Historic partnership: Butler Tech, Miami, Hamilton create new manufacturing campus

Advanced manufacturing training and research center gets support from Hamilton, Butler County leaders.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

HAMILTON — Two of the biggest players in Butler County education are joining forces — along with county and city officials — to create a more than $11.2 million learning campus to help prepare graduates to fill manufacturing jobs in the region.

Butler Tech and Miami University — along with the city of Hamilton, Butler County and local some local private companies — are converting the Vora Technology Park into a new campus for one of Ohio’s largest and most innovative career school systems.

The new school and training facility — located just north of Miami University Hamilton campus at 101 Knightsbridge Drive — will be the first of its kind in Ohio and maybe beyond, Butler Tech officials said in their announcement of the joint project.

“This marks an important moment in Butler Tech history and career tech education,” said Jon Graft, superintendent and CEO of Butler Tech, which enrolls hundreds of area high school students and part-time adult students learning careers in manufacturing and related industries.

“Butler Tech and Miami University are collaborating to build the future of public education in the United States. Students will obtain the greatest return on investment for their education, while businesses can access the most qualified, competent and experienced students in the industry,” said Graft.

Partners said the hub responds to current and predicted future workforce and applied research needs of Butler County and southwest Ohio manufacturers and “will bolster the region’s strong manufacturing base and serve the needs of industry and students through education, training and research.”

The hub will offer students hands-on training and allow companies to solve real-world problems, the release said.

The plan calls for Miami to acquire the Vora Technology Park to house the new hub, subject to the approval of Ohio’s Controlling Board.

Butler Tech will soon sign a 40-year lease on the space, benefiting from $8 million in federal ARPA (COVID pandemic relief American Rescue Plan Act) funds from the Butler County Board of Commissioners to establish the hub.

According to the partners’ announcement, the city of Hamilton will contribute $2.5 million for the effort, and Butler Tech and Miami will continue to seek additional federal, state, and corporate grants to finance the ongoing project.

Butler Tech and Miami will evenly split 70,000 square feet of the complex’s space with options to expand later into using Vora’s full 400,000 square feet.

Butler Tech students, Miami engineering students and professors, and Miami’s research and development division will inhabit the space collaboratively.

And adult students and high school students, who come from Butler County’s 10 public school districts and Northwest Schools in northern Hamilton County, may share working spaces with businesses, college students and researchers, said officials.

Butler Tech is one of the largest county career school systems in Ohio, and Miami is Butler County’s largest employer with campuses in Oxford, Hamilton and Middletown along with a Learning Center in West Chester Twp.

Plans call for the new Hamilton campus to begin classes and training sessions by the start of school in late summer 2025.

Officials said students “will be prepared to enter the workforce with the immediate opportunity for career growth.”

Through the partnership, students will be able to obtain their high school diploma, certifications, micro-credentials, and associate and bachelor’s degrees, while participating in training in a state-of-the-art facility, with company partners, technology specialists, and mentors.

Miami University President Gregory Crawford, who has led a series of aggressive private industry partnership for the school in recent years, said Miami’s new collaboration with Butler Tech “is the beginning of a unique national model that will significantly elevate our region and the state of Ohio.”

“The acquisition of Vora Technology Park will allow the university and Butler Tech to collaboratively expand our in-demand programming, create a hub of advanced manufacturing training and research, and cultivate a talent pipeline in southwest Ohio that will strengthen and propel our state-wide manufacturing economy.”

Joshua Smith, city manager of Hamilton said, “This collaboration not only addresses our region’s workforce needs but also establishes a vital innovation hub for southwest Ohio.”

The hub will support a variety of industry partners, including those in automation, computer and networking systems, electrical, mechanical, mechatronics, robotics, photonics and sensing, machine learning, welding, and smart manufacturing connecting to the burgeoning technology of artificial intelligence, said officials.

Complementing their advanced technology and engineering skills, students will develop business savvy, entrepreneurial imagination, and a critical thinking mindset relevant to the smart manufacturing business.

And a childcare center and Butler County Regional Transit Authority bus service are expected to be available on-site for those participating in programming.

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