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Governor: Community college will help keep students in state

LAUREN WOOD | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Central Louisiana Technical Community College Ferriday campus Dean Mignonne Ater, center right, Louisiana State Senator Francis Thompson, center left, and other officials cut the ribbon for the CLTCC campus Tuesday afternoon in Ferriday.

FERRIDAY — The official opening of the Central Louisiana Technical Community College is a solid first step in the attempt to the stem the tide of Louisiana’s young people leaving for school and not returning.

LAUREN WOOD | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Gov. Bobby Jindal speaks to the crowd gathered Tuesday afternoon for the ribbon cutting ceremony of the Central Louisiana Technical Community College in Ferriday.

That’s the message that Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal brought to the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the $5.2 million project at the CLTCC campus Tuesday. Work on the school included a 11,500-square foot addition and an overhaul of the existing 10,900-square foot building. The CLTCC was formerly Louisiana Technical College-Shelby M. Jackson Campus.

The expansion coincides with the school’s July announcement that it, along with six other branches of the Louisiana Technical College, would be expanding from a purely technical school to a community college.

“It is really great to have bricks and mortar, but this is not about bricks and mortar, this is really about our state,” Jindal said. “This helps students pursue their dreams (here) rather than exporting them (to other states).”