DMACC Transportation Institute receives $1 million federal investment

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U.S. Rep. Zach Nunn announced Thursday that DMACC will receive $1 million in federal funds for its transportation institute. (Photo by Brooklyn Draisey/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

U.S. Rep. Zach Nunn visited Des Moines Area Community College Thursday with news of federal investment in its transportation institute.

Nunn announced at DMACC’s Ankeny campus that the community college will receive $1 million in federal funds for its transportation institute, which is currently being updated and modernized to better serve a larger crop of students.

“This is a key investment not just to boost the workforce, but to provide a great pathway for folks to have long-term careers that they can support their family and their communities with,” Nunn said.

DMACC’s commercial driver’s license training program is known for the excellent drivers it produces, DMACC President Rob Denson said, but the college’s facilities haven’t been able to keep up with industry demands. The old building had issues with leaks and mold, and about half of the 12-acre site’s paved area was unusable for training.

Once complete, the institute will have six usable concourses and the capacity for double the amount of students it can currently hold, from 250 to 500. Students and staff will have access to new classrooms, garages, and spaces for individual and group study, as well as new parking areas.

About one-third of the concourse has been repaved so far, Denson said, which the college is already using for training. Construction is moving ahead of schedule, thanks to a mild winter allowing the crews to start early after a November groundbreaking, and the president expects to set a date for a ribbon cutting in October or November.

“It’s hard work, our faculty and staff work very hard, but now they’ve got a facility that’s equivalent to their quality,” Denson said. “So we’re very, very excited.”

Nunn obtained the funds for DMACC through the Community Project Funding process, according to a news release, and was included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2024, signed into law in March. With these federal dollars, Denson said almost half of the cost of the $9 million project has been raised, with more large gifts still in discussion.

Other gifts to the project include $1 million from the Future Ready Iowa program, $1 million from businessman and DMACC graduate Dennis Albaugh, $500,000 from Kent Corporation CEO Gage Kent and $100,000 each from Casey’s, Fareway and Polk County, among others.

The U.S. is experiencing a truck driver shortage of more than 80,000 drivers, Nunn said, and if not addressed, that number could double in the next five years. Expanding the capacity of the DMACC driver training program will not only have an impact on Iowans, he said, but extend the state’s reach across the country through businesses like Casey’s.

Casey’s Senior Vice President of Supply Chain Management Doug Means said the company operates its own fleet of trucks to deliver items to more than 2,600 stores across the country. Corporations like Casey’s rely on drivers trained by programs like that at DMACC, and Means is excited to support the college in its expansion.

“Just like Casey’s, Iowa needs a steady source of professionally trained drivers,” Means said. “As supply chains continue to recover from the impact of COVID and the demand for more efficient and effective delivery models continues to grow, we will naturally see a greater need for more drivers. With this new facility, DMACC is perfectly positioned to help meet the need that will allow the CDL training program to double its student capacity, resulting in more fully certified truck drivers.”

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