New Align Center for Workforce Development location announced; will be housed in east Adrian


ADRIAN — A former school building in Adrian’s east side that was transformed into a church more than one decade ago, will have a third calling in life.

Leaders from Lenawee County’s Align Center for Workforce Development recently announced they will soon purchase the existing Restore World Church building at 430 E. Church St. and transform it again into a workforce development center complete with training classrooms, a community hall, consulting services, office rental space, childcare and more.

Align Center leaders said in a news release, the location of the church was decided upon after visiting several existing locations across Lenawee County. Restore World Church transformed the former school building into a church in 2011.

The building that currently houses Restore World Church in east Adrian, 430 E. Church St., is pictured. Leaders from Lenawee County’s Align Center for Workforce Development recently announced they will soon purchase the existing church building and transform it into a workforce development center complete with training classrooms, a community hall, consulting services, office rental space, childcare and more.The building that currently houses Restore World Church in east Adrian, 430 E. Church St., is pictured. Leaders from Lenawee County’s Align Center for Workforce Development recently announced they will soon purchase the existing church building and transform it into a workforce development center complete with training classrooms, a community hall, consulting services, office rental space, childcare and more.

“We believe we have found the perfect location to kick off the Align Center,” Sheila Blair, executive director of the ACWD, said in the news release. “This campus has a lot of potential for us to grow and be able to serve the county more effectively as needs change.”

Restore World Church will continue to operate in the same building even after ownership changes. It has been working in the community through its various outreach programs to reach local men, women and youth. While it has migrated its religious services to its Ypsilanti location, 2146 Moeller Ave., the ministry, led by Pastors Claude and Rosa Bevier, will still be active in Adrian, Blair said.

The workforce center was something that had been conceptualized for decades, Align Center leaders said, but it was actively being developed over the last two years. Organizational leaders and a taskforce of kindergarten-12th grade and higher education partners, local business leaders and others helped mold the plans for the center.

Sheila Blair is the manager of Align LenaweeSheila Blair is the manager of Align Lenawee

Sheila Blair is the manager of Align Lenawee

“We put together a design team of multiple professional consultants in the fields of human resources, accounting, business development, higher education, workforce development, sales and talent pipeline management to flesh out this idea and build our business plan and community support for this concept,” Randy Yagiela, director of development for Lenawee Now and leader of the design team, said. “We are creating a very unique space that doesn’t currently exist in Lenawee County but will have a huge impact on businesses and the community.”

The Align Center for Workforce Development seeks to address the talent needs in Lenawee County, while bridging the gap between in-demand skills and the capabilities of area residents.

More: ‘Things are starting to come together’: County workforce development center making progress

Lenawee Now, meanwhile, a local public-private economic development partnership, has incubated the idea of a workforce development center since 2015, the release said, when a determination was found linking workforce and economic development.

“When companies seek a place to build their new factories, the first two things they focus on are the available talent pool and the availability of local training to upskill that talent pool,” Patrick Farver, Lenawee Now executive director, and a new board member of the Align Center for Workforce Development, added in the release. “Both of these are fulfilled by the Align Center for Workforce Development and its partnerships.”

Patrick Farver, executive director of Lenawee NowPatrick Farver, executive director of Lenawee Now

Patrick Farver, executive director of Lenawee Now

ACWD’s board of directors is made up of seven local and national professionals with talent specific to the needs of Align, the release said. Board members are:

  • Rhonda Wingfield, chairperson, local and regional business owner and a higher education teacher.

  • Rick Hedrick, treasurer, CEO of PlaneWave Instruments.

  • Candy Gomez, secretary, legal advocate at Catherine Cobb Safe House.

  • Patrick Farver, director, executive director at Lenawee Now.

  • Del Collins, director, chief operations officer at Uckele Health & Nutrition.

  • Carlos Cassanova, director, professor at Arizona State University and a local community activist.

  • Terri Simmons, director, retired executive director of strategic planning and projects at the Lenawee Intermediate School District.

