ASHWAUBENON - Training is hitting the big time for a local utility company. 

Wisconsin Public Service Corp. and its parent company, WEC Energy Group, have begun construction of a new 32,000-square-foot employee training center in Ashwaubenon.

WPS-Groundbreaking_article.PNGThe multimillion-dollar project at 2800 Ashland Ave. will serve as a regional training center for WPS employees in the Green Bay area, Fox Valley and Upper Peninsula of Michigan, said Gini Roback, WPS' manager of customer operations, training and performance development.

Roback said the Green Bay Training Center will provide staff with more dynamic training simulations. She said the center will make Green Bay a utility training destination for employees throughout the company's service area, while also making training more effective and efficient at the local level. 

The center will have more than 14,000 square feet of outdoor training space that will simulate natural gas pipe construction and leak investigations, as well as overhead and underground electric distribution equipment.  

It will also have an 11,000-square-foot indoor electric operations lab with utility poles, a manhole, underground cables, switches, transformers and more, including four training classrooms and additional office space. 

WPS spokesman Matt Cullen said construction will be complete in March. 

Roback said customers will benefit from the new center because it will help ensure that employees are equipped to safely work with and operate the equipment that directly transmit power to the homes, businesses and schools.

Brown County Executive Troy Streckenbach said the center is also promising for the economy. 

"This shows a continued commitment to the northeast Wisconsin region," he said. "By signifying this development of a $10 million investment for this community ...  that has a very long-lasting impact for our overall growth and ability to train (workers for) family-supporting jobs in the northeast Wisconsin area." 

About 1,400 employees and contractors are expected to use the training center each year.