Haile Foundation grant puts Cincinnati ToolBank closer to opening training center

Plans for the Cincinnati ToolBank’s long-awaited training center took a major step forward thanks to a recent $50,000 grant from the Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr. Foundation.

The facility is being constructed on the second floor of the ToolBank’s Seymour Avenue headquarters.

The 10,000-square-foot space will function as a collaborative educational center. The goal, according to executive director Kat Pepmeyer, is to use it to “bridge gaps in the areas of tool use, repair and safety, workforce development, youth and young adult introduction to tools and trades and disaster preparedness.”

Beyond the dedicated training area, the center will have spaces for co-working, a conference room, meeting spots, offices and a kitchenette.

Pepmeyer expected work to wrap up this fall.

Cincinnati College Preparatory Academy students work alongside the Valley Interior team to frame the walls for the training center.

“This project is truly an example of what can be accomplished when you have the right people at the table at the right time,” she said.

Pepmeyer said the Haile Foundation funds put the ToolBank in a position to finally “cross the finish line.”

The training center plan has been in the works for several years, but it got shelved in 2020. But the financial support of the Haile Foundation and ToolBank’s partnerships with local contractors and construction companies.

Partners in professional trades pledged more than $250,000 in donations for labor and materials for construction of the training center, Pepmeyer said.

It started in April 2022 with technical drawings donated by Elevar Design Group. The then received metal studs from ClarkDietrich, drywall from CertainTeed, HVAC units from Perfection Group, highly discounted electrical work from Kraft Electric, plumbing from Midwestern Plumbing, and a glass wall and doors to the training center from Waltek

In December 2022, Turner Construction’s leadership cohort took the project on as part of their community service initiative for the year and then in January, Valley Interior Systems signed on to donate the labor to frame and finish the drywall for the project. 

The work by Turner and Valley was vital, Pepmeyer said. She described those efforts as the things that needed to fall into place to put the ToolBank is a position to accept and make the most of other donations.

Turner Construction volunteers help prime the walls of the training center.
Turner Construction volunteers help prime the walls of the training center.

The ToolBank invited partners last winter to look at the space and get a sense of the overall vision for the training center.

“The Haile Foundation has been a supporter of the ToolBank since before we opened in 2012 and was one of the first tours in February,” Pepmeyer added. “They were impressed and invited us to submit a grant request.”

The Haile Foundation is the center’s presenting sponsor.

“We commend Cincinnati ToolBank for their vision of adding a powerful new training program to the good work they already do in our community,” said Kirsten MacDougal, Haile Foundation’s program manager.

“The ToolBank Training Center is not only a valuable investment in the growth and development of individuals, but also in building the workforce pipeline for Greater Cincinnati.” 

Once construction started, RTF Fire Protection, PCI, California Closets, Home Depot, cHc, The PLI Group, Express Cabinets, Baker Concrete, Lithko Restoration Technologies and RCF have also contributed to the project. 

The Greater Cincinnati Foundation selected the ToolBank for its 2023 “A Special Gift” program. The 513 Fund pledged a three-year gift totaling $90,000 so far.

Once the center opens, Easterseals Redwood will lease it through the remainder of the year. The organization is using the space for its construction programs while they complete work at their facility.

In January, the ToolBank will begin working with partners, including Allied Construction Industries, to offer on-site training and credential programs.

The center aims to make it easier for organizations that lack adequate facilities to provide entry-level certifications in construction, facility maintenance and related fields, Pepmeyer said. She also envisions the site hosting youth skills programs, ranging from agriculture to construction to engineering.

“This will result in more individuals in the region securing financially stable careers ultimately improving the economic health of their households and communities,” Pepmeyer added.

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