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INTELLIGENCE REPORT: TEXAS ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT CONNECTION
From Workforce 2024 Guide
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The Sky’s the Limit

TexasEDConnection communities are an important part of the workforce development fabric set to receive $5 billion in state higher education funding over the next two years.

INTELLIGENCE REPORT: TEXAS ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT CONNECTION
Home to the second largest canyon in the nation, Palo Duro State Park south of Amarillo is just a hop, skip and a jump from the Texas ED Connection communities of Muleshoe and Pampa.
Photo by Jaime Hudson courtesy of Travel Texas

by Adam Bruns
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mong the many qualities uniting the more than 30 member communities in the Texas Economic Development Connection — small-town charm, affordability and collaboration among them — educating the workforce of tomorrow looms large.

That focus is in keeping with a state whose funding for career & technical education (CTE) is 25 times greater than its their Perkins V federal allocation. “The Lone Star State is a top state for total state funding for secondary Career Technical Education (CTE) programs, totaling $3,099,300,549 in categorical funding in fiscal year (FY) 2022,” says the recently published 2023 edition of “The State of Career Technical Education: An Analysis of State Secondary CTE Funding Models” from Advance CTE.

It’s all part of the state’s “Building a Talent Strong Texas” education plan which includes a goal of at least 60% of the working-age population having a credential beyond a high school diploma by 2030. But the state looks at higher goals. “We put down a marker that we only want to count credentials of value toward our goal of 550,000 degrees, certificates, and other credentials awarded every year,” said Texas Commissioner of Higher Education Harrison Keller in December 2023. “Texas is the first state to condition our goals for higher education on the value of credentials in the state economy.” He shared details: “Right now, multiple institutions are rapidly expanding workforce education programs, from semiconductor education programs at Grayson, Collin, Dallas, and Austin Community Colleges, to industry-led petrochemical and engineering programs at Del Mar and Lamar State Colleges, and of course, the continued growth of high-demand workforce programs through the Texas State Technical Colleges.”

 

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One progressive step in a state with many is a new course sharing pilot program making its debut this spring in coordination with the THECB. Course sharing enables students at one institution to cross-register in online courses at another. Made possible by the passage of House Bill 8 in 2023, the program allows schools to expand inter-institutional networks, partnerships and shared services while offering students a level of institutional flexibility commensurate with the workplace flexibility of today. As described by Commissioner Keller, House Bill 8’s impact goes well beyond that one pilot program and “includes a completely new funding model, where 95% of community colleges’ formula funding is tied directly to student outcomes. It includes new funding to stabilize small and rural-serving colleges, and more than a 125% increase in financial aid for community college students.” It was part of the 88th Texas Legislature’s overall $5 billion investment in higher education over two years.

“Finding unique ways to meet our students’ needs allows us to better serve them and Texoma,” Grayson College President Dr. Jeremy McMillen said in a recent release about the course sharing program. Grayson, located in the fast-growing city of Denison, is one of 10 institutions chosen for the pilot, along with North Central Texas College, another active institution across the TexasEDConnection family. “This program allows Texas Community Colleges to strategically work together in ensuring students have access to the classes they need, when they need them,” said Grayson College Vice President of Instruction Dr. Dava Washburn. “Keeping students on track to credential completion is our priority.”

That’s especially a priority when company projects and growth need to stay on track too: A Texas Workforce Commission release in December announced that employment in the state set new record high levels in each of the previous 26 months and had added 407,100 positions since November 2022, ranking No. 1 in the nation in over-the-year increase of seasonally adjusted nonfarm jobs.

As the projects generating those jobs filter out into communities across the state, whether they are resources for professional certificates or advanced degrees, educational gems await discovery across the TexasEDConnection landscape. Below are some highlights. For more, visit texasedconnection.com:

Pampa Economic Development Corporation (www.pampaedc.com): In November 2023, several colleges in the TexasEDConnection network — North Central Texas College, Victoria College and Clarendon College (which has a center in Pampa) — were among five schools to receive the Recognition of Scaling Excellence (ROSE) award from the Texas Success Center at the November “Talent Strong Texas Pathways Institute: Mapping Pathways to Student Post-Completion Goals” conference. The award recognized the implementation and scaling of the state’s research-based Talent Strong Texas Pathways strategy. Since 2021, Clarendon College has demonstrated the highest growth rate among Texas community colleges for the essential practices relating to Pillar 3 of the strategy, “Keeping Students on Their Pathway.”

