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Updated 10:00 AM July 27, 2009

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Electrician conference at U expected to draw $5M to area

U-M and Ann Arbor welcome the National Training Institute>

A national electrician apprentice program will bring 2,200 people to campus, along with a $5 million economic impact on the community, organizers say.

The National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee (NJATC) will host the National Training Institute Aug. 1-7 at U-M.

The group has relocated its annual education program from the University of Tennessee to provide a stronger sense of campus and because of the university's commitment to organized labor, says Rick Hecklinger, assistant executive director of NJATC.

All major construction contracts at U-M employ unionized labor. The university also directly employs more than 70 members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, a partner of the NJATC.

Hecklinger says he selected U-M as the new site after he was contacted by the Ann Arbor Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and Jim Kosteva, the university's director of community relations.

"We're honored to work with the university to bring a group of this size to campus," says Mary Kerr, president of the Convention and Visitors Bureau. The commitment to choose Ann Arbor as the site of the gathering demonstrates "the potential economic impact at a time when we really need it."

Lodging, food, travel and visiting local attractions will result in $5 million in direct spending in the community, Kerr says.

"This is important for the university, but for the state of Michigan as well," she says.

The National Training Institute provides ongoing education for electrical workers and contractors, in addition to training for instructors. The gathering will include a tradeshow Aug. 1-2 and will offer numerous classes across campus.

"We're pleased to bring our dollars to a labor-friendly area," Hecklinger says.

The conference required a major coordination of campus services, says Bill Vlisides, conference manager for Marketing and Conference Services. The event will use 15-20 university buildings and offer on-campus housing to 200-300 delegates, he says. Bus transportation also will be provided.

"It's rewarding to see all areas of the university and the city cooperate in this manner," Vlisides says. "That's what it takes to pull something like this off."

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