SANFORD, Maine – York County Community College (YCCC) announced a $6.5 million plan Friday to create a new welding lab and expand its manufacturing and trade programs, the first tangible impact of a new Maine-based alliance dedicated to increasing the number of people working in Maine’s defense industry. 

The Maine Community College System is a founding member of the new Maine Defense Industry Alliance (MDIA), a coalition unveiled Friday that consists of Maine defense industries, higher education institutions, state agencies, and the U.S. Navy. MDIA is dedicated to coordinating efforts to attract and train thousands of new employees for critical jobs in the state’s defense industrial base. 

“It’s a great investment to build a new state-of-the-art welding facility just miles from two of the state’s three largest defense contractors, adding hundreds of new skilled workers a year to the local workforce,” said YCCC President Michael Fischer. 

The college will build a 10,000-square-foot addition to its existing facility at 60 Community Drive to create the YCCC Center for Excellence in Manufacturing and Trades (CEMT). The facility is within 30 miles of both Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, and Pratt & Whitney in North Berwick, both founding members of MDIA. 

The expansion is funded by $3.5 million in Submarine Industrial Base (SIB) funding for MDIA; $1.5 million in YCCC funds; and $1.5 million in federal funding through last year’s Transportation, Housing and Urban Development bill, requested by Sen. Susan Collins and Sen. Angus King. 

The Alliance is critically needed in Maine, where the defense sector employs 19,000 people at over 150 companies. Over the next five years, Bath Iron Works, Pratt & Whitney, and Portsmouth Naval Shipyard alone anticipate needing to fill over 7,500 positions.