GM official praises LRCC's auto technician education program

LACONIA — A career as an automobile technician means working in "a very honorable trade" and offers those who make that choice an opportunity to contribute the community and the health of the local economy.
That's the assessment of  Mark Miller, Global Director of Service and Warranty Operations for General Motors, who toured Lakes Region Community College's new 21,000-square-foot, $4 million state-of-the-art automotive lab Tuesday morning prior to speaking to a meeting of General Motors dealerships service manager's from all over the state.
Miller said he was impressed with the new facility and the opportunities it provides for training auto technicians with the latest in technology. The new center, which was completed earlier this year, features 17 vehicle bays and all the latest diagnostic equipment.
He said auto technicians can earn six-figure salaries are in great demand all across the country and LRCC is helping to meet that need.
The college has been a part of the General Motors Automotive Service Education Program since 1991, the first year that Mike Parker, who now heads the college's automotive service education program, taught at the college. Parker and Jamie Decato, an assistant professor and GM-ASEP coordinator at the college, led the GM officials on the tour. Decato is a 1996 graduate of the GM-ASEP program who was at the top of his class.
Miller, who has spent 26 years with General Motors, including four years in China, says that he still misses the actual day to day experience of working on automobiles and says that the lack of vocational high school programs nationwide has led to an overall general decline in the mechanical aptitude which the GM-ASEP program is designed to counteract. There are close to 60 of the ASEP programs supported nationwide by GM.
He said that major changes in the auto business since he first started include higher customer expectations as well as new technology. "A lot of people live in their cars and have high expectations for them." said Miller.
The college offers a two-year associate degree in Auto Technology and GM credits toward certification in all areas through their ASEP. LRCC also offers a general auto tech program.
Lakes Region Community College hosted a General Motors Service Manager's meeting Tuesday morning. Prior to the meeting a tour of the college's new 21,000-square-foot, $4 million state-of-the-art automotive lab was taken by Ryan Bunn, GM District Manager After Sales for New Hampshire; Peter Delvecchio, GM Regional Manager After Sales for New England and Mark Miller, Global Director of Service and Warranty Operations for General Motors. They are shown with Mike Parker, head of the college's automotive program; and Jamie Decato, coordinator for the college's Automotive Service Education Program. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

Power up with solar benches in Laconia


LACONIA — Laconia has joined Cambridge, Massachusetts; Austin, Texas; Los Angeles, California; and some 50 other cities in more than 20 states and Canadian provinces as a home to Soofa benches, which not only offer a place to sit but also charge mobile devices by capturing and storing rays of sunlight.

The benches, one at the millstone fountain at the corner of Pleasant Street and Main Street and the other on the boardwalk at The Weirs, are fashioned of metal and wood to a modern design and seat three while charging mobile devices with solar power. They were developed, designed and manufactured by by Soofa of Cambridge, Massachusetts, an enterprise begun and managed by three women from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, one of whom vacations in the Lakes Region.
Melissa McCarthy, who owns and operates The Studio, first brought the benches to the attention of the Main Street Initiative in 2014 and this year Bree Henderson of Polished and Proper began soliciting investment on to finance the purchase and installation of the benches. Henderson said Tuesday that the $5,000 raised from local individuals and businesses during the past six months marked the first transaction financed through GoFundMe, which led Soofa "to give us a deal, two for one."
"The benches," McCarthy said, "are a way to enhance the image of Laconia as a forward moving, energetic place to be." She added that she is not aware Soofa benches elsewhere in New Hampshire. "The closet benches I know of are in Boston," she said. "If you need some juice, it's here."
Henderson explained that the battery cell holds eight hours of charging power. At the same time, the bench can be programmed to collect other data, such as environmental data that will enable the city to monitor its air quality. The entire device is powered exclusively by sunlight and has no operating costs.


Melissa McCarthy, Bree Henderson and Stacey Lucas, from left, relaxed on the Soofa bench near the millstone fountain downtown while charging their cell phones with the power of sunlight captured by the solar panel between them.

Route 106 delays should lighten up soon

BELMONT — Route 106 project manager Chuck Flanders said Tuesday that Wednesday should be the last day crews are laying the base coat along the construction area.

He said crews have already finished the base coat nearest the Laconia city line.

"Now that we have pavement, it's likely that we'll be back to two lanes for a while," Flanders said.