TRAVERSE CITY — The region's ability to keep and train a local workforce just got a big boost.

Fifty-one Region 2 businesses received grants totaling more than $1.4 million from Michigan's Going Pro Talent Fund for fiscal year 2019.

The Michigan Works! region includes businesses from 10 counties in northwest Lower Michigan: Antrim, Leelanau, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, Charlevoix, Emmet, Manistee, Missaukee and Wexford.

Formerly known as the Skilled Trades Training Fund, Going Pro provides awards to companies for assistance in developing and retaining employees. Across the state, more than $29 million was awarded to 780 employers to train 24,000 employees during the latest grants.

RJG Inc. of Traverse City, a specialist in injection molding, received a grant of $44,641. Barbara Jordan, talent and organizational management development manager at RJG, said the grant will fund six training classes totaling 4,000 hours for 37 of its employees in Traverse City.

Jordan said the grant money will affect nearly 40 percent of its 93 on-site employees.

"We're investing in our team members and making our business more successful, which is also investing in and strengthening the whole region," Jordan said.

Jordan said half of the educational sessions are instructor-led training programs from Northwestern Michigan College (lean manufacturing and ISO 9001) or Davenport University (Project Management).

RJG has 160 global employees in seven different countries, Jordan said. That's a jump from 52 workers in 2009.

The growth has allowed the company to expand its product line, she said. That leads to changing skill sets, which also demands more training — especially in the face of increased market competition.

"We need to keep investing and strengthening our processes to stay competitive," said Jordan, who added that the company is grateful for the grant money from the state as well as guidance with the application from Networks Northwest staff. "These skills are needed to meet both current and future demand."

The AlcoTec Wire Corporation in Traverse City, manufacturer of aluminum welding wire, received a $22,560 grant. AlcoTec Human Resources Manager Kim Simons said the grant will be used on four classes "specific to our needs."

Simons said the grant money will be used for a 10-hour Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration course, American Welding Society certification, a Six Sigma lean manufacturing educational course at Northwestern Michigan College and an arc flash safety training course.

Simons said the grant money won't cover everything associated with the four classes, especially with wages and transportation costs factored in. But she said it still offers the company tremendous value.

"It certainly helps us with the cost of these classes," Simons said. "It's a big help towards being able to do that intense training at a high level and accomplish it all within a year."

Simons said the four classes are not for any specific portion of the business.

"It goes across the company pretty well," Simons said. "It touches leadership as well as that middle management level. It will do some good things."

The program is implemented locally by Michigan Works!

Included in the local regional list is $12,489 to the Consolidated Electrical Contractors of Traverse City from Capital Area Michigan Works!

Feyen Zylstra, LLC of Traverse City was awarded $58,500 from West Michigan Works!, while Fab-Lite of Manistee received $21,075 from Michigan Works! West Central.

A total of 29 area companies received grants.

Century Specialties of Traverse City received the largest single grant in the region with a $147,125 award. Century Sun Metal Treating, a separate business on the same property, received $82,500. Rec Boat Holdings, LLC of Cadillac received the second-largest single grant with a $136,345 award.

According to the release, grant eligibility may include "employers with a need for skill enhancement, including apprenticeship programs and advance-technology training programs for current employees or individuals to be hired."

In its five years as the Skilled Trades Training Fund, a total of 2,234 companies received awards according to Talent Investment Agency (TIA) statistics. The majority of the awards (1,155) over the first five years went to companies with less than 100 employees while 817 went to businesses with 100-499 employees and 262 to those with 500 or more employees

According to the TIA, the average grant was $32,068 and provided $962 per person in average training costs.

More information about the grant program is available at https://bit.ly/2rWPzSh. A full list of recipients is available at https://bit.ly/2SlDUYV.

Going Pro Talent Fund grants

A look at area companies from the 10-county Region 2 who received Michigan Going Pro Talent Fund grants for fiscal 2019:

Company City Grant

AlcoTec Wire Corporation Traverse City $22,560

Antrim Machine Products Mancelona $6,000

Armor Express Central Lake $6,000

Bay Motor Products Traverse City $7,500

Bramer Machine, Inc. Traverse City $12,000

Brian Terhune, LLC (Terhune Construction) Williamsburg $5,000

Century Specialties Traverse City $147,125

Century Sun Metal Treating Traverse City $82,500

Cherryland Electric Cooperative Grawn $27,499

Clark Manufacturing Company Traverse City $15,000

Consolidated Electrical Contractors Traverse City $12,489

CPM Century Extrusion Traverse City $30,720

Custom Stems Traverse City $9,000

Dan Brady Painting Services, LLC Traverse City $12,000

Feyen Zylstra, LLC Traverse City $58,500

Great Lakes Children's Museum Traverse City $1,295

Iron Fish Distillery, LLC Thompsonville $6,000

Isenhart Electric, LLC Traverse City $20,059

Lear Corporation Traverse City $10,077

M R Products, Inc. Copemish $33,639

OneUpWeb Traverse City $7,499

Otwell Mawby, PC Traverse City $3,237

Photodon, LLC Traverse City $2,250

RJG Inc. Traverse City $44,641

Safety Net, Inc. Traverse City $10,500

Top Line Electric, LLC Traverse City $3,000

TraverseConnect Traverse City $10,395

TruNorth Landscaping, LLC Traverse City $6,300

United Engineered Tooling Traverse City $31,500

Total (including 22 other companies) $1,424,850

Source: Michigan Go Pro Talent Fund

Business writer