The Philadelphia Technical Training Institute (PTTI), a nonprofit training school which says it has developed a six-month math, science and technician training program for automotive, welding and factory job preparation, which it has used to place graduates in jobs with Pep Boys, U-Haul and other employers, says it has made a $270,000 down payment toward the $2.2 million purchase of the former Berean Institute building at 1901-45 W. Girard Ave. in North Philadelphia. The institute has until May to raise the balance of the funds and close the purchase with the property's owner, the Commonwealth of Pennsyvlania, said founder Sherman McLeod.

McLeod says his group has raised more than half the balance, is soliciting charitable contributions for the last $830,000 PTTI needs, and is confident it will move into the historic 34,000 sq. ft. Berean space this Spring. He said PTTI will move downtown from a 9,500 sq. ft. building he owns near the corner of Ogontz Ave. and Washington Lane, and is prepared to scale up enrollment, from 100 last year, to several hundred, in the larger space and with expanded staff. The building that long housed the Berean Institute, which traces its roots to African American Presbyterian minister Rev. Matthew Anderson, who also founded Philadelphia's longest-lived black-run bank, has been vacant since Berean Institute's cosmetology program was evicted for non-payment of rent and utilities in 2012, after losing state funding, the Daily News reported here. Calls to numbers listed on Berean's Web site weren't returned.

McLeod says he studied engineering at Drexel and worked a series of jobs in corporate America, including a stint as a design engineer at Johnson & Johnson's Epicon sutures division, where he focused on high-speed automation. But "I wanted to do my thing, and get people hired in Philadelphia," he told me. He noted President Barack Obama has called for increased funding for job-training programs to boost the number of workers able to fill technical positions. PTTI says it is licensed by Pennsylvania's Department of Education licensed private schools division, accredited by the Middle States Association, and approved for Federal Title IV student aid.