News Release

Published on Thursday, February 20, 2014

Manufacturers around western Wisconsin are clamoring for more trained welders. And, Western Technical College is better positioned to respond to this need after Board approval to purchase Trane Company’s Weaver Building on La Crosse’s south side.

Western’s Foundation will purchase the facility, located at 2860 21st Place South, and lease it to the college. The sale will be finalized the end of February.

Discussions started between Western and Trane when the college was looking for space to temporarily relocate the welding program during construction of the Integrated Technology Center, one of the seven projects supported though last year’s referendum.

Now, this short-term solution may prove to have benefits further into the future.

“We haven’t been able to fulfill all the requests we have for welding training, due to lack of lab space,” said Patti Balacek, director of Western’s Business and Industry Services division. “This will allow us to offer more sections, and gives us the flexibility to do more with grant funding.”

The college has heard the cries for qualified welders throughout its 11-county district. “There is predicted growing need for welders as companies face employee retirements, new product lines, and expansions,” added Balacek. “We’re always on the look-out for creative ways we can partner with businesses to solve our local needs.”

“We’ve had a long standing relationship with Western Technical College providing technical skills training. As they move to this new facility, we expect to continue this successful relationship,” said Terry Pickett, Vice President of Quality and Advanced Manufacturing Engineering for the Trane commercial business in North America and Europe.

Western currently has an instructor at Trane’s welding lab providing full-time training to employees. Purchasing the Weaver Building allows the college to continue this partnership and create more welding stations.

“We plan to use the same set-up that we have slated for the new Integrated Technology Center,” said Mike Pieper, Western’s vice president of finance and operations. “That will give us time to try it out and make adjustments as needed.”

After the Welding program is moved into the new Center, the Weaver Building will continue to be used for contract training, skills institutes, and other grant funded initiatives.

“If the need for welders diminishes in the future, say five to 10 years down the road, the college can consider selling or repurposing the building more easily than if we had overbuilt the Integrated Technology Center,” said Balacek.

Renovation of the Weaver building is expected be complete by August for the beginning of Western’s Fall 2014 term.