Gov. Bobby Jindal joined Young Memorial Campus school officials, legislators and dignitaries Tuesday for a ribbon-cutting celebrating the school’s expansion.
Also on hand were South Central Louisiana Technical College — Young Memorial Campus Regional Director Jimmy Sawtelle and school system President Joe May to speak on the $6 million addition, which encompasses 23,000 square feet and will serve some of the school’s most productive programs.
Programs to move into the facility include building/office technologies, network specialist and allied health programs as well as student services and the administration, Sawtelle said.
In the coming year, the school is planning to remodel its existing facility to better match the addition due to the expansion project coming in under its $6 million budget.
Jindal said the ribbon cutting was a great day for both Morgan City and the state, which has invested more than $600 million in critical infrastructure for higher education, including $225 million in the Louisiana community and technical college campuses.
“Today is more about our students and the future of our state,” Jindal said. “Today in Louisiana, as across the country, the majority of jobs created in this economy are going to require training beyond high school but short of a four-year college degree. There are many more students who want to continue their education and will do so very well at a community or technical college.
“That is what makes it so important for us to invest in these facilities — to meet the needs of these students.”
Jindal said the state’s commitment to improve community and technical college infrastructure was crucial because the school provided “a critical pipeline” to make sure Louisiana had the necessary skilled work force to fill jobs and help attract new businesses to the state.
Education is a major concern of 70 percent of the large companies looking to move or expand into Louisiana, Jindal said, adding he believed those states with the best work forces will fare the best in the modern economy.
“That is what makes this campus so important,” Jindal said. “One of my first acts in my first year in office was to make a day one guarantee to our community and technical colleges so our students can come and get training to be ready for work.”
Finally, he acknowledged what he called “the most important group” that deserved recognition — the students, faculty and staff.
The faculty and staff have done such a tremendous job year after year, even when they did not have a building that was equal to their efforts, Jindal said.
May said Jindal’s office worked with his system going back four years when Louisiana first began to experience a difficult economic cycle.
“This really is about jobs,” he said. “I can recall in 2008 when the state budget began to get a little shaky. We got an unsolicited call from the governor’s office saying these projects were not at risk and they were important because they were about jobs,” he said. “They were about helping people achieve their goals and objectives and helping business and industries meet their needs.”
With the opening of the new facility in Morgan City, May said he planned to continue system and Young Memorial Campus efforts to meet the needs of students and local businesses.
“Louisiana has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country and, yet, even here in this state, this community, there are people that want jobs but can’t get jobs because they don’t have the skills,” he said. “And right here around us, there are employers that have job openings but don’t have people to fill those jobs. We are about bringing the two together (to meet the needs of both).”
Sawtelle and May honored the man credited with making the campus expansion a reality — Greg Garrett.
Before retiring earlier this summer, he was credited for working diligently over the last decade to plan the expansion and see it through to a reality.
May said, “Greg Garrett retired just a month or so ago after many, many years in this community and in the state. I want to thank Greg Garrett for having the special vision to make this happen because nothing happens without someone having a vision and a goal.”
Sawtelle, who succeeded Garrett as director, said he and the campus “stood on the shoulders” of Garrett for many years and gave credit for the expansion to his mentor.
““I just came in on this parade as it was nearing the finish line,” Sawtelle said. “Mr. Garrett was the one who brought this to fruition.”