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A new grant will help military veterans get civilian employment in Middle Georgia’s growing warehouse distribution industry.

The Veterans Education Career Transition Resource Center, or VECTR, has already been training veterans to be truck drivers, but now those who don’t want to get behind the wheel can learn other skills to enter the industry. A $100,000 grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies will buy lab equipment for a warehouse and distribution technician program.

“It’s our first substantial grant to help support training of veterans,” said Patricia Ross, a retired Air Force colonel who is director of the center.

She said they got the grant after former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn, a Perry native who serves on the Bloomberg Philanthropies board, invited other board members to tour VECTR. They came to the center and went to Robins Air Force Base. Afterward they asked about financial needs for the center. Ross said the school had funding to build three new labs, but needed donations to buy the equipment. The foundation agreed to fund the warehouse and distribution lab equipment.

“This is a huge need in the region,” Ross said. “I’ve had people since we opened our doors say we need more people in warehousing and logistics.”

Several distribution centers have come to Middle Georgia in recent years. The centers are warehouses for goods that are then distributed around the country. A fulfillment center for Amazon in Bibb County has been the most recent. Middle Georgia has been an attractive location because of its central location in the state and close proximity to the Savannah port and Atlanta airport.

Students taking the one-semester college-credit class will learn safety, inventory control, supply chain management and forklift certification.

The new lab is expected to be operational by August. The other two labs are for training in construction and industrial systems. Ross said donations are being sought to equip those two labs as well. She wasn’t sure when those programs might be available for students.

VECTR opened in 2016 with the aim of helping veterans statewide, and their families, enter the civilian workforce. Programs offered include welding and heating and air conditioning maintenance. The center is operated by Central Georgia Technical College.

“The VECTR Center has been recognized across the nation for its unique nature and the important services offered,” Ivan Allen, president of the college, said in a release. “Delegations from other states have visited to learn more and hopefully replicate the success of the center. We are certainly grateful that Bloomberg Philanthropies has chosen to support the important work of the VECTR Center in training and educating our veteran and military families across the state.”

Bloomberg Philanthropies was founded by billionaire Michael Bloomberg, who served three terms as mayor of New York City.

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