Last year Orrin Estebo had a conversation with one of the people who works in his office.

During that interaction Estebo heard about an encounter that staff member had with a group of local high school students.

Of that group of nine future graduates virtually all of them planned to pursue a degree in a vocational trade with the hopes of coming back to Redwood Falls.

That story brings home the reason why a group of local school staff, community representatives and business leaders stood in the south parking lot of the Redwood Valley schools campus May 22. That afternoon ground was officially broken for the Orrin S. Estebo Career Development and Technical Training Center.

“I’m pumped,” said Estebo. “I really think it’s a great thing for Redwood Falls.”

The opportunities and benefits are boundless with this addition, added Estebo.

Rick Ellingworth, Redwood Area School District superintendent, expressed his excitement about the new wing that is adding 10,000 square feet of space to the school. 

Renovations are also being done to existing spaces in the current school facility as part of the project.

On behalf of the school district, Ellingworth expressed his appreciation to Estebo for his commitment to the school and the community, as the $1 million gift from Estebo helped to kick off the project that will cost approximately $4 million.

Ellingworth said it was a year and a half ago that the discussions began in earnest about the project that has started, adding it is amazing to him that the project has actually come to fruition.

That, he added, does not just happen.

It is the commitment not only of people like Estebo but the community as a whole, including the leadership of the local school board, as well as those local leaders who offered input, that make a project like this a reality.

Ellingworth recognized Bremer Bank and local bank president Matt Johnson for its commitment to financing this project, adding when something like this happens it is always a great feeling to know there are local partners who are involved in it.

For many school districts the addition of a career development and technical training center is just a dream, said District 16 Sen. Gary Dahms.

However, he added, in Redwood Falls it is happening, and that is because this community is one that moves beyond dreaming and accomplishes the goal.

“The people here are great, and they know how to get things done,” said Dahms.

Dahms said there is a growing need for people to fill in those trade jobs in communities acrosss the nation, adding in some parts of the United States there are people coming from other countries who are doing those jobs. The mentality that everyone needs a four-year college degree needs to change, said Dahms, and he believes that is happening. A facility like this can open the eyes of local students to those jobs that are in high demand and pay a good wage.

Work on the project began immediately following the last day of the 2017-18 school year, and over the next seven-plus months the work will continue in an effort to have the facility open and ready for the second semester of the 2018-19 school year.

John McNamara of Wold Architects, who has been working with the local school district on expansion and renovation projects for two decades, said it is amazing what has been accomplished in this community over the years.

The people have continued to invest in the school buildings, and the collaborative efforts of the local units of government testify to the commitment the community as a whole has made to providing the best options for everyone who calls this area their home.

Ellingworth said people who visit the school are amazed when he tells them it is more than 25 years old, adding it is that investment the local residents continue to make in the facilities that help to keep it in such good condition.

A school does not run in a vacuum, said Jim Buckley, who serves as chair of the Redwood Area Board of Education, adding a project like this has the potential to have a significant impact on the community.

Estebo said he is excited about the idea that the center will be open not only to local students but to the community for night classes that can offer training for the local work force.

While the bricks and mortar tasks are being done in the coming months, Ellingworth said the real work begins the day the facility opens and the local teaching staff start providing those educational opportunities to students.

“The real work will be on the shoulders of the staff,” he said.

Those who know or have ever encountered Orrin Estebo know that he believes “education opens doors.”

When that door to the new career development and technical training center officially opens next year the community and school and what they teach for the future is never going to be the same again.