Boerne/Kendall County Economic Development Corporation (bkcedc.com): Serving more than 10,000 students, Boerne Independent School District was named the 2019-2020 “Best Small School District in Texas” by HEB Excellence in Education and is ranked in the top 4% of all school districts in the nation. Wayland Baptist University offers courses in Boerne. Among 40 universities and colleges within 50 miles of Boerne is the University of Texas San Antonio (UTSA), 18 miles away.

Bowie, Texas Economic Development Coalition (bowietexasedc.com): The Coalition has joined with North Central Texas College and Texas Workforce Solutions to offer on-site training. There are 58 degree programs at NCTC, including coursework pursued at the $2.9 million Industrial Technology Center that opened in 2018 and is home to Welding, Machining, Industrial Mechanics, HVAC, and Electrical labs.

Brenham Washington County Economic Development (brenhamed.com/) and City of Brenham (cityofbrenham.org): On December 11, 2023, The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) presented the Blinn College District with its 2023 Texas Workforce Solutions All-Star College Award during its 25th annual conference in Houston. Among the reasons: the college’s wide range of technical programs in high-demand fields such as manufacturing, healthcare, information technology, skilled trades and transportation; and Corporate College, which engages with local employers and industry partners to develop and teach curricula that reflects current industry trends and demands.

Among other programs, the Blinn College District is partnering with the National Customs Brokers & Forwarders Association of America (NCBFAA) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Cross-Border Threat Screening and Supply-Chain Defense (CBTS) in a one-semester program directing students toward “high-wage, high-demand careers as customs brokers.”

Blinn offers credit and non-credit welding courses at the A.W. Hodde, Jr. Technical Education Center on the Blinn-Brenham Campus and at the Agriculture and Workforce Education Complex at Texas A&M-RELLIS in Bryan.

 

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Sam Houston State University aims to become as legendary as its namesake in developing the workforce of tomorrow.  

Photo courtesy of Sam Houston State University

 

City of Huntsville (huntsvilletx.gov): Projects worth more than $124 million now underway from the likes of Zinc Point Manufacturing and Elliott Electric, in addition to major spec and government projects, indicate the vibrance of Huntsville, Texas. This city 70 miles north of Houston was not only the home of Texas legend Sam Houston, but today is home to Sam Houston State University. Since she became president of the university in 2020, Alisa White has seen SHSU receive $23 million in pledges and gifts in FY23 and a $32 million state investment from the Texas legislature for the College of Osteopathic Medicine (SHSU-COM). The funding allows medical school tuition to be reduced by more than half.

In her address to launch the academic year in August 2023, President White highlighted new initiatives to embed micro-credentials and stackable credentials into degree plans, noting SHSU is the only school in Texas to have implemented a degree plan for students through EduNav, allowing students to create personalized educational plans based around their life and work demands.

Denison Development Alliance (denisontx.org): Part of the Sherman-Denison metro area that is welcoming around $35 billion in semiconductor and related technology investments in North Texas (see Texas Instruments and Global Wafers), the Alliance aims “to create a highly productive ecosystem for semiconductor manufacturing — everything from production, packaging, supply chains, materials, marketing and product development.” The Alliance’s North Texas Logistics Park to attract companies in support of chip fabrication.

The area’s workforce needs are supported by three colleges and universities, including the Austin College liberal arts campus in Sherman and Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant, Oklahoma, just 30 minutes from Denison. Two-year community college Grayson College’s assets include the Center for Workplace Learning, which delivers more than 220 courses “to students ages 8 to 80.”

Fairfield Economic Development Corporation (www.fairfieldtx.com): Located on I-45 90 miles south of Dallas, the Fairfield ISD has partnered with Texas State Technical College (TSTC) to offer Career & Technical Education (CTE) to high school students. “All high school students in every school in Freestone County now have access to CTE courses with a curriculum from TSTC or Navarro College based on the individual high school program.”

Fairview Economic Development Corporation (fairviewtexasedc.com/): In addition to boasting around 1.5 million workers within a 30-minute drive, more than 70% of citizens hold a bachelor’s degree or higher in this town north of Plano on the outskirts of the DFW metroplex. There are also 30 colleges and universities within a 60-mile radius, including Amberton University, Collin College, Dallas County Community College, Southern Methodist University, UT-Arlington, UT-Dallas, University of North Texas and Texas Christian University.

