Gage Brothers wins 2016 Excellence in New Communications Award

TCB-SNCR-logo250The Society for New Communications Research of The Conference Board (SNCR) has recognized Gage Brothers Concrete with a 2016 Excellence in New Communications Award. The prestigious awards program honors organizations for their exemplary use of digital, mobile and social media.

Gage Brothers received top honors in the Visual Storytelling Category for the Corporate Division.

“We are happy to honor Gage Brothers as a winner of this distinguished award,” commented SNCR Senior Fellow Paul Gillin, chair of the SNCR Excellence Awards & Best Practices committee.

Gage Brothers was recognized for a broad-based social media and public relations campaign that spotlights both its employees and products. The efforts produced tangible results; including a significant increase in social media followers, more local news coverage and improved employee satisfaction.

Since January of 2015, the fan base for the Gage Brothers Facebook page has more than doubled, while the company’s Twitter following has increased by 44.3% in the past four months.

13241169_10104025240921847_4238959482543131465_nTools used in the campaign included employee-engaged videos, time-lapse construction videos, weekly trivia, dozens of digital photo albums and the creation of a company blog.

Added Gillin, “The case study they submitted is a perfect example of how companies can use social media to create a sense of community within the business, not only increasing engagement internally but also creating an attractive employer brand externally.”

Accepting the award on behalf of Gage Brothers was marketing manager Stephanie Pendrys.

“I am deeply honored to be here to accept this award on behalf of the nearly 250 fellow employees at Gage Brothers who made winning this award possible,” said Pendrys. “It is humbling for us to be recognized by an organization with such a rich history of bringing business leaders together to share insight and best-in-class practices.”

13227117_10104025240956777_6072646779514868903_nThe 2016 Excellence in New Communications awards were presented at a cocktail reception and ceremony held at the Conference Board’s Manhattan headquarters on May 18, in conjunction with the 21st Annual Corporate Communications Conference.

The SNCR Excellence in New Communications Awards program honors individuals and organizations for the exemplary use of digital, mobile and social media. Awards were granted in six divisions: Corporate, Government, Nonprofit/NGO, Media, Technology and Academic, and in seven categories. The top winners include:

Social Marketing                                                                                                                              

Corporate Division: Marriott International

Innovation, Digital and Marketing Experience

Corporate Division: John Hancock

Media Division: KCET Media Group

Social Data and Social Listening

Corporate Division: Johnson and Johnson

Government Division: The City of Calgary

Visual Storytelling

Corporate Division: Gage Brothers Concrete, Inc.

Nonprofit Division: Endeavor

Internal Social/Online Internal Communications and Communities

Government division: Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, Ltd

Mobile Experience

Government Division: The City of Calgary

Digital Program Performance Metrics

Corporate Division: Mambo Media

In addition to the top award winners, Commendations of Merit and Commendations of Excellence were presented to ten other organizations that submitted case studies in the awards program. In its ten-year history, SNCR has honored over 300 organizations and individuals through this prestigious awards program and all the winning case studies are available to members of The Conference Board at


About the Society for New Communications Research of The Conference Board

The Society for New Communications Research of The Conference Board (SNCR) is a nonprofit research organization and think tank dedicated to the advanced study of new media and communications tools, technologies and emerging modes of communication, and their effect on business, media, culture, health, law and society. In February 2016, SNCR became part of The Conference Board, a global, independent business membership and research association working in the public interest. Founded in 1916, The Conference Board is an objective, independent source of economic and business knowledge with one agenda: to help our member companies understand and deal with the most critical issues of our time. Visit for more information.

About Gage Brothers

Gage Brothers Concrete Products Incorporated ( was established in 1915 by members of the Gage family and now employs more than 250 employees in northwest Sioux Falls. Employee-owned since 2008, Gage Brothers has a proud tradition of being a leading manufacturer of innovative architectural and structural precast concrete products. Products manufactured at the Sioux Falls plant can be found throughout the upper Midwest, including projects throughout Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.  The Midwest’s premier precast concrete company registered $61 million in sales last year.


