Evonik donates $50,000 to Nebraska training facility

By Luke Geiver | April 27, 2011

Evonik is helping to expand the bioenergy industry, and nearly every place from Argentina to Nebraska is reaping the benefits. Nearly a month after announcing that the German-based company would expand its global position in biodiesel catalyst production by building an alcoholate catalyst plant in Argentina, Evonik has ensured its business ventures in Iowa will also expand. Through a $50,000 donation, the company will “help prepare individuals for work in the biotechnology and milling industries,” according to the company. The money will be used to operate the Washington County Technology Center at the Cargill-owned Blair, Neb., BioRefinery Campus for five years.

The hope is to train future employees for technical jobs within the campus. Alan Brewer, vice president of Evonik’s Health and Nutrition Business Unit in North America, noted the critical need for highly trained, highly qualified people to work at the Evonik plant in Blair, which produces lysine, an amino acid used as a feed additive in the swine and poultry industry. “In the past,” Brewer said, “Evonik has hired people and trained them. Now, graduates of the Technology Center program will have a leg up on qualifying for jobs offered by Evonik and other businesses.” During a two-year program, students will develop skills in chemistry and other processes used at the facility on the way to earning an associate degree in applied technology.

Marc Geirgk, site manager of the feed additives plant, calls the new educational offering a “win-win situation” due to the chance that the program will offer surrounding residents a new job opportunity, which in return will cut down on employee turnover because the company feels local residents are more likely to stay at the facility.

The Metropolitan Community College will develop the curriculum and run the courses, with the help from the Gateway Development Corp., the Washington County arm of the Greater Omaha Economic Development Partnership, and other industry partners. One of those partners, Novozymes, will also benefit from having well-trained employees earning their education at the campus. In 2012, Novozymes will build a plant in Blair.

The current employee numbers at the campus equal roughly 200, and the total amount of contribution dollars to the Blair facility from Evonik and industry partners equals more than $500,000 to date. 

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