The Align Center will host training and small business consulting in the building and a maker’s space to incubate entrepreneurial product and service development, the release said. Additionally, through partnerships with other tenants in the service center, other services will be provided to community members including health screenings, healthy cooking classes, basic computer courses, job placement assistance and support, college financial aid assistance, community educational opportunities and more.

The Align Center said it has a long-term plan to build a campus on the property with the possibility of acquiring more property nearby that could house industrial training, like robotics.

The former elementary school gymnasium had been converted into a presentation space, with a stage and audio/visual equipment. The room seats up to 300 people and abuts a commercial kitchen, which will be renovated once Align finalizes the building’s purchase. The 2,800 square foot room will be dedicated as the Chico Martinez Community Hall in honor of the former community activist who was integral in the formation and the continuation of Adrian’s Cinco de Mayo Parade and Festival, which is now named in his honor. Martinez, 56, died Nov. 8, 2022, from complications of stage 4 lung cancer, which he was diagnosed with in 2019.

More: Adrian’s Cinco de Mayo Parade and Festival renamed in memory of Chico Martinez

“We want this center utilized 18 hours a day for different services to the community,” Blair said. “Not only will we have meetings and classes in the evenings, but the Chico Martinez Community Hall and some other spaces are available for community members to rent as well.”

It’s important, Blair said, that the local community and regional business partners see the Align Center as a “solutions centers,” one where people can take pride in the center and “want to be here.”

Partners who have verbally committed to occupy space in the building include the Ebeid Neighborhood Promise, Michigan Works Southeast, Jackson College, Siena Heights University, the Lenawee County Chemical Collaborative, HOLA (Hispanics of Lenawee Alliance) and the Ben and Connie Negron HOLA Foundation. There is still space available for agencies/organizations to move into the development center, Blair said, “but it’s going fast.”

Renovations to the building are expected to take at least six months once Align occupies the building. Some of the needed renovations include a new elevator, a new commercial kitchen, the community hall, two classrooms for training, one computer lab, the maker’s entrepreneurial space, a childcare room, hospitality and medical training space, consulting offices, tenant offices and areas that have yet to be identified.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer approved a $10 million earmark in the state’s 2024 budget. While the budget was approved, the release of the funds has been delayed, which, in turn, also has delayed the purchase and renovation of the building.

More: New Lenawee County workforce development center gets $10 million in state funding

“The people of Lenawee County need and deserve a workforce development center like this,” Sen. Joe Bellino (R-Hillsdale/Lenawee/Monroe) said in the release. “For residents, this isn’t going to be a handout center, it will be a hand-up center, breaking the cycle of generational poverty. And for businesses, I believe this center will be a saving grace for not only talent pool development, but also business development, through consulting and innovation.”

Align Center executive director is ‘new face in town’

Blair, 50, is a Monroe County native. She and her husband, Rusty Russell, are now Lenawee County residents having moved from Southgate in September.

She spent the last 20 years of her career in the workforce development field, the news release said, training and coaching returning citizens, the unemployed, executives and everyone in between.

She went on to project manage workforce development for Wayne County human services and mental health professionals. Afterward, Blair served as the director of curriculum and workforce development for a nonprofit organization providing employability and trade skills to returning citizens, recently released from prison, to reduce recidivism.

In 2016, she started her own company, traveling Michigan and the United States performing training and consulting for businesses. In the fall of 2020, she started consulting with Lenawee Now on a United States Department of Agriculture grant to help minority-owned businesses. Since then, she has been asked to do more and varied consulting.

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“I’m now involved with numerous programs and projects, the largest of which is seeing the Align Center for Workforce Development open its doors and remain sustainable,” Blair said.

She has spent the last two years as part of the design team tasked with bringing the Align Center to life.

In addition to her decades of experience, Blair holds a master’s degree in industrial and organizational psychology and is a certified project manager.

— Contact reporter Brad Heineman at bheineman@lenconnect.com or follow him on X, formerly Twitter: twitter.com/LenaweeHeineman.

This article originally appeared on The Daily Telegram: New Align Center for Workforce Development location announced





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