By CARL GREEN
Caseyville, IL – Sheet Metal Workers Local 268 has found a way to double the size of its training facilities – by moving its offices and meeting rooms right out of the building.
Workers are now completing a 60-foot by 90-foot addition to a former residential home adjacent to the union’s property at 2701 N. 89th Street, along Illinois 57 and just north of I-64.
When it’s ready, probably in January, the offices and meeting rooms will move out of the main building, which they now share with the training center. That will allow the local to remake the main building into a state-of-the-art training facility.
“Our crux of doing this is that we’re going to double the size of our school,” said Mike Davis, business manager for Local 268. “That’s why we did this whole thing. It wasn’t really the offices at all.”
“Local” hardly describe the union. It covers all of southern Illinois and much of central Illinois, with 36 counties from south of Springfield to the Kentucky state line. Caseyville is its headquarters, but it also maintains a smaller office and training area in Johnston City, near Marion.
The local supports about 380 working members and another 320 active retirees, and its current unemployment rate is only about 5 percent. “For this time of year, getting close to winter, that’s not bad,” Davis said.
The main training center was built about 25 years ago to house the local’s offices and meeting rooms. Much of the training in those days was done in high schools such as Collinsville and Wood River, but it has since moved into the local’s building.
So right now, the main meeting room is also the training center, and items have to be moved around to accommodate either use.
“We’re just so crowded – we don’t have room now,” said Davis, who has been the business manager for five years. “We’ve got to move stuff out of the way to make this work.”
Local 268 bought the house, located on a hill just above the current parking lot, about eight years ago. The project has been under way for about two years.
When it is finished, the training center will have a welding center, a drafting lab, space for computer-driven cutting equipment, and, in what now is office space, a computer lab. In other words, a complete and up-to-date training center for sheet metal workers.
“The whole idea behind this is our training center,” Davis said. “We want our training center and our school to be first class, which it is, but we want to keep it that way. The equipment we need is just unbelievable.”
Scott Ricketts, a member of the executive board and the building committee, said members are enthused about the project. He expects continued demand for sheet metal workers in the region, with projects such as the new St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, and that the union will be well equipped to provide new workers.
“We’ll be ready to fill that need for construction workers in the sheet metal trade. We’ll be ready to train them,” he said.
SPACE TO RENT
The addition will house a spacious new meeting room upstairs and a banquet hall downstairs that is also to be a retirees’ center. The original house is being converted into office space, including a couple of large rooms that the union expects to rent out to other unions. Machinists’ Local 313, which already rents office space from Local 268, will be accommodated as well.
“It’s going to be nice up there, and something we can be proud of, but our intention was to double the size of our school and our training center,” Davis said. “It wasn’t that we wanted a nicer office and a bigger hall. The driving force was our school. That’s our livelihood that keeps us going.”
People sometimes think of sheet metal workers as furnace installers, but they really do much more, Davis noted, including such things as industrial work, welding, architectural duct work, commercial and residential, custom metal fabrication – “about anything that has to do with metal,” he said.
No surprise, then, that members were installing the roof last week – using metal roofing.