METS attract business to region

Sen. Mitch McConnell seemed to think the $500,000 congressional grant he helped secure for a project aimed at workforce development in Northern Kentucky was money well spent.

McConnell toured the Northern Kentucky University Metropolitan Educational and Training Service (METS) Center for Corporate Learning Aug. 22 to see the results of the grant first-hand and to receive a recognition award for his contribution, which helped make the METS Center a reality.

“Wow. This is very impressive,” McConnell said of the of the $12 million, high-tech venture he helped make a reality. “It is great to see what it has become and it is great for NKU and for the region,” he said.

The METS Center, located in CirclePort office park in Erlanger, is a 43,600 sq. ft. specialized corporate training facility that utilizes high-tech equipment such as videoconferencing, plasma video screens and instantanious audience polling equipment to design training programs for corporations from all over country.

NKU President James Votruba said, “What we expect to see is that education is going to be a prime developmental in corporate strategy.” He said the building is a window to education and “it’s a facility that will broker intellectual sources worldwide on behalf of companies in this area,” he said.

Votruba presented the first “plaque of appreciation” to McConnell for his support of workforce development in the Northern Kentucky region – the core purpose of the METS Center.

Rob Synder, executive director for METS, said the center would have been impossible without the $500,000 the Senator brought to the project. “The grant, essentially, covered our operating expenses for two years while we were getting ourselves into a position to be self-sufficient,” Snyder said.

“We didn’t have a fax machine, didn’t have a secretary, we didn’t have a phone number and now we have a $7 million building with $5 million worth of furnishings,” Snyder said. “Sen. McConnell made it possible for us to get from where we were to here,” he said.

The METS will officially open Sept. 22, but has actually been serving clients in the new building since May, having served over 250 clients (1300 people) from corporations such as Proctor ‘ Gamble, UPS and Aetna U.S. Heathcare, in the new building. Synder said METS expects to over 350 clients this year.

Judge Executive for Boone County, Gary Moore: “This is a great partnership between a lot of different entities. Of course the University and the businesses but also the county itself.” Boone county acted as a vehicle that allowed the organization to get a lower interest rate and secure the financing through bonds that the METS will repay, Moore said.

“We felt it would be a tremendous boost to our economic development. This is a great asset for the existing businesses…but it’s also a great tool to use in attracting new companies to come here,” he said.

“When they see that we have these types of advancements and educational training for their employees…it says a lot about the N. Ky region and its commitment to education and economic development,” Moore said.

The METS Center is an impressive mix of high-tech equipment, sleek lines, large windows and fresh new furnishings, but Snyder said, “it is not the looks that really matter, it’s the infastructure.”

Linda Baier, director of marketing for METS, said, “We are here to support companies and corporations in whatever they may do…to help advance the skills of our workforce.” The organization offers an all-inclusive environment in which the programs are designed by METS, all equipment and services such as faxing, copying and, even shuttle service from the airport or hotel is included.

Gail Wells, Dean terrific, state-of-the-art technology. The more NKU can do to make businesses realize how hi-tech we are, the better off students will be. It may open doors to internships, co-ops and other job opportunities. Businesses will see how well NKU is preparing students.