Mitchell School District Performing Arts Center (In Progress)

Passersby might have noticed that the massive structure going up across the street from Mitchell High School (S.D.) looks a lot different than it did just one month ago.

From a steel skeleton surrounded by dirt and heavy-duty vehicles has emerged a building coming to fruition—the Mitchell School District’s new performing arts center.

With a target completion date of around Christmas, much of the work still remains on the sprawling facility, though the structure is taking shape.

Rendering ( c/o MSH Architects)

Excavation began last June on the 65,000-sq. ft. performance venue, which is being designed by MSH Architects of Sioux Falls. Building features include a 1,200-seat, 3-tier auditorium, rooms for the school’s choral, instrument and performing arts programs, and a smaller black box theater.

The predominant feature is the main auditorium—the largest high school theater in the state of South Dakota. The new theater is expected to boost the city’s music economy by bringing more state-sanctioned events and high caliber performers to Mitchell.

A naming rights deal has yet to be announced for the venue, which will be connected to part of the Mitchell Career and Technical Education Academy. This location functions with the existing buildings on campus and allows for options without disrupting the existing high school building when a new high school is constructed in the near future.

Gage Brothers has provided more than 21,000 square feet of insulated panels and 7,000 square feet of corefloor planks for the $15.3 million project. It took the company approximately 22 days to manufacture the precast in its Sioux Falls plant.

The placement of steel and precast concrete is being completed by Mitchell-headquartered Puetz Corporation. Founded in 1952 by Clarence Puetz, the third generation company offers services ranging from architecture to crane rentals and construction management.

Mitchell Performing Arts Center (In Progress) from Gage Brothers on Vimeo.

Gage Brothers is no stranger to city of Mitchell. The century-old company has worked on more than 150 jobs in Mitchell, dating back to the old Armour Creamery in 1959. Other projects of note in Mitchell include the new Avera Grassland Health Campus, Joe Quintal Stadium and the DWU/Avera Sports and Wellness Complex.

Gage Brothers also manufactured precast concrete products for the former Soukup & Thomas International Balloon & Airship Museum, which resided in Mitchell from 1992-2001 before being relocated to Albuquerque.

Balcony Rendering (c/o MSH Architects)

Work is steadily progressing on the facility. Puetz has installed the corefloor planks and the roof bar joists. Performance spaces like the black box theater and practice rooms have gone from dirt to concrete floors.

Gage Brothers has been working with the Puetz Corporation since the mid 1960’s, when they manufactured concrete for school additions in White Lake and Alexandria, S.D.

Gage Brothers has collaborated with Puetz on a total of 75 building projects since 1964—38 in Mitchell alone, including the DWU Graham Hall remodel (1967), Mitchell Country Club (1973), CorTrust Bank (2000) McGovern Library (2005) and Jackson Plaza (2007).

IMG_2495Most recently, Puetz served as the general contractor for the new Dakota Wesleyan University/Avera Sports and Wellness Complex. DWU’s $10.5 million fieldhouse opened in February and was constructed with 87,000 square feet of Gage Brothers precast concrete products.

“Puetz is a long-time South Dakota company, and we’ve done a lot of successful projects together over the years,” said Gage Brothers president Tom Kelley. “We were happy to learn that we would be working together because Puetz is a highly-respected company with consistently increasing capabilities.”

Designing and building performing arts centers require a unique level of sophistication that often makes them incomparable to other projects, explained Kelley.

The design of performing arts centers are influenced by many aspects ranging from size, acoustics and rigging to sight lines, backstage maneuvering space and rehearsal areas.

“It’s a different animal because of the levels of complexities and one of those building projects where every square foot is thought over,” Kelley said.

