GRINNELL - State and local dignitaries turned out in spades for Iowa Valley Grinnell's new Gunsmith Technology program open house, but it was the unique partnership with Brownells and the enthusiasm of the IVG students that stole the show.
The students welcomed guests to the campus, conducted show-and-tell tours of the Gunsmith Technology lab, and answered questions before and after the ribbon cutting program and ceremony.
MaryAnne Nickle, dean of Iowa Valley Grinnell, explained that the new IVG Gunsmith Technology program is unique in the state of Iowa and is the newest among a small group of gunsmithing programs across the country. The gunsmithing field encompasses metal working, woodworking and machining, and is an essential expertise in support of both law enforcement and military personnel. The new IVG degree program would not be possible without the support of nearby Brownells Inc., the world's largest supplier of gun parts, gunsmith tools and shooting accessories.
Gunsmithing student Kalee Burkett, of Grinnell, explains the gunsmithing process and tools to Beth Balzer and Debi Durham, Business Development Project Director and Director, respectively, of the Iowa Economic Development Authority.
"Whenever we consider a new program, we look to the needs of the community," Nickle said. "In this instance, one of our local corporations and a valued partner, Brownells, is an international leader in the gunsmithing industry. Pete Brownell brought the need for a Midwestern gunsmithing program to our attention and allowed one of the company's trademarked gun tech experts, David Bennetts, to help develop the curriculum; David is now our lead instructor. Brownells continued its support of the program with a generous donation that helped us buy equipment this summer, and the company also allows our students to purchase discounted materials and instructional resources."
Nickle said the program can accommodate 12 students, and 11 are enrolled this fall. The students are excited about the caliber of training they're receiving, and also about their job prospects after graduation.
Both Pete Brownell (CEO) and Frank Brownell (Chairman of the Board) Brownell were at the open house ceremony. Pete Brownell said the company has been pleased to partner with Iowa Valley Grinnell in keeping with his grandfather's motto: "Show me a town without gunsmithing and I'll show you a town without guns."
"We want to thank Iowa Valley Grinnell, David Bennetts, Tony Barnes and the students in this new program for making the new Gunsmith Technology program work," Pete Brownell said. "We needed a facility and a partnership like this to build a network and grow the gunsmithing industry in Iowa and the Midwest."
Debi Durham, director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority, said, "Iowa welcomes the firearms industry, and we're grateful for this investment and all that's being done here."
The Gunsmith Technology Advisory Board includes Tom Kriegel, Heath Jepsen, Chris Olsen, Meg Ruzak, Doug Turnbull, Roy Christensen and Sharon Dressel. The membership is representative of Iowa, Wisconsin, Washington and New York, and includes a representative of the Iowa National Guard.
Other speakers included IVCCD Board of Directors member Paul Pohlson of Grinnell; Senator Tim Kapucian (District 38); Representative Dave Maxwell (District 76); Brad Buck, director of the Iowa Department of Education; and Robin Shaffer Lilienthal, Provost of Marshalltown Community College.