SIGNAL PEAK — A major component of Pinal County’s recent leap into the technology sector came to fruition Wednesday morning with the official opening of a regional workforce training center, named Drive48, on Central Arizona College’s Signal peak Campus.

“Today is a historic day for the college,” said CAC President Jackie Elliott. “This center will serve as a hub for education and training in advanced manufacturing for Arizona’s advanced technology corridor network, and the foundation for a growing and highly skilled workforce.”

The project was a joint effort whose partners included CAC, the Arizona Commerce Authority, Pinal County, the city of Casa Grande and Lucid Motors.

The center, designed by Architekton and built by McCarthy Building Companies, has been planned since 2018 when Lucid first came to the region. The building is 13,000 square feet and can hold 100 students at a time. The facility was constructed in just five months. Included inside is a large main area for robotics training, with smaller dojo rooms for hands-on training demonstrations.

Overall the facility’s goal is to allow students hands-on experience on job essentials including parts assembly, safety training and programming.

Initially, the site will be used by Lucid for training new employees. By the end of the year, Lucid plans to have 1,600 employees at its site in Casa Grande, with an eventual goal of 6,000.

Gov. Doug Ducey and several local officials, including Casa Grande Mayor Craig McFarland, were on hand to tout what the site means for the region and the state in terms of jobs and prestige.

“Our state is in the midst of a manufacturing boom,” Ducey said. “High-tech companies are flocking to Arizona. We are showing the nation what it means to welcome innovation and industry, while creating opportunities for people who work in high-tech industries who want to up-skill.”

McFarland said he believes Pinal County could be the “tech center for Arizona” and noted that many high school graduates who didn’t attend college now have more opportunities.

“This is the perfect place for a young person without a college degree looking for a job, who wants to get into some manufacturing,” McFarland said. “We can train those students at CAC, get them into higher-paying jobs, and keep them here in our local community.”

In addition to the training center, CAC also has partnerships with Sundt Construction and Wilson Electric designed to tailor curricula and technology for local businesses.

Currently there are around 180,000 workers within Arizona employed in manufacturing. In addition to Lucid, Nikola Motor Company is currently building a manufacturing plant in Coolidge, while Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company announced last May it is building a factory in the state.

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Aaron Dorman is a reporter covering Coolidge and the surrounding area. He can be reached at adorman@pinalcentral.com.