about $50,000 of that has been spent on architectural work, consulting services from Veridus Group and legal work to attain a not-for-profit status.
The county council recently committed $125,000 more toward the initiative, as did the Hancock County Redevelopment Commission. A region that includes Hancock County awarded $1.4 million of the $5 million it got from Indiana’s Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative, or READI.
Matt said $60,000 in private contributions have been submitted to the initiative but have yet to be spent.
A site selection process has narrowed down the choices from nine to three, he continued, adding all are near CR 300N and a new I-70 interchange being contemplated at CR 200W.
Hancock County Innovation and Education Center Steering Committee
Bill Bolander, former Hancock County Council member
Kent Fisk, Hancock County Council member
Bill Spalding, president of Hancock County Commissioners
Harold Olin, superintendent of Greenfield-Central Schools
Jack Parker, superintendent of Mt. Vernon Community School Corporation
Lisa Lantrip, superintendent of Community School Corporation of Southern Hancock County
George Philhower, superintendent of Community School Corporation of Eastern Hancock County
Mary Gibble, president of the Hancock County Community Foundation
Michael Burrow, president and CEO of NineStar Connect
Steve Long, president and CEO of Hancock Health, Hancock Regional Hospital
Rob Matt, senior vice president of Hancock Health
Mia Johnson, Ivy Tech Community College
Dave Tucker, Vincennes University
Miles Hercamp, director of instruction of Community School Corporation of Southern Hancock County
Randy Sorrell, executive director of Hancock Economic Development Council
Mary Noe, Hancock County Council member