By Edd Pritchard, GateHouse Media Ohio
Work is underway on a $1.4 million project to expand Iron Workers Local 550′s training center on High Street NW. The union is using the construction project as to train apprentices. A labor contract between Local 550 and area contractors is helping to pay for the project.
CANTON Ironworkers Local 550 once again is expanding its training center.
The $1.4 million project should be finished before the end of the year, William V. Sherer II, financial secretary, treasurer and business manager, said Friday. Union apprentices recently started work and should begin attaching exterior walls and the roof this coming week.
City officials and some of the contractors — Beaver Excavating, R.G. Smith, Selinsky Force, Barnhart Crane and C&G Erectors — that hire Local 550 members got a look at the project Friday morning.
The new building is going up next to a training center built in 2002 at the union’s complex at 618 High St. NW. The union’s offices are in the former Canton City Schools administrative building at the site.
Union officials have spent the past 20 years planning the training center, Sherer said. It came together through the labor agreement negotiated last year between the union and the contractors. “Without the cooperation from them, none of this would even be possible,” Sherer said, noting the importance of good relationships between labor and management.
Mayor Thomas Bernabei praised the union for the effort. To make room for the expansion, Local 550 bought and demolished three houses on High Street NW. It also has helped with fences around the Basilica of St. John the Baptist property and made improvements in a park south of the union offices.
“They are single-handedly revitalizing this area,” Bernabei said.
Local 550 organized in 1937. The union covers eight counties and parts of six counties in an area bounded by Akron on the north, Sebring on the east, Coschocton to the south and Mansfield to the west. The union has 385 active members with 89 taking part in the four-year apprenticeship training program.
Sherer said Local 550 could have contracted with a company for the building, but opted to have apprentices do the work. “What a great hands-on training project for our guys,” he said.
Local 550′s training facility includes 25 welding booths in the basement of the office building. There is classroom, more training booths and an equipment bay in the existing training building. Local 550 is rated as an accredited test center by the American Welding Society.
The apprentice program and training center are important because contractors rely on Local 550 to provide a quality workforce for construction jobs, Sherer said.
“This is the biggest investment we’ve ever made it the history of our local,” Sherer said.
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