Gainesville Economic Development Corporation (www.gainesvilletxedc.com/): Originally named Gainesville Junior College, North Central Texas College (NCTC) was officially established May 20, 1924, meaning the oldest continuously operating two-year college in Texas celebrates its centenary this year in this town 60 miles from the metroplex in North Texas. In October 2023, NCTC was awarded $2.8 million over five years to help Hispanic and other low-income students complete college degrees through the Pathways to Completion program, part of the U.S. Department of Education’s Title V Developing Hispanic Serving Institutions (DHSI) grant. Of the 64 colleges and universities across the nation selected for these grants, 15 were from Texas with a total of $26 million awarded to these institutions.

 

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Jarrell Economic Development Corporation (jarrelledc.org): “Workforce Rich and Business Ready” is the slogan of this community on I-35 within 40 minutes of Austin, Killeen and Temple/Belton and within three hours of Dallas/Fort Worth, San Antonio and Houston. Among the workforce resources the community offers is its connection to Workforce Solutions of Central Texas, which in June 2023 received the 2023 Workforce Excellence Award in the Workforce Board category from the Texas Economic Development Council (TEDC).

Marble Falls Economic Development Corporation (www.marblefallseconomy.com): Axios Austin in August reported on a new Economic Innovation Group study that found counties across Central Texas saw the state’s highest increases in income thanks to new migration between 2020 and 2021. Burnet and Llano counties rank at the top statewide with 26.3% and 25.6% increases in income from new residents. Central Texas College and Texas Tech University at Highland Lakes host a collaborative college campus in Marble Falls and Burnet leading to bachelor’s and master’s degrees in selected fields. CTC offers basic first- and second-year community college coursework. TTU-Highland Lakes in Marble Falls is part of the Texas Hill Country University Consortium that offers degrees through several universities at facilities in selected Hill Country Communities. The Frank Fickett Educational Center in Marble Falls houses the Texas Tech University Higher Education Teaching Site at Highland Lakes. Another part of the TTU presence in Hill Country is the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI).

Highland Lakes area career pathways organization Workforce Network Inc. is moving forward with $4.6 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding to develop job training programs in the counties of Burnet, Llano and Blanco in skilled trades, health care and finance/IT.

Rowlett Economic Development Corporation (rowlettonthemove.com): Known as the Eastern Gateway to the DFW Metroplex, fast-growing Rowlett is within easy commuting distance of a number of colleges and universities, but also boasts strong resources within its Garland and Rockwall Independent School Districts (ISDs). The Dr. Gene Burton College & Career Academy, built after passage of a bond in 2015, hosts career and technical programs for high school students and college credit offerings with Collin College and a Texas Tech regional learning site. Garland ISD, one of the largest school districts in Texas with more than 56,000 students, is home to the Gilbreath-Reed Career and Technical Center, with over 100 courses. The district also has specialized magnet programs, “a College for All initiative with a minimum of 12 college credits, associate’s degrees and industry business partners at its high school campuses.”

City of Texarkana (txkusa.org) and TexAmericas Center (texamericascenter.com/): The only city in the nation home to two university systems, the bi-state Texarkana metro area at the Texas-Arkansas state line boasts the presence of a Texas A&M campus and a University of Arkansas campus. The region is as good a place as any to be introduced to the RELLIS Academic Alliance, a University System Center that allows multiple Texas A&M System institutions and agencies — 11 in all, including Texas A&M University-Texarkana as well as the Blinn College District — to offer selective degree and certificate programs in one location. The RELLIS Campus is located in Bryan, Texas, on a 2,000 acre property. 

Adam Bruns
Managing Editor of Site Selection magazine

Adam Bruns

Adam Bruns has served as managing editor of Site Selection magazine since February 2002. In the course of reporting hundreds of stories for Site Selection, Adam has visited companies and communities around the globe. A St. Louis native who grew up in the Kansas City suburbs, Adam is a 1986 alumnus of Knox College, and resided in Chicago; Midcoast Maine; Savannah, Georgia; and Lexington, Kentucky, before settling in the Greater Atlanta community of Peachtree Corners, where he lives with his wife and daughter.

   

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