Words like amazing and humbling come to mind for Fab Lab ICC director Jim Correll when asked how he feels about the Fab Lab receiving a grant award from the Federal Economic Development Administration (EDA) for $350,000 to help fund the construction of the Fab Lab expansion building.


The EDA grant was first initiated in early 2015 when Correll and Tim Haynes, Fab Lab ICC manager, had their first conversations with Mark Werthmann, EDA field representative for Kansas, Nebraska and western Missouri. Within these initial conversations they discussed the idea to add a building that would double the size of existing facilities. From there, Correll and Haynes took the necessary steps to get through the application process. 


Haynes says that the expansion will improve services to the users, which is what they have always strived to be able to do. 


“Many people have asked us when we will have welding, offices, work tables and painting facilities,” said Haynes. “I’m very excited to say that soon we will have all of those things. When we first began the application process for the EDA grant, we had no idea if the expansion would happen— but looking at the history of Fab Lab ICC, it seems inevitable that it would happen someday. As long as people believe in what we are doing, I’m confident we will continue to grow.” 


Correll said he is thrilled with the grant news and stated, “Of course I’m very please with the grant award. The way we’ve had to announce it — waiting until we had received the ‘official’ letter in August will make it seem to the public that we’ve just learned of it. The truth is that starting this last April, the Economic Development Administration has been telling us ‘unofficially’ that we were going to get the grant. So, the official announcement was not a surprise to use, however a big relief as we grew tired of holding our breath for four months awaiting the ‘official’ word.”


ICC President Dan Barwick considers the grant a step forward for the entire campus. “This is not just a $700,000 construction project in Independence,” he said. “This is also the first new academic building constructed on the main campus in two decades, and it is a facility devoted to what I firmly believe is literally the future of higher education — a marriage of theory and practice, and of education and entrepreneurship.”


Correll added he is truly amazed with what he has seen with the Fab Lab over the nearly three years they have been operating. “We have entrepreneurs and small business owners coming to us regularly for help,” he said proudly. “The idea that we could have assembled the resources to construct this building only one and one-half years after conception is really quite remarkable. At the same time, the reality is soaking in that ‘Whoa, now we have to plan and administer the construction of this new facility."


Barwick added, “When you consider the fact the Fab Lab itself was only created two years ago, the willingness of the federal government to devote resources of this size is all the more remarkable and a testament to the incredible work the people at the Fab Lab are doing.”


Correll said overall the grant is an affirmation from the EDA and from local supporters that they are, “buying in to our new brand of economic development for rural communities by mixing entrepreneurial mindset with Fab Lab ICC to support entrepreneurs and small business owners.”


Construction drawings and quotes from contractors are currently in the works. The expansion project is expected to be completed by fall semester 2018.