Northwest Louisiana Technical College hosted its friends Friday afternoon for a grand opening ceremony where students, faculty, education leaders, elected officials and supporters gathered to celebrate the finished product of many years' work at 9500 Industrial Drive.
"Welcome to the 21st century edition of Northwest Louisiana Technical College," said Charles Strong, Regional Director for the college system. "If the measure of a college has anything to do with its friends, Northwest is truly blessed."
Strong opened the ceremony attended by more than 500 guests.
He offered thanks to many entities including Camp Minden, David Wade Correctional Facility, chambers of commerce, area businesses and other institutions of education.
Strong said construction of a third building on the new campus has already begun.
"We have had quadrupled or quintupled enrollment in the system in recent years due to the board of Louisiana High Education and our government," he told the audience. "In 2007, we met with former Representative Jean Doerge and Senator Robert Adley to talk about a new Minden campus.
"The legislation passed both houses unanimously and was signed by Governor Blanco," Strong continued. "Gov. Bobby Jindal has signed the legislation that will secure the second wave of funding. That is half a billion dollars invested in work force training because of the commitments made by Mrs. Doerge, Sen. Adley and governors Blanco and Jindal."
Strong continued his sentiments of appreciation by thanking the design firm Yeager and Watson, construction contractor Walker Construction and project manager CSRS.
"God blessed us with this team, and they have gone above and beyond in what their contracts required of them," Strong said, noting the property the school sits on was also made possible through individuals who did more than was expected.
"The Carey/Mealey family was joined by the Hastey family in making the securement of the property possible," Strong said. "Because of their generosity, we have room to expand for the next 50 years.
"Through the efforts of all our supporters, tens of thousands of students have been led to securing employment, higher pay scales and a higher standard of living," he continued. "Without our students, there is no college. The relationship we have among students, educational institutions, businesses, entities and organizations is one that will never be taken for granted."
Gov. Jindal spoke to the crowd about the importance of the relationships of which Strong spoke.
"It is the right thing to do – to invest in our colleges," he said. "I am committed to ending the trend of sending our sons and daughters to other states.
"I am proud to say in the past five years more people have moved into the state than out of it," he continued. "The next generation of families should not have to move to Dallas or Atlanta to pursue their dreams."
Jindal reminded the crowd of one of his mantras concerning education.
"Not every kid needs to or wants to go to a four-year college," he said. "Placing an emphasis on community and technical colleges, students will finally have facilities to allow them to fulfill their hopes and dreams."
Adley, who was praised by every speaker for his persistent work in securing the new NWLTC home, said he felt honored to be a part of the process.
"In my 40 years as a public servant, I know that you rarely have an opportunity to do something that is a true game changer," he said. "I remember talking with Strong shortly after I was elected and I gave him my word he would get this school.
"My aide was shocked and asked me why I made a promise like that," Adley continued. "I gave my word because there are just some things that need to be supported – things that need to happen."
Adley's support of technical education is rooted in statistics.
"Out of 100 kids entering ninth grade, 20 will get a college degree, five more will attend some college," Adley explained. "That leaves us with 75 kids out of 100 who need an opportunity. By placing an emphasis on technical colleges, we are meeting the needs of three-fourths of the population."
Strong said everyone is elated to be at the new campus and believes students are part of the ground swell that is already suggesting a push to expand the college.
"This property will allow us to fit the needs of the student population and education needs for years to come," he said. "For several years there has been a growing awareness of the importance of technical education, as it leads to employment, which is what we are all about. We are workforce development."