State Fair Community College broke ground on Monday afternoon for a $6.9 million Olen Howard Workforce Innovation Center in Sedalia.
The SFCC Board of Trustees approved a $6.9 million contract with Prost Builders, Inc., for construction of the Innovation Center during a special meeting Dec. 8.

The construction will take place on the site where the original “Plywood U” buildings from the 'late '60s and early '70s were located.

On stage were Darlene Bradbury & her sister Shirley Rowden (Olen Howard's daughters), Board of Trustees President Randy Eaton, Dr. Joanna Anderson, SFCC president, Sedalia Mayor John Kehde, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, SFCC Foundation President Joe Fischer, SFCC Manufacturing Partners Paul Dick & Kevin Vandeven.

The college broke the news of the Workforce Innovation Center last December when it announced it had received a significant contribution from Olen Howard’s daughters, Darlene Bradbury and Shirley Rowden. Both Rowden and Bradbury were in attendance at the ceremony Monday.

Howard, a former Sedalia resident, was born in 1925 in Knobby, Missouri, in rural Benton County and graduated from Climax Springs High School in 1943. Howard and his brother, Marvin, started Howard Construction in 1945. He later founded Howard Farms, Howard Quarries and Howard Ready Mix.

In addition to the Howard donation, SFCC received a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) from the Missouri Department of Economic Development (MoDED) in a partnership with the City of Sedalia, as part of the Workforce Training Initiative.

MoDED Director Rob Dixon was in attendance as well on Monday.

The investments will provide quality job-training that will benefit stakeholders such as nonprofits, local government agencies, other technical colleges and universities, and positively affect an estimated 860 people of low and moderate income.

The college also received $500,000 in Neighborhood Assistance Program (NAP) tax credits that will be offered to donors through the college’s capital campaign, Stronger Workforce, Greater Community: A Capital Campaign for the Olen Howard Workforce Innovation Center and Center for Excellence.

The campaign goal is to raise $10 million to construct the new facility and renovate existing spaces.

“This is truly a special day at State Fair Community College,” remarked Board President Eaton. “We're really excited about the new innovation center that's going to affect the lives of students of all ages for many many years ahead.”

The center will occupy 38,500 square feet of space, which will more than double the college's training capacity for welding and precision machining, as well as classroom space for SFCC's apprenticeship programs.

The facility has been in the design phase for about a year by SAPP Architects of Springfield.

Sedalia Mayor Kehde noted that former SFCC President Fred E. Davis was looking down on Monday's ceremony with pride.

“One of the many reasons for our success is a strong work ethic in our community. To be able to cultivate our existing industry and recruit new industry, we recognize that workforce development is the key to success for economic growth,” Mayor Kehde said.

The Mayor then introduced Gov. Mike Parson to the podium.

Parson honored the late Ronnie Ditzfeld in his remarks.

“I'm going to miss him,” Parson said of Ditzfeld. “I cannot tell you how many times he's called me in Jeff City about a project in Sedalia, telling me it's good for this community. 'We could use a little help,'” Parson quoted Ditzfeld.

“He keeps me humble when I come to Sedalia,” Parson said of Ditzfeld.

The governor also thanked Bradbury and Rowden for their financial contribution to the workforce center.

“Degrees help, and I have nothing against that, but I tell you what. You also need to be trained how to do the hard work,” Parson said during his speech. “Whether it's mechanics, welding, or distribution, all these opportunities are what people are wanting today. That's where a lot of the good jobs are, that's where the money's at, and that's where the future of the state's going to be.”

Parson also bragged on the work ethic of Missourians. “I'll put Missourians up against any other state,” he said.

Foundation President Fischer thanked Parson for his efforts and also that of the campaign committee committed to raising $10 million for the Innovation Center.

The committee also personally committed $500,000 to the project.

Russell and Julie Childers committed $250,000 to the Innovation Center, Fischer noted. “Thank you so much, we truly appreciate that.”

Fischer then introduced Bradbury and Rowden to those gathered in the SFCC parking lot.

“Our father Olen Howard, was a successful businessman who gre up on a farm near Edwards. At the age of 20, Olen partnered with his brother Marvin to create Howard Construction Company. After losing his brother, Olen, at the age of 45, continued on with Howard Ready Mix, Howard Quarries and Howard Farms,” Rowden said.

“In 1997, our dad established the Olen Howard Charitable Foundation, which has gifted over $2.5 million to several charitable organizations. Darlene and I feel privileged to have this opportunity to honor our father's legacy of humble beginnings and hard work, with a substantial gift to State Fair Community College in the naming of the Olen Howard Workforce Innovation Center," Rowden stated..

The center will open up many employment opportunities for the next generation, Rowden concluded.

On Thursday afternoon at 4 p.m., it is expected that the Board of Trustees will accept a bid from Equity Bank of Wichita, Kansas and serviced out of Equity Bank, Sedalia for financing the Olen Howard Workforce Innovation Center.

The bid provides financing of $4,000,000 (four million dollars) to $6,000,000 (six million dollars) over a 10 year period at the 10 Year Treasury Note rate (0.92% at the time of response submittal) plus a 2.35% yield spread equaling a 3.27% financing interest rate over the life of the loan (at the time of the bid).

The exact interest rate will be locked at the 10-Year Treasury Note Rate, plus the 2.35% yield spread at the time of loan approval.

It is also recommended that the Board authorize the President and Vice President of Finance and Administration to execute the required Olen Howard Workforce Innovation Center financing agreements with Equity Bank in an amount of not less than $4,000,000 and not greater than $6,000,000 for a financing period of 10 years.