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McHenry County Board awards two more grants totaling more than $2 million through Advance McHenry County program

Training opportunities for McHenry County businesses hit by the coronavirus pandemic and a summer internship program at McHenry County College are the recipients of two more Advance McHenry County grants.

The McHenry County Board gave its approval to the grants Tuesday.

One of the grants, totaling just under $1.4 million, will go toward the Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center to provide training and other assistance to help local businesses return to strength following the COVID-19 pandemic, county officials said in a news release. The aim is to make the businesses “more resilient to future economic and societal shock,” the county said.

The other, totaling $717,300, will create a summer internship program through the Manufacturing Pathways Consortium at McHenry County College. The internship will include 100 students participating in a 10-week, paid program to “expose them to local manufacturing career opportunities,” according to the release. The consortium is made up of educators, manufacturers and other community partners to help boost the manufacturing employee pipeline.

“With help from the county’s generous funding, we can increase awareness of career opportunities within local industry for 100 interns throughout our community,” McHenry County College President Clint Gabbard said in a statement.

The approval Tuesday brings the total number of grants awarded to five – the first three were doled out last month – the total money awarded to a little more than $5.8 million.

“These next two allocations make critical investments in our business community and our workforce,” County Board Chairman Mike Buehler, R-Crystal Lake, said in the release. “They will strengthen our manufacturing base while providing them with eager and highly trained local workers seeking careers.”

The first three grants awarded last month went to help buy equipment at the new Foglia Center for Advanced Technology and Innovation at McHenry County College, to help fund a program at Crystal Lake-based Community High School District 155 that helps job readiness and exploration, and to the Child Advocacy Center of McHenry County, which aims at helping child abuse victims.

Advance McHenry County is a program created to help disperse the nearly $60 million the county received from the American Rescue Plan, the $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill passed by Congress in spring 2021.

The Advance McHenry County program is currently in its first phase, which officials said will see half the total money used. Of the $29.8 million for phase one, $14 million is planned for infrastructure projects, while $8 million will be used for manufacturing, work development and job programs, officials said.

The remaining $6 million will be split between nonprofit agencies, as well as special districts and local government bodies that did not receive American Rescue Plan funds, officials said.

Board member Michael Vijuk, D-Cary, said the educational aspects of the program are the most important part to him. With the changing landscape of the economy due to the coronavirus, he said it’s important to be ready for how industries are shifting, be it with goods or workers.

“We’ve got to be prepared for those demands,” he said.

While he noted it’s still early in the process for awarding grants, Vijuk said he thinks the work being done thus far has gone well. Going forward, he said he hopes an emphasis is placed on helping minority individuals in addition to other fronts, he said.

“This is a learning process for all counties,” he said.

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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