Iowa Fertilizer gives $250K to career center

Donation helps Career Advantage Center strengthen programming


MONTROSE - Iowa Fertilizer officials on Tuesday unveiled a check for a quarter million dollars to help get a county career center off to a strong start.

The Lee County Career Advantage Center got the boost at the Lee County Economic Development Group offices in Montrose as part of a ceremony Tuesday afternoon.

LCEDG President and CEO Dennis Fraise said the investment from OCI Iowa Fertilizer sends a strong message about the viability of the new education center housed on the LCEDG property.

Fraise said since Sept. 6 the center has had more than 500 students visit the center.

"We're here to help find opportunities and create jobs for the community, while growing the regional economy," Fraise said.

"And it's not lost on us that Iowa Fertilizer and our other plants are the backbone of our economy. We're talking about 4,000 plus manufacturing jobs in Lee County, $250 million in wages - it's the backbone of what we do. Without the men and women that work in these plants we wouldn't be successful today.

Fraise said LCEDG went to Iowa Fertilizer to help jump start the center's programming.

"We went to them and said we needed someone to put a flag in the ground and say "Follow Us" - and boy did they," Fraise said.

Plant Manager Mickey McHale said the investment was based on what the career center needed to get started plus the value the fertilizer plant saw in the center's programming.

"We had spoken to Dennis and they needed a cerrtain amount of commitment before they were capable of getting other funds," McHale said.

"This is basically similar to what they asked for plus what we thought we needed to deliver as a company to the community, so that's what we came up with," he said.

McHale has been with OCI for nine months and said the career center has always been a part of plant conversations.

"We need to do something for the community and we need to find employees that have the skills sets they will get here. In the long run it benefits everyone," he said.

"It's to help high schoolers recognize what opportunities are out there aside from the typical doctor, engineer, lawyer. There's other ways to make a good living and you don't necessarily have to go to college if that's not what your goal is."

The center is a collaboration between the Fort Madison, Central Lee and Keokuk school districts, Southeastern Community College, Lee County Economic Development Group, and the southeast Iowa business community, including OCI Iowa Fertilizer Company. 

The center will provide a premier learning space designed to provide students and parents with additional workforce skills tailored to specific industries in the region and connect those learners with local employment opportunities.

"OCI Iowa Fertilizer Company’s $250,000 donation to the Lee County Career Advantage Center will unlock new opportunities for learners of all ages while at the same time enhancing the economic landscape in the southeast Iowa community,” McHale said.

“Since the company broke ground in Lee County ten years ago, we have been committed to being a good neighbor and the partnerships we have formed with local businesses, philanthropic organizations, and more reflect the priority we place on supporting community improvement efforts. Nowhere is that more evident than our ongoing support for ensuring young people have the skills and training necessary for jobs in critical and emerging fields.”

The company has also made donations to multiple social causes that matter to the community, including to the Fort Madison Sports Complex, Wever Fire and Rescue, the local United Way, local food pantries, the Fort Madison Fourth of July Celebration, and many more.

Lee County Economic Development Group, OCI Iowa Fertilizer, Lee County Career Advancement Center, donation, ceremony, education, skills, workforce, economy, Iowa, Fort Madison, news, Pen City Current,


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