NEW BERN, N.C. -– Craven Community College will receive $495,115 in funding from the Golden LEAF Board of Directors, officials announced Feb. 2. Funds will be used to renovate two structures at the college’s Volt Center near downtown New Bern.

Craven CC plans to develop and implement a heavy equipment operator program to close the skills gap and increase the pool of highly qualified individuals capable of filling local vacancies, as well as a construction trade/light manufacturer incubator to assist entrepreneurs in establishing trades-based small businesses that will support prime contractors.

Existing structures in the Volt Center complex will be repurposed into workforce training facilities. A 1,800-square-foot climate-controlled garage will house Craven CC’s new Heavy Equipment Operator program, which will include a classroom and lab space. In addition, a 700-square-foot climate-controlled garage adjacent to the college’s Small Business Center will serve as a workspace for small business construction, light manufacturing, and business startups. The college expects to have 88 students earn a credential each year.

“We are incredibly grateful to the Golden LEAF Foundation for giving us this opportunity,” said Craven CC President Dr. Ray Staats. “Hands-on trades programs continue to grow in demand, in Craven County and surrounding areas, so this will allow us to serve a larger portion of our community and prepare them for the workforce while supporting our economy.”

The funds are part of $10,248,815 awarded for 13 Community-Based Grants Initiative projects in the Southeastern Prosperity Zone. These projects will support workforce preparedness, job creation, and economic investment in Brunswick, Carteret, Craven, Duplin, Greene, Jones, Lenoir, New Hanover, Onslow, Pender, Pamlico, and Wayne counties.

In 2016, the Golden LEAF Foundation provided $549,000 through the Community-Based Grants Initiative to renovate the building that the Volt Center is housed in to support skilled trades including plumbing, carpentry, construction, heating and air conditioning, small engine repair, and electrical work.

“Golden LEAF is pleased to support the expansion of the Volt Center,” said Golden LEAF President and CEO Scott T. Hamilton. “The new heavy equipment operator program and small business incubator for construction trades and light manufacturing will help train an additional 88 students annually to meet the needs of local employers.”

Since 1999, Golden LEAF has funded 2,077 projects totaling $1.2 billion supporting the mission of advancing economic opportunity in North Carolina’s rural, tobacco-dependent, and economically distressed communities.