An integral part of Northern Michigan University’s continued growth over the past 30 years can be credited to NMU’s School of Technology and Applied Sciences, a division of the university that has more than fulfilled its original intention of preparing individuals for skilled trades.
On July 28, 1978, Michigan Representative Dominic Jacobetti, NMU President John X. Jamrich, Senator Joe Mack and Michigan Governor William Milliken were present for the groundbreaking of the D.J. Jacobetti Vocational Skills Center, located on Sugarloaf Avenue, about a block from NMU’s main campus. In 1981, the center opened its doors, ready to provide a strong Upper Peninsula labor force in business and manufacturing. By the late 80s, NMU’s Department of Industry and Technology joined the center. The department had previously focused on teacher training, but was steadily beginning to train individuals for positions in industry. This union formed what is referred to today as the School of Technology and Applied Sciences (TAS). Nearly 1,000 learners study each year at TAS, in the Jacobetti Complex, on a land with an interesting connection to the area's industrial effort.
In 1870, the property was used by the Lake Superior Powder Company, a manufacturer of gun and blasting powder, which was essential to the community’s growth at the time. In its first year, 25 buildings were erected on the grounds, and the company made headway until a series of explosions began in 1881 and ended with the last one in 1905 when 10 buildings were destroyed, five men were killed and 10 more were left injured.
Later, New Process Metals Company took over the property. The company was created as a result of John Tyler Jones’ desire to perfect a furnace able to process low-grade iron ore, fearing that without such an innovation the mining towns of the region would crumble, as did the lumbering towns. Under the advice of J.M. Longyear, who held many mining properties, Jones came to Marquette to further develop the process of recovering iron ore by burning it in a 120-foot revolving tube turned by an electric motor. Unfortunately, iron ore was abundant during Jones’ lifetime and his furnace met with one problem after another. The plant was closed and dismantled in 1915. Nearly 100 years later, the concrete remains of the New Process Metals Company can still be seen on the east end of the parking lot of the Jacobetti Complex, marking this area's history of industry and continued dedication to the Upper Peninsula's growth.