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Local businesses honored at annual Progress 64 West awards banquet

Pictured are Troy Pohlman, founder of Midwest Machine Tool Training Center and Bridget Nations, co-chair of the banquet committee.

Pictured are Troy Pohlman, founder of Midwest Machine Tool Training Center and Bridget Nations, co-chair of the banquet committee.

At its annual luncheon, Progress 64 West presented awards to area companies, organizations and schools that are improving the quality of life along Interstate 64 in St. Louis and St Charles counties.

But while the awards recognized present accomplishments, much of the event focused on a future need: STEM. More specifically, they emphasized the need to engage young people in science and technology careers.

“STEM – The Future is Now” was the banquet’s theme and special STEM awards for promoting science, technology, engineering and math education were presented to the Parkway and Rockwood school districts. Each district received $1,000 from Progress 64 West for their STEM education programs.

Additionally, Excellence in Community Development awards were presented to Maryville University; Monsanto; Nike IHM, Inc.; and Midwest Machine Tool Training Center. The Community Enrichment Award was presented to the Economic Development Center of St. Charles County and Partners for Progress for their economic development efforts.

Two students from Parkway South High School – Taylor Howard and Jenna Sears – were presented with the 2015 Louis S. Sachs scholarships. Howard received a $5,000 scholarship and Sears received a $2,500 scholarship.

The Sachs Scholarship program is sponsored by American Direct Marketing Resources, LLC, Doster Ullom & Boyle, LLC and Stinson Leonard Street LLP.

Much of the discussion at the banquet focused on young people like Howard and Sears. Greg Prestemon, president and chief executive officer for the Economic Development Center of St. Charles County, said helping nurture and attract young people is both a challenge and opportunity.

“Every single organization in the St. Louis region, I think, needs to wrestle with how to involve and engage the millennial age group – people in their 20s and 30s – both helping them find a good job career path as well as helping them engage in the important work in the community,” Prestemon said.

Scott Drachnik, director of workforce development for St. Charles County, who introduced the awards to Parkway and Rockwood, said: “STEM helps to provide and create that foundation for the 21st century workforce to succeed.” He noted that Parkway and Rockwood are examples of districts that, through their curriculum and activities such as robotics and other competitions, are education leaders in the area.

Other leaders in the area include Monsanto, which is currently expanding its Chesterfield research location; Nike IHM, Inc., which is planning to add 60,000 square feet to its present facility; and Maryville University, which has seen its enrollment double in eight years [to 6,500] and which may reach 10,000 by the end of the decade.

Mark Lombardi, president of Maryville University, said during his keynote speech that the university does something that other schools fail to do. The university, he said, partners with major companies and corporations, asking them about the skills their workers need. Then, he said, the next step is to “sit in a room and design curriculum to meet those needs.”

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