Expanded John Deere facility dedicated on SCC Milford Campus

John Deere Facility
From left, SCC Board member Lynn Schluckebier, John Deere Training Manager Tien Macdonald, SCC Transportation and Manufacturing Division Dean Glen Williams, SCC President Dr. Paul Illich, SCC Board chairperson Kathy Boellstorff, program manager for Deere’s Construction & Forestry Worldwide Training Center Deven Wilson, manager of John Deere's College Partnership Program Joe Plymale, SCC Program Chair Bill Vocasek, and SCC Board member Steven Ottmann are set to cut the ribbon.

With a 270-horsepower 8270R John Deere tractor and a 310K John Deere backhoe loader as the backdrop, Southeast Community College dedicated the new 20,000 square-foot expansion to its John Deere facility Thursday morning on the Milford Campus.

The dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony took place in the new space.

"John Deere approached us about the demand for more technicians, and our Board of Governors made a courageous decision to make this facility outstanding," said Dr. Paul Illich, SCC president. "This facility is about creating the best learning space for our students."

Expansion discussions began two years ago. Construction resulted in doubling the square footage of space utilized by the John Deere Tech and Deere Construction & Forestry Equipment Tech programs. Special features of the new space include touchscreen technology in the classrooms, a geo-thermal field for heating and cooling, LED lighting, and fortified restrooms that can serve as a storm shelter.  

Glen Williams, dean of SCC's Transportation and Manufacturing divisions, said the expansion gives SCC the capacity to enroll 140 John Deere Tech students and 40 Deere Construction & Forestry Equipment Tech students at one time.

"This is one of the best John Deere Tech facilities in the country," Williams said, "and we couldn't do it without dealer support."

Students in each program are required to have a sponsoring dealer, and students continue their employment with the dealership after graduation.

Zac Carder is from Longmont, Colo., and is in his fourth quarter of the 21-month John Deere Tech program. Landmark Implement of Smith Center, Kan., is sponsoring him.

"Every program class you go to, the instructors don't make it a walk in the park," Carder said. "They are all great instructors."

Carder said the demand for skilled technicians remains high.

"It's a wide open field," he said. "They did a good job with this facility, which will give students more opportunities. I know of nine students who plan to become techs at Landmark. There are lots of opportunities out there."

Three John Deere representatives attended the ceremony. Tien Macdonald, training manager based in Canada; Deven Wilson, program manager for John Deere's Construction & Forestry Tech Program attending from Davenport, Iowa; and Joe Plymale, manager of John Deere's College Partnership Program in Dallas, spoke highly of the new space.

"This facility is very important, and it shows our dealers the investment in training," Macdonald said. "Dealers have invested in expanding their facilities, so it's great to see the College do the same."

Plymale said "the facility speaks for itself."

"It reflects the technology in the equipment that students will see and service," Plymale said. "In the grand scheme, this expansion is for the dealers so that we can get them qualified talent."

Wilson said the expansion will allow SCC to double the number of student enrollments for the Deere Construction & Forestry Equipment Tech program.

"It's a state-of-the-art facility, and students will receive a state-of-the-art education," Wilson said. "The facility, combined with the excellent faculty and strong dealership personnel involvement through the advisory boards, will provide for even greater learning opportunities. "

Currently there are 57 students in the John Deere Tech program and 16 in the Deere Construction & Forestry Equipment Tech program.

Fred Petsch, administrative director of John Deere Training at SCC, started the John Deere Ag Tech program in 1989, the first of its kind in the United States. Two years later a second instructor was hired. Within 10 years, three more instructors were hired, and the number of program instructors expanded again last year.

Kathy Boellstorff, chairperson of SCC's Board of Governors, said, "Southeast Community College is committed to preparing workers for today and tomorrow's workforce. Employers who hire SCC graduates know they are getting an employee who is highly skilled, dedicated and who possesses an exemplary work ethic.

"We look forward to the next 25 years of innovative partnership with John Deere."

Bill Vocasek, chair of both programs, said the expansion of the training facility will serve dealers and students for many years to come.

"I want to thank SCC's Board of Governors and Dr. Illich for believing in us and investing in us," Vocasek said. "This is a great day."

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For more information contact:
Stu Osterthun
Administrative Director of Public Information and Marketing
402-323-3401
sosterthun@southeast.edu