Gage Brothers brought a wealth of experience to this project. The company has produced precast concrete products for performing arts centers across the Midwest for more than a half-century, starting with Morningside College’s Eugene C. Eppley Fine Arts Building in 1965. Other performance spaces include Sioux Falls College (now USF) fine arts center (1968), the Washington Pavilion (1996), Brandon Valley Performing Arts Center (1999), South Dakota State Performing Arts Center (2000), the award-winning DeWitt Theatre Arts Center at Northwestern College (2002), Harrisburg Performing Arts Center, and the O’Gorman Performing Arts Center (2011).

O'Gorman Performing Arts 0274Project challenges for the O’Gorman Performing Arts Center included a winter construction start and the need to build while school was in session, which limited the space available for construction and demolition. In addition, one-hundred percent of the funding for this project came through donations, so the budget was limited and sticking to it was imperative.

Despite these challenges, Gage Brothers was able to incorporate exceptional design elements that stayed within the budget and surpassed the owner’s expectations.

By working closely with Puetz Co. and the design partners, Gage Brothers is committed to providing the highest level of project supervision and communication for the new performing arts center in Mitchell.

“Everyone I have talked to is excited about it,” Kelley said. “It’s going to be a great venue.”


Gage Brothers to host Red Nose Day FUN-raiser on May 26; Proceeds will benefit Feeding South Dakota

Gage Brothers is inviting Sioux Falls residents to get seriously silly and make a difference for local families in need on Thursday, May 26.

Red-nose-day.svgRed Nose Day returns this year to the U.S. on Thursday, May 26. Red Nose Day is a fundraising campaign run by Comic Relief, Inc., that aims to raise awareness and money for children and young people most in need, in the U.S. and around the world.

The inaugural Red Nose Day in the U.S. was held on May 21, 2015 and raised more than $23 million. It was the first U.S. version of Britain’s three-decade old “Red Nose Day” event that’s raised more than $1 billion.

The campaign’s iconic Red Noses – which people wear in support of the official Red Nose Day on Thursday, May 26 – returned to store shelves at Walgreens locations nationwide on March 28, officially kick starting the nine-week charitable campaign.

It all culminates with a celebrity-packed two-hour primetime television special on NBC on May 26.

The Red Nose Day 2016 charity partners include Boys & Girls Clubs of America; Children’s Health Fund; National Urban League and Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization.

Feeding America collaborates with Feeding South Dakota to provide the local chapter with access to millions of pounds of food product that is donated by corporations all across America.

Gage Brothers is working together with Feeding South Dakota’s expertise to use Red Nose Day to truly make an impact on the pressing issue of hunger in Sioux Falls.

For every person who stops by the Gage Brothers office on May 26 and has their photo taken wearing a red nose, Gage Brothers will donate one dollar to Feeding South Dakota.

FSD_LOGO_4cpAs the city’s hub for integrated food poverty assistance, Feeding South Dakota provides temporary food assistance to more than 190,000 hungry individuals and families in South Dakota on an annual basis. In addition, their BackPack Program gives food every weekend to more than 5,000 kids who otherwise might go hungry.

“Gage Brothers is committed to giving back and supporting worthy causes and organizations that align with our mission and core company ethos,” said company president Tom Kelley. “Feeding South Dakota changes lives for local residents and families and we look forward to this promotion helping those in need live a healthier life.”

Gage Brothers will provide the red noses for the event. Walgreens is the exclusive retailer of the signature noses in the U.S., which cost $1 each with 50 cents contributed to the Red Nose Day Fund.

Mascots from several area colleges and sports teams will be on hand to meet and greet and pose for photos.

“We are excited that Gage Brothers has found such a unique opportunity to help promote Red Nose Day,” said Kerri DeGraff, Development Director for Feeding South Dakota.

She added, “For every $1 donated at this event, Feeding South Dakota can provide five meals to those who are going hungry in our community.”

“Just think about it,” added Kelley. “That dollar bill you were going to put in a vending machine can put dinner on the table for a family of five.”

All photos will be uploaded and available to download on the Gage Brothers Facebook page (

CDSvHnAW8AM9u4b.jpg_largeIndividuals who post their photos on social media can also support Red Nose Day on a national scale. M&M’S will give consumers “30 Days of Laughs” through its #MakeMLaugh campaign, where the brand will donate $1 to the national Red Nose Day Fun for every social engagement with the hashtag on May 26.

