The Alabama Robotics Technology Park is expanding again with a $2.3 million addition to the Robotics Maintenance Training Center.
State Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, said last week the state Legislature approved the money for a 7,000-square-foot addition in the budget during the spring legislative session.
Alabama Industrial Development and Training runs the three-phase park on U.S. 31 in Decatur, and Executive Director Ed Castile said it has run out of space.
“We’ve got a waiting list of students for our classes,” Castile said. “The addition is definitely needed because it’s attracting people from all over the state.”
The Training Center was the first phase when it was completed in 2010, with funding contributions from Decatur, Athens, Morgan and Limestone counties and Calhoun Community College.
The center features more than $45 million of the latest robotics and automation equipment on consignment from the world’s top robotics companies. Employees of Alabama-based companies get free hands-on training in robotics maintenance.
Castile said a contractor is ready to start building the addition on the back (west end) of the center in a grassy area between the building and the parking lot. Additional parking will also be added.
The addition will feature seven open areas. More robotics, particularly those from Fanuc, will be brought in to the center, Castile said.
Castile and Orr have been involved from the beginning when then-Gov. Bob Riley chose Limestone County for the site in 2007. At times, growth has been slow.
Phase 1 had construction delays. The second phase, the Advanced Research and Development Center, features four large, open bays. It quickly filled up.
The third phase, the Industrial Entrepreneurial and Paint Training Center, was slow in starting as they developed the plan and ordered equipment.
An 18-wheeler ran into it in May 2019, damaging the front wall from the collision. A resulting fire damaged offices and classrooms.
Phase 3 reopened in June 2019, and Castile said all three phases are busy now. The R&D Center recently lost a customer but another is moving in soon, he said.
“We prefer a company only stay about three years,” Castile said.
The Training Center is using the mobile trailers brought in following the truck wreck as classroom space until the addition is finished, Castile said.
Orr said it’s “extremely gratifying” to see RTP is doing so well that an addition is needed.
“This is an indication of the high demand for a skilled workforce in the area of advanced manufacturing technologies and robotics,” Orr said.
Mayor Tab Bowling said the park’s success comes at a time when the Mazda Toyota Manufacturing USA plant is bringing a lot of attention to north Alabama.
“I appreciate Orr’s efforts towards expanding our educational footprint, especially when there’s such a need for workforce training of robotics technology,” Bowling said.