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story.lead_photo.caption Michael Lee, construction technology coordinator for Texarkana College, speaks to the attendees of the EDC executive committee about what students are learning at the Betty & Buddy Workforce Training Center on Thursday in Texarkana, Texas. Photo by Hunt Mercier / Texarkana Gazette.

A group of local business leaders on Thursday got an up-close look at a new engine of regional economic growth.

The economic development committee of the Texarkana USA Chamber of Commerce held a meeting at the Buddy and Betty Ledwell Workforce Training Center at Texarkana College, followed by a tour of the facility.

Chamber members received copies of a summary of state and local economic incentives, and President Mike Malone reported on the Chamber's recent trips to visit legislators in Little Rock and Austin.

Malone also gave an update on the Chamber's TXK Partnership program.

Michael Lee, construction technology coordinator for Texarkana College, speaks Thursday to the attendees of the EDC executive committee about what students are learning at the Betty & Buddy Workforce Training Center in Texarkana, Texas.
Photo by Hunt Mercier/Texarkana Gazette.

"It's called a sector partnership. It's where we have a sector of businesses that meet, and they outline where they want to go. Instead of stakeholders dictating the direction to go, the manufacturers, in this case, dictate the direction," Malone said. "This partnership has about 40, 45 different manufacturers playing at the table with this, and we reach as far out as Hope and Prescott, in those areas."

TC instructors guided a tour of the Ledwell Center, which held a grand opening in November. The center houses TC's construction technology, electrical technology, industrial maintenance, and electronics and instrumentation programs, all aimed at producing a job-ready workforce. TC also offers automotive repair certifications.

Dean of Workforce and Continuing Education Brandon Washington told the group that old stereotypes about vocational students such as those who study auto repair no longer hold true.

"We're really focusing on the good high school students that are really thriving. On the vocational end, it used to be only the students that struggle. If you struggle in math, English, science and history, well, go over here and you can work on a vehicle, and you can be a shade-tree mechanic.

"With the computers and the technology that's going in these vehicles now, it's a computer on four wheels. So we need the students that are successful in the classroom on the vocational end. It's not just a backup plan," Washington said.

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