New building to be dedicated in Coloma

COLOMA, WI – The Wisconsin Operating Engineers will dedicate a 108,000-square-foot addition to its training center in Coloma on Saturday, July 25, culminating a two-year building process and representing a capital investment of more than $10 million. Approximately 2,000 people are expected to attend a dedication ceremony/open house on the training center campus.

The addition advances the center’s 40-year history as an educational resource and hub of economic activity, especially during winter, in predominantly rural Waushara County, said Terry McGowan, president/business manager of Operating Engineers Local 139, which is the parent organization of Wisconsin Operating Engineers. Local 139 members voted to fund the addition in its entirety through deductions from their paychecks. 

“Just as summer is construction season in Wisconsin, winter is our training season,” said McGowan, a former director of the school. “It’s not an exaggeration to say that our 400-acre training center is the busiest construction site in Wisconsin during the first quarter of each year. Thousands of Operating Engineers come here from around the state to add to their skills base over the course of a training season.

“This addition was built so we can mitigate winter-related disruptions to our class schedules,” McGowan continued. “The centerpiece is a 51,000-square-foot indoor arena with a sand floor and a roof more than 60 feet in height at the centerline. We’ll keep the inside temperature above freezing so our members can run cranes, bulldozers, excavators and the other pieces of heavy construction equipment that we operate, without Old Man Winter getting in the way. In past winters, notably 2013-2014, some of our students were stuck in their classrooms for a week, more or less watching videos, because it was just too cold to run the equipment outdoors.”

Bill Wheeler, Tri-County Regional Economic Development Corp. executive director said the training center is an important economic asset to the region. “We congratulate Local 139 on their expansion and continued investment in the tri-county area,” Wheeler said. “The training center is a true jewel that we can all be proud of.”

Coloma Village President and TREDC Board Chairman Arden Bandt added, “The Operating Engineers and the training center have been wonderful community partners for years, adding to the local economy and assisting with community projects. We look forward to their continued partnership in the years to come.”

Training center expenditures from June 1, 2014 to May 31, 2015 totaled $4.8 million. McGowan said the building addition will even out the flow of dollars from the center into the local economy, especially in winter, when area tourism is at a lull. “We cater a daily lunch at the training center for hundreds of our members. They stay at area motels, eat at restaurants in the community, shop in the stores and fill up their tanks at area gas stations. We buy diesel fuel for our equipment from a local source and our staff members spend their money locally. These are just a few of the ways that our school benefits the Waushara County economy,” he said.    

The training center at W11584 Highway 21, about three miles east of Coloma, is managed jointly by Local 139 and its signatory contractors. It is state-certified and affiliated with Fox Valley Technical College.

The dedication ceremony/open house will be held in conjunction with the 35th Annual Local 139 Retiree Picnic. The ceremony will begin at noon with International Union of Operating Engineers General President James T. Callahan the keynote speaker and the Honorable Russ Feingold also offering remarks.

Members of the media planning to attend this event are asked to contact Local 139 Vice President/Training Director Dan Sperberg at 715-228-4911, or 800-779-2173.

Established in 1902, Operating Engineers Local 139 is a statewide Wisconsin trade union that primarily represents skilled Operators of heavy construction equipment and mechanics who service the machines. The union has approximately 9,100 active and retired members and is headquartered in Pewaukee. District offices are maintained in Madison, Appleton and Altoona.