Original story by Evan Weese, Columbus Biz First
Columbia Gas of Ohio is building a $38 million training center in Gahanna, allowing the natural gas utility to bring in hundreds of workers from around the state for training in a centralized location.
The Columbus-based division of NiSource Inc. (NYSE: NI) said the 28,000-square-foot building on vacant land at 1600 Eastgate Parkway will house training for new employees and those advancing to higher-skilled positions, plus provide annual refreshers for field workers.
“We operate in 61 counties,” Coumbia Gas President Dan Creekmur told me. “Never before have we really had one single roof, kind of a one-stop.”
With gas utility workers required to meet state and federal certification requirements, the center will focus on emergency response training and maintenance of existing pipelines, as well as customer service.
“It’s a strategic investment on behalf of Columbia to take our employee training to the next level,” Creekmur said. “Working with natural gas pipelines can be dangerous, we have to make sure we have highly trained, highly skilled workers. Our work force is turning over whether we like it or not. We’ve got to make sure we have very capable employees ready to follow right behind.”
The facility, targeted for an early 2017 completion, will employ about 14 on a full-time basis and will be able to accommodate up to 161 trainees at a time.
Most of the company’s 800 Ohio field employees will travel to the center for training, rather than going to 11 operating centers across the state.
Gahanna Mayor Tom Kneeland lauded the addition to Columbia Gas’ existing operations center in the city.
“(It) will add jobs to our economy and expand the company’s footprint in our city,” Kneeland said in a press release.
Gahanna firefighters also will be able to use the facility for training.
The city is not providing tax incentives for the project but will sell a piece of land to the developer to assist layout of the 18.5-acre site, Director of Planning and Development Anthony Jones said.
Columbus-based Pizzuti Cos. is developing the building, designed by LGA Partners LP of Pittsburgh. New Albany-based EMH&T Inc. is the civil engineer.
Gahanna's Planning Commission approved the project Wednesday.