“By tapping into the extraordinary generosity of the Sioux Falls community, we hope to raise even more awareness and funds for Feeding South Dakota while also having a lot of fun,” said Kelley.

The FUN-raising event will be held from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. at Gage Brothers, which is located at 4301 West 12th Street in Sioux Falls.


About Feeding South Dakota

Feeding South Dakota, whose mission is to eliminate hunger in South Dakota, is the state’s largest charitable hunger relief organization with distribution centers in Sioux Falls, Pierre and Rapid City. In FY15, Feeding South Dakota secured and distributed over 12.3 million pounds of quality nutritious donated and purchased food providing 10.2 million meals to those in need.  Feeding South Dakota is able to distribute this food through its network of over 350 charitable organizations across the state. These organizations then provide this food to individuals who are “food insecure” through youth programs, senior centers, on-site feeding programs, emergency food pantries, after school programs, and homeless shelters.  For more information on Feeding South Dakota, please visit, find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

About Red Nose Day

Red Nose Day is a fundraising campaign run by the non-profit organization Comic Relief Inc, a registered 501(c)(3) public charity. Money raised goes to the Red Nose Day Fund, which distributes money to organizations whose work helps to achieve Comic Relief Inc.’s vision of a just world free from poverty. The inaugural Red Nose Day in the U.S. was held on May 21, 2015 and raised more than $23 million. Funds raised benefited children in all 50 states and 15 countries internationally through programs addressing literacy, education, healthcare, and nutrition. The second annual Red Nose Day will take place on Thursday May 26, 2016.  The day’s events will culminate in a two-hour entertainment TV special on NBC, featuring the country’s favorite comedians, musicians and Hollywood stars.

Half of the money distributed by Red Nose Day 2016 will be spent right here in the U.S. The other half will be spent in some of the poorest communities in Latin America, Asia, and Africa. All money raised supports projects that ensure kids are safe, healthy, and educated.

For more information about Red Nose Day Fund, visit

Get to Know: New safety coordinator Pedro Sosa

Meet Pedro Sosa, the new safety coordinator for Gage Brothers Concrete. Sosa brings a wealth of experience to Sioux Falls and will oversee the well-being of the company’s more than 250 employees.

P_SosaSosa recently moved to the Midwest from Georgia and spent more than a dozen years in the manufacturing textile industry.

Sosa previously served as a safety specialist for Mohawk Industries, an American flooring manufacturer based in Calhoun, Georgia. He also spent five years with Beaulieu America, the third largest flooring manufacturer and the largest carpet-only maker in the world.  a carpet and flooring manufacturing company headquartered in Dalton, Georgia. Sosa worked as both a production supervisor and internal safety coordinator at Beaulieu’s headquarters in Dalton, Georgia.

Sosa is looking forward to taking on a new set of challenges (and a new set of opportunities) in his new role with Gage Brothers.

“I enjoy my role as a safety coordinator and understand how much workplace safety can impact our lives personally as well as our overall production goals as a company,” Sosa said.

Five Questions for Pedro Sosa

Q. Where do you most want to travel, but have never been?

A. Costa Rica

Q. What was your favorite subject in school?

A. History

Q. What are your hobbies?

A. Spending time with my children ages 2 and 6.

Q. What is your favorite movie?

A. Rocky

Q. What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever eaten?

A. Deer

Welcome, Pedro, to Gage Brothers!

Gage Brothers Announces Retirement of Tom and Fred Gage from its Board of Directors

Gage Brothers Concrete, Inc. today announced that Tom and Fred Gage have retired from the company’s Board of Directors. The formal announcement came at the conclusion of today’s annual board meeting, held at the Country Club of Sioux Falls.

Fred Gage has served as board chairman since 2009, while Tom Gage was at the helm from 2006-09.

