Construction is under way on a new $2.2 million Employment Opportunity Center in West Dayton that Montgomery County officials promise will put employment and job training assistance within easy reach of job seekers in an underserved area of the community.
The new 15,000-square-foot center taking shape within the former ALDI store at Westown Shopping Center was conceived to help create equal opportunities for people across the county, said Montgomery County Commissioner Debbie Lieberman.
“Equity has been something that we’ve been talking about and working on for years. But with George Floyd and everything that’s happened in the last year … We’re passionate about getting it done now,” she said. “Not only is it great for the people around here, but it’s also great that we are now an anchor at this shopping center area that was once thriving and really the heart of the west side.”
Garth McLean, the county’s interim workforce development director, said the center will host a variety of programs. Among them will be the Miami Valley Career Technology Center’s Aspire Program, which allows people to advance their academic skills as adults if they have not achieved a credential or high school certificate, as well as Sinclair Community College information technology pre-apprentice and registered apprenticeship programs.
While the main Job Center on Edwin C. Moses Boulevard remains the county’s primary employment and training center, the new facility on West Third Street will put services closer to residents in West Dayton and communities beyond, McLean said.
“We’ll have the same type of services that are provided at the Job Center,” he said. “We will do Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act training and job seeker connections to job opportunities.”
Construction on the classrooms, offices and meeting spaces are on schedule to be completed July 14 barring any setbacks, said Michael Zimmerman, a county spokesman.
Montgomery County’s $2.2 million investment includes the lease and cost to build out the space. Additionally, the Greater Ohio Workforce Board contributed $300,000 toward the project and may provide more funding, Lieberman said.
Even before the pandemic’s toll on jobs, the unemployment rate in Dayton hovered about 60% higher than the national average — and significantly higher in some Dayton neighborhoods, according to American Community Survey statistics.
Last June, Montgomery County declared racism a public health crisis and announced efforts, including the new center, to help improve conditions that lead to disparate outcomes for minorities in the community.
In passing the resolution, commissioners said the county will work to dismantle racism and create equity through policies focused on the delivery of human and social services, evenhanded justice, economic development, and job training and employment access.
“We put a lot of money into programming and yet we still have so many underserved, unemployed and underemployed,” Lieberman said. “We think this concentrated effort is really going to be helpful because there are good paying jobs out there.”