Technical help Dow donates $1 million to new Westside college

Staff reports
HONORABLE GUIDES...Members of Plaquemine High School's Marine ROTC escorted visitors to the school gym for Dow Chemical's announcement of a $1 million for the new Westside
Community College. Here, after the ceremony, they surround Superintendent P.Edward Cancienne, Jr., one of the featured guests.

Dow Chemical will donate $1 million toward the construction of the new Capital Area Technical College's Westside Campus, the company's largest-ever single donation in Iberville Parish, Site Director Sharon Cole announced at a ceremony last week.

The donation will supplement a $3.45 million state allocation for the facility that will be built next to Plaquemine High School, where students will be able to prepare for after-graduation careers in industrial trades, health care, information technology and business. The million dollars will mean the expansion of the facility from the originally-planned 15,387 square feet to 20,9421 square feet and increasing the facility's potential occupancy from 112 to 168 students at a time.

An architectural drawing of the school was unveiled at the ceremony attended by  students, local officials and business leaders, and Louisiana Community and Technical College System (LCTCS) officials at the PHS gym. School Superintendent P. Edward Cancienne Jr. said the design is not for a pedestrian flat-roofed building, but for a state-of-the-art facility “designed to deliver.”

Construction is scheduled to begin in September, and the college should be open in Fall 2012.

Cole said she hoped the contribution to the would “leave a footprint that will influence the lives of young people for years to come.”

The site director said the school would be instrumental in training the industrial maintenance workforce that local industry would need in years to come, and that Dow would donate both human and other resources to the school.

Dow officials had asked Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso Jr. for a recommendation for its community donation.

“I have so many calls from people looking for employment,” Ourso said. “I realized four or five years ago we have an unskilled labor force...I do not like people coming in and taking our jobs and taking our money out of the parish.”

“This is a tremendous win for Iberville Parish,” said Iberville Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Hank Grace.

Dr. Joe May, LCTCS president, praised Dow as “one of the industries that has put their money where their mouth is.” May said 76  percent of jobs now require training, but only half the state's workforce is getting that training.

Ourso and others praised state Sen. Rob Marionneaux and state Rep. Karen St. Germain for the appropriation of the state funds. He also recognized the Iberville Parish School Board's donation of 10 acres of land next to Plaquemine High as the site for the school. The parish government will build the water and sewerage infrastructure to serve the facility.

The facility could eventually be expanded to house 500 students.