ABB Donates $1M for Peak Innovation Center in Arkansas

The motor company will help buy equipment for the center, a collaboration between the University of Arkansas and Fort Smith Public Schools to create career pathway programs in 22 districts, set to open in August.

Peak Innovation Center.jpg
The Peak Innovation Center at Fort Smith, Arkansas, depicted here in an artist's rendering, will open in August 2021 to about 43,000 students from 22 regional school districts. Four career pathways programs will focus on advanced manufacturing, information technology, healthcare sciences and the arts, allowing high school juniors and seniors to earn technical concurrent credit from the Western Arkansas Technical Center at University of Arkansas-Fort Smith.<br/>
Peak Innovation Center
(TNS) — ABB's NEMA motor division will support the Peak Innovation Center in Fort Smith with $1 million to use on advanced manufacturing equipment.

The Peak Innovation Center, under construction at 5900 Painter Lane, is a regional partnership between Fort Smith Public Schools and the University of Arkansas — Fort Smith, supported by the voters of Barling and Fort Smith, as well as the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce, and multiple local businesses.

Career pathways at Peak, which opens in August, will be available to about 43,000 students from 22 regional school districts. The four distinct programs will focus on advanced manufacturing, information technology, healthcare sciences, and the arts. Students in 11th and 12th grades that are enrolled in the programs will earn technical concurrent credit from the Western Arkansas Technical Center at University of Arkansas-Fort Smith.

The contribution from ABB will be used to acquire state-of-the-art equipment for the Advanced Manufacturing program and its Automation/Robotics, Electronics Technology, and Computer Integrated Machining pathways.

"Today, we are investing in our business with automation solutions and data-driven processes," Jesse Henson, president of ABB's NEMA motor division, said at the announcement Monday. "These improvements require positions and skill sets we didn't imagine 10 years ago. We are pleased to partner with Peak to help local students develop the skills we need, and we are honored to invest in those students, their families, and our region."

Johnny McKusker, vice president Operations, explained that students will experience hands-on, real-world learning, taught by industry-experienced instructors at Peak. Upon graduating high school, Peak students will be prepared to immediately enter the workforce, continue on to college, or do both with the support of their new employers, McKusker added.

"The Peak Innovation Center was a very deliberate action taken by the Chamber of Commerce, educators, local business leaders and the citizens of Fort Smith and Barling to remain competitive in the global economy," said Tim Allen, president and CEO of the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce. "This bold transformation of how we approach workforce development in our K-12 school system, will hopefully be a model for other areas of our state for years to come. Preparing our students for the world-of-work is the top priority."

Allen also noted that the Peak Innovation Center will "separate us from the pack" and allow the regional chamber to compete for bigger projects.

Terry Morawski, superintendent of Fort Smith Public Schools, said ABB's investment in will help students develop their knowledge and expertise.

"We are very grateful for ABB's leadership," Morawski said. "They have supported the development of Peak from its very beginning, and we couldn't be more thankful to them for their generosity."

U.S. Rep. Steve Womack said the ABB investment is a" differentiator for workforce development."

"When young men and women leave the PEAK Innovation Center, they will be prepared with the technical skills to immediately leverage great job opportunities," Womack said. "It will position future generations for success and close the skills gap."

The ABB donation is the latest of major contributions from community partners, including The Gene Haas Foundation, ArcBest, Baptist Health, Mercy Fort Smith, the Windgate Foundation, and the Hutcheson Family

In early May, ArcBest announced its $1 million investment in Peak. The ArcBest Community Room will be an innovative space for student career expos, community events, student competitions, meetings and training events, and student-centered industry days.

"It will be a staple space of the Peak Innovation Center," Gary Udouj, director of Career Education and District Innovation for Fort Smith Public Schools, said of the ArcBest Community Room.

The Peak Innovation Center is being constructed from a donated facility (the former Hutcheson Shoes building) at the intersection of Zero Street and Painter Lane in east Fort Smith.

"Our region has a world-class workforce, and the Peak Center will help strengthen the area's educational resources while providing opportunities for students of all backgrounds," said Judy McReynolds, ArcBest chairman, president and CEO. "We are very happy to invest in our community's future."

©2021 Times Record (Fort Smith, Ark.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.