Longtime Gage Brothers president Tom Kelley was tapped as the new board chairman.

Today’s announcement created history, for this is the first time since the founding of Gage Brothers that no member of the Gage family will be involved in the top decision-making process of the company. William Gage, grandfather to Tom and Fred Gage, started the family business in 1915 when he began pouring concrete sidewalks in Sioux Falls.

Fred Gage_1
Fred (pictured) and Tom Gage both received Cenzo leather bags as a thank you gift for their years of service and dedication to Gage Brothers Concrete.

Fred Gage joined Gage Brothers as a salesperson in 1974 and went on to hold nearly every position within his grandfather’s company, including roles in safety, quality control, production, patching and serving as president of the block plant. Gage Brothers sold its block plant to Sioux Falls-based Concrete Materials in 2005.

“Relationships with employees and customers have always been at the center of Gage Brothers’ family values,” said Fred Gage. “That’s how I approached each day at Gage Brothers from my first day of work in 1974.”

He added, “I know that great tradition will continue to be a part of the company’s culture going forward as an employee-owned firm.”

“I would like to thank Fred for his many years of dedicated service to Gage Brothers and its shareholders,” said Tom Kelley. “His knowledge of the company, its culture and its unique role in the precast concrete marketplace has been invaluable to me and the executive team as we transformed this company. All of us will miss having him on the Board, but we know he remains a passionate and loyal supporter of the company.”

Tom Gage began working at Gage Brothers in 1971 and has been a shareholder since 1978. He managed several Gage Brothers real estate properties throughout the 1980’s and also served as vice president of the masonry division before being named CEO in 2001.

Tom Gage_1
Tom Gage discusses the Gage Brothers ESOP

“Today marks the first time in 70 years that a Gage family member has not been a member of the board,” said Tom Gage. “It’s the final step in moving Gage Brothers from a family business to a professional management corporation using family business values.”

“Tom has been an invaluable member of the Board, and I want to thank him for his many contributions to Gage Brothers over the years,” said Kelley. “He brought incredible energy and wisdom to the board’s discussions, and his insights were vital during a critical time in the company’s history. We wish him and his family all the best going forward.”

Gage Brothers created an employee stock ownership plan in 2008. Tom and Fred Gage also sold their ownership interest to the trust, which has created an opportunity for the company’s employees to become owners.

“It was a great gift from the Gage’s to all of our employees to be given the company, as opposed to selling the company on the open market,” said Kelley. “It enabled us to maintain both our brain trust and our culture, which will be a valuable component to our future success.”

He added, “I’d like to publically thank the Gage family for the opportunities they have presented both to me and all the new owners of the Gage Brothers company.”

With the retirement of Tom and Fred Gage, Gage Brothers’ Board of Directors currently consists of five members: Tom Kelley (chairman), David Honner (secretary/treasurer), Chuck Smith, Joe Bunkers and Loren Koepsell.

Established in 1915 by William Gage, Gage Brothers employs 250 employees in northwest Sioux Falls. The Midwest’s premier precast concrete company registered $60 million in sales last year.

Gage Brothers Celebrates #WIC

2016WW_roundWomen In Construction Week is part of the broader Women’s History Month celebration in March. The week, started by the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) is an opportunity to highlight the growing role of women in the construction industry.

“NAWIC’s core purpose is ‘enhancing the success of women in the construction industry’ and what better way to continue this purpose, but to dedicate our WIC Week, not only to our members, but to all women working in and for the construction industry and to recognize the contributions women make to the success of projects in all facets of the industry,” said NAWIC President Riki F. Lovejoy, CBT, CIT.

Women represent 47% of the total U.S. workforce and are playing an increasingly significant role in the world of construction. Yet according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and OSHA, only 9.3% of total construction employees are women.

Given this fact, it’s inspiring to come across women who are thriving in such a traditionally male-dominated industry.

In honor of WIC Week, we sat down with four talented women who help to make Gage Brothers a stronger and more competitive company. Read on to explore their experiences in construction and to find out their advice for others looking to take a similar path.

