Grand Island grows its own, as schools and business collaborate

    Cristian Perez toured Dramco Tool Co. in high school and thought, "wow what do I have to do to get my hands on these types of machines" and now he works for the company (NTV News)

    Inside the shop at Dramco Tool Co., Cristian Perez’s fingers fly over the controls. He says running a CNC machine is just like using his phone.

    “These machines control pretty much exactly the same way,” he said.

    he takes to technology naturally, but this son of immigrants didn’t know jobs like this existed, until a tour in high school, through Grand Island Public Schools’ Career Pathways Institute.

    Perez said, “I was walking around and was like ’wow, what do I have to do to get my hands on these types of machines.’”

    Dramco makes the tools that help other plants do their job.

    “We support a lot of manufacturers in the area and nationwide,” said Bill Koch, one of four owners.

    Koch said the company started as a two-man shop in 1978.

    “40 years later here we are, over 50 people it's grown at a pretty good clip and we want to see that trend continue,” he said.

    To do that, Dramco goes to city hall, asking for $150,000 in incentives, towards an estimated million- dollar expansion.

    Koch said, “We're very grateful they're helping us with this, and it's a great opportunity for us.”

    Dramco has to create at least seven jobs to qualify for funds, but the head of the Grand Island Area Economic Development Corporation wouldn’t be surprised if it’s more than that, as Dave Taylor says small businesses like this make a huge difference.

    “They're the backbone of what brought Grand Island to where it is and we want to do everything we can to support them,” Taylor said.

    With funding in place, the bigger challenge is workforce.

    It’s why Dramco was the first in the state to create a high school apprenticeship program.

    “That's really helping us,” Koch said. “Gives them a pathway to a career and we're benefiting from that greatly.”

    High school sparked an interest for Cristian Perez. His parents, who are now citizens, dreamed of opportunities like this.

    “I'm grateful every day and don't take anything for granted because I know the hard work they had to do for us to be living well,” Perez said.

    One of the company owners said Perez will be playing a new role, as they’ve invited him to assist with a business meeting in Mexico.

    The Citizens Advisory Review Committee met Thursday, voting in favor of the incentives known as LB840, for the Nebraska law that created them. It now goes to the City Council for final approval.

    Dramco was the EDC's 2017 business of the year.

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