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Capps Center striving to meet needs of Delta business

Indianola — To say that the Charles W. Capps Jr. Technology Center has been a success since it opened in 2001 would be an understatement.

With a Who’s Who of Delta businesses and industry as current or former clients, the 30,000-square-foot Capps Center has been a major player and made quite a difference in workforce training and education in the Mississippi Delta.

“Meeting your training needs when you need them met” is the motto the Capps Center follows, which has proven to be quite successful.

The Capps Center, which has worked with 63 clients so far, was the brainchild of former Mississippi Delta Community College resident Bobby Garvin who saw the need for a more centralized facility to house the college’s worker training programs and equipment.

The facility houses classrooms, computer labs, high bay areas, offices, meeting spaces and a distance learning and teleconferencing center.

The Capps Center’s primary mission is to help meet the needs of business and industry in the Mississippi Delta.
This mission is accomplished through knowledgeable leadership, keeping a pulse on changing work environments and awareness of what’s happening in the business and economic world outside the Mississippi Delta, said Perry Jenkins, dean of workforce education at the Capps Center.

From the start, the numbers have been impressive, and add to the confidence many in the business community have for the program of work at the Capps Center.

In the first year of operation, which was fiscal year 2002-2003, the Capps Center delivered 90,901 hours of skills upgrade training to 6,657 people. The following fiscal year, those numbers increased to 8,412 people receiving 129,208 hours of training.

“The 2004 statistics reveal a significant increase in individuals trained as well as the number of hours of training presented,” said Jenkins. “In 2005, all previous records for numbers served were shattered whereby 9,378 individuals received 218,348 hours of training.”

“We feel these huge increases in numbers indicate the credibility that the Capps Center now has with business and industry,” he added.

The Capps Center provides customized training to businesses and industries in Mississippi Delta Community College’s seven-county service area.

Training offered at the Capps Center facility on U.S. 61 next to Dollar General’s regional distribution facility just west of Indianola ranges from basic job readiness, which prepares the individual to enter the workforce, to high-end maintenance training such as programmable logic controller programming and interfacing.

Technical training is offered in sophisticated software such as ProE and Oracle while soft skills training is delivered to supervisory and management personnel.

The good news for potential clients is that the Capps Center has been able to provide any requested training so far that clients have needed, said Jenkins.

One of the most significant features of the training provided is that it is offered at significantly reduced costs to the client.

“Much of the cost of training is subsidized by the State Board for Community and Junior Colleges with funds provided for workforce training,” said Jenkins. “In many instances, the cost of training is also subsidized by grant funds obtained from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Labor for specific types of advanced technology training.”

U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) has been essential to receiving this funding, Jenkins added.

And another positive aspect to what the staff at the Capps Center does is that “we provide training to the client where the client wants the training conducted. Our goal is to meet the needs of the client doing whatever we need to reach them. We do not have packaged programs; each training event is designed only after we reach an agreement with the client regarding the expected outcomes of the desired training,” Jenkins said.

Training events are customized and use instructors from the participating company, from the local area and from all parts of the country. Training instructors for clients have come from such places as England, Canada and all parts of the United States.

“Our goal is to provide world class training using world-class experts in the training that is conducted. Because we are dealing with world-class companies, we strive to provide training that is on par with areas that are heavily industrialized,” said Jenkins.

And the Mississippi Delta has its share of “world-class” companies such as Baxter Healthcare, Faurecia Automotive of France, Raybestos, Milwaukee Electric Tool and The Brown Corporation.

Viking Range Corporation in Greenwood is another world-class company that is known around the world for its quality appliances for home and commercial use.

Jennifer Marshall, training and development manager for Viking Range Corp., sings the praises of the Capps Center and its staff.

“We were working for them before there was a Capps Center,” said Marshall. “MDCC’s program before and now through the Capps Center has enabled us to provide training for employees in a timely and cost-effective manner. We work together over a lot of different types of training.

“By using the services, facilities and staff at the Capps Center, this means that we don’t have to use company employees as instructors. This helps keep our costs down a lot,” Marshall said.

And in today’s economy keeping cost down can make the difference between survival or growing and expanding in an international marketplace.

“The cost factor is what is so attractive. If we had to pay for all the training we receive from the Capps Center, I don’t think we would be able to employ as many people as we do,” Marshall added.

“I am absolutely pleased with what we received and continue to receive from the staff at the Capps Center. We’re thankful we have a facility and workforce training program like this here in the Mississippi Delta,” Marshall said.

One of the major clients the Capps Center was involved with was the international Textron Fastening Systems. The company operated in the Mississippi Delta from its Greenville facility.

“Textron was a major player for us since we were involved with the training aspect from the very beginning when trying to secure Textron here right up to the last wave of training before the company closed,” said Jenkins.

While Textron has since closed its Greenville operation, at one time more than 900 people were trained in some way from pre-employment training right up to blueprint reading and training.

“We just about did it all for Textron,” Jenkins said.

Dr. Larry Bailey, president of Mississippi Delta Community College, has been around since the formation of the Capps Center, right through construction and then when MDCC took over as the building was being finished.

“We went through some difficult financial times when the building was under construction but we knew we had to go forward because such a facility was needed,” said Bailey. “It was also important to have workforce operations and training centered in one facility. It’s really a one-stop center for workforce training.”

“Over the years, the building and program has worked really well, and we’ve been able to provide a high-quality level of training to meet all of the training needs as requested by our clients,” said Bailey.

Bailey also points to the Capps Center as one of the major successes of the Mid-Delta Empowerment Zone Alliance, which provided grant money toward the construction of the Capps Center.

The Sunflower Board of Supervisors also added another $250,000 toward the costs of the $10-million Capps Center.
“There was a whole lot of cooperation and many committed people and groups behind this facility. I think that’s why it’s been so successful because people have some ownership here,” Bailey said.

Contact MBJ contributing writer David Lush at mbj@msbusiness.com.

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