Ann Hill
Job Title: Project Estimator

Ann HillQ: How long have you been in the industry?

A: Almost 18 years

Q: Why did you choose a non-traditional career field?

A: I was hired as a Summer Survey and Inspection Technician for the Nebraska Department of Roads after I completed my senior year of high school.  I loved it!! I had never even considered construction being part of my future.  Who knew?

Q: What is the most satisfying part of your job?

A: Seeing paper turned into reality.  I really enjoy the whole building process.

Q: What advice do you have for women who want to work in the construction industry?

A: Be who you are. Your strengths will lead to your success.

Edith Smith
E-SmithJob Title: Senior Engineer

Q: How long have you been in the industry?

A: 17 years (OMG – I didn’t think has been that long!)

When asked why she chose a non-traditional field, Edith said that she wanted to make a difference in the world.

“From life safety to functional design to using resources wisely, I believed through engineering I would make a difference in peoples’ lives without them realizing it.”

Q: What is the most satisfying part of your job?

A: Finding innovative solutions through collaborative problem solving by learning from and teaching others. It’s the people, not the projects.

Q: What advice do you have for women who want to work in the construction industry?

A: Be true to yourself, don’t compromise your integrity or underestimate your value. Show gratitude and maintain healthy boundaries. You will be constantly evolving as a professional and as a woman, embrace this growth throughout the different stages of your career AND life.

TINATina Counts
Job Title: Drafting Technician  

Q: How long have you been in the industry?

A: I have 19 years in the construction industry; 13 years on the architectural side and six additional years on the structural side of things.

Q: Why did you choose a non-traditional career field?

A: I grew up in a family where girls could do anything that boys could do, if not more. My dad wanted boys but what he got was three girls before my brother came along, but we all worked on the ranch. There were definitely no stragglers allowed. My dad is also a Jack of all trades and he made building and designing things a lifestyle for my siblings and I. Figuring out how to make things work is kind of a necessity when you live in the middle of the Sandhills of Nebraska.

I attended a two room country school until eighth grade. We took a career aptitude test before starting high school and the end result was that every student was given a top-10 list of jobs they would be good at. Architectural – Construction was the most interesting field on the list for me and my favorite classes were art, math and science.

Q: What is the most satisfying part of your job?

A: Starting a new job and then seeing it standing and finished.

Q: What advice do you have for women who want to work in the construction industry?

A: Have a good work ethic and perseverance. Always stand your ground.

Rachel Swain
Rachel SwainJob Title: Engineer in Training

Q: How long have you been in the industry?

A: About 19 years.

Q: Why did you choose a non-traditional career field? When I was younger I really liked puzzles and learning how and why things work, and in turn enjoyed building things, making something work, and fixing things.  As I got older, I became very interested in the engineering that goes into knowing what will and will not work.

Q: What is the most satisfying part of your job?

A: Being able to take an idea and design something that solves a problem, or becomes part of a building, and knowing that what I have designed will work as intended.

Q: What advice do you have for women who want to work in the construction industry?

A: Just be yourself, have confidence in your skills and knowledge and don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t know the answer. Always be willing to do your best to try and figure it out, and never stop learning and growing.

Feeling inspired yet? 🙂 

STI poised to see major growth; help bridge the skills gap

NewConstruction840x230A new facility at Southeast Technical Institute in Sioux Falls will provide much needed additional space and allow the school to expand access to its award-winning vocational programs.

The expansion couldn’t come at a better time. After the country hemorrhaged jobs in the 2000s, U.S. manufacturing is on the rebound.

According to government labor statistics, the manufacturing sector has created more than 730,000 jobs since the end of 2010. Add in the looming retirement of the Baby Boomers, and industry experts say they’ll need to fill as many as 3.5 million jobs over the next ten years.

A shortage of skilled workers, however, could cut this budding renaissance short.

A recent (2015) study by Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute found that American manufacturers can’t find enough qualified workers. The scarcity of potential workers, coupled with the public perception of manufacturing, makes recruiting (and retaining) the right candidates challenging for companies like Gage Brothers Concrete.

There is a dire need for skilled manufacturing workers in the coming years and technical colleges are essential to the manufacturing economy.

Enter Southeast Technical University, South Dakota’s leading technical institute and a 2015 WIX Filters/O’Reilly Auto Part Tomorrow’s Tech “Top 4” school in the nation.

Founded in 1968, STI adds nearly 1,000 graduates to the workforce each year.

STI is also spreading the message that careers in modern manufacturing are nothing like the ones you read about while studying the industrial revolution in history class. Today’s manufacturing careers are rewarding, take place in safe work environments, pay well, and require strong math, science and analytical skills.

STI’s auto-technician, diesel technician and auto body programs are at or beyond maximum capacity. All three are certified as Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) programs by the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF).

As the economy grows and the demand for goods increases, there will be a higher demand for manufacturing technology-capable employees to help facilitate the transportation of those goods to businesses and consumers.

To meet this growing need, STI is adding a new building to campus. The $20.7 million construction project will greatly increase the space for auto, diesel and collision technology students, while improving the teaching environment, school officials say.

Capacity for STI’s automotive & diesel technology programs will double.

The new space would have academic wings dedicated to diesel and auto-tech classes. STI’s collision repair and refinish programs will receive updated facilities and take over the space vacated by the automotive program in the Ed Wood building.

“The new building will allow us to provide access of high quality automotive training to more people,” said Jason Merritt, an Automotive Technology Instructor for STI.

Merritt expects the new, 91,000-square-foot building to provide STI with the capacity to meet the growing demand of industrial companies.

He added, “This will help us provide more technicians to this high demand field which has had a technician shortage for some time now.”

According to the South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation, the worker levels in the Transportation Equipment Manufacturing subsector are projected to increase by 365 workers (13.3 percent) in South Dakota by the year 2022.

South Dakota has a very large and diverse need for transportation equipment, which includes agriculture and commercial engines and implements. Farming is the state’s number one industry.

What’s significant is that STI’s tech talent tends to stay in the Mount Rushmore State. Graduate survey results from the 2013-2014 graduating class show that 84% of all graduates are working in South Dakota and 64% are working in Sioux Falls.

The new auto-tech building at STI is slated for a site across Career Avenue from the Ed Wood Center, which currently houses the programs.

“These expansions also provide the opportunity to: update equipment and technology in all three programs, increase the number of students that Southeast Tech can accept in all three programs, and increase graduate numbers which provides additional prospective employees to regional employers,” said Lon Hird, STI’s Director of Academic Support.

Additional building plans include a food area and an auditorium.

AUTO_LAB_3D430x260Gage Brothers was awarded the contract to furnish the precast concrete façade for the new facility. The company will produce more than 36,000 square-feet of corefloor, architectural panels, insulated wall panels, and beams and columns for the building.

“Gage Brothers could not be more steadfast in our support of technical colleges like STI, which are essential to the success of our company,” said company president Tom Kelley. “I have been very pleased with the STI graduates we have hired over the years; they possess the necessary skills and knowledge and are ready to work.”

An engineer by trade and at the helm of Gage Brothers since 2001, Kelley also serves on Southeast Tech’s Foundation Board. He has been involved in many conversations about the misconceptions related to vocational training and plugging the skills gap.

It’s the same discussion that prompted GOP presidential hopeful Senator Marco Rubio of Florida to say that the country needs more welders and fewer philosophers during the fourth Republican debate.

Kelley stressed the importance of the new facility and STI’s state-of-the-art, work-and-learn models. An increase the number of workers with these in demand skills is needed for industrial companies like Gage Brothers to continue growing.

“Major investments like this help to erase the stigma that is sometimes still associated with a technical education,” he added.

“I’m excited to see the final product next year.”

Construction is expected to finish in summer 2016, and the three automotive programs would be able to serve more students by 2017. Click here to view the construction progress photo gallery.