Jim Sánchez/ Conexión San Ángelo

SAN ANGELO – It took entities such as San Angelo Chamber of Commerce, the Economic Development Corporation, Concho Valley Work Force Development Board, the San Angelo Health Foundation, others, to combine forces with Howard College to make a dream become a reality—the construction of a building for HC’s new construction trades program.

Thursday afternoon, October 5 on the campus of Howard College, HC representatives: Jamie Rainey, Terry Nix and Dr. Cheryl T. Parks, President, welcomed Mike Biggerstaff, Mayor Brenda Gunter, State Rep. Drew Darby, former Mayor, Dwain Morrison and the community to its ribbon-cutting ceremony which was held across from the parking lot where the Mueller, engineered metal structure building will sit, once construction gets underway in 10 days.

Rainey, Workforce and Community Development Officer, stated that the point man who got the ball rolling on this project was Mike Biggerstaff. In 2015, Biggerstaff agreed to chair a committee to look at and explore the possibility of adding construction trades to Howard College’s courses.

Oh, and Howard College needed a lab building for its trade construction program that was debt free. Biggerstaff enters the picture not only from a professional standpoint but financially as he was able to raise $350,000. 

“No doubt that the industry needs tradesmen, evidenced by the fact that we are half a million tradesmen short in the State of Texas today,” said Bickerstaff, Chairman, Texas Builders Association.

Rainey concluded, saying that a grant Howard College had applied for fell through; however, Ernie Neighbors, President of Howard College’s Foundation Board, informed her that the Board contributed $10,000 toward the project, followed by the Home Builders Association which gave $10,000.

HC then submitted a grant to the San Angelo Health Foundation which resulted in a $74,000 grant for a total of $444,000. Then, $216,000 was contributed that went toward a budget for a program director, an instructor and tools and equipment for the trade program. The total for the project came to $660,000 as Mike Buck with the Concho Valley Work Force Development Board and Roland Peña, from the City of San Angelo Development Board Corporation also came on board to make HC’s dream into a reality.

When Mayor Brenda Gunter, addressed the dignitaries and community she started with a familiar cliché to get her point across about the collaborative efforts from all the entities involved, “You nailed it!” “That says a lot about what was announced today, and accomplished.”

Gunter stated that there has to be the ability to strategize our future and to have a vision for our future. Part of that future is thinking about the citizens of San Angelo. 

“We must provide the foundation beyond minimum wage to livable wage and you can’t do it if you don’t have a great trades school that covers multiple different levels of trade,” said Gunter.

“Today we are looking at a building and brick and mortar is very important,” stated Dr. Cheryl T. Parks. “But we will always remind you why we are here.”  “And that is our students.”

Sparks concluded her remarks, saying that the construction trade program is not just for current students but future generations. 

The new 5,200 square foot Construction Trades Center will have a brick façade at the entry to the building and on those bricks will be engraved names of donors.

Photo, courtesy of Rene Maldonado, Director of Technical Support Services, Howard College.

Sunbelt Construction is the company that was hired to complete the project by March 1, 2018.

 “We are hoping to take 25 students in March 2018 which will be our first group; then next June, 25 more students, plus 25 additional students in the fall of 2018,” said Terry Nix, Howard College, Dean of Career and Technical Education.
The first group from the trade program is scheduled to graduate in December 2018.

Prior to that graduation date, the first day to officially open classes in the new Construction Trades building will be March 19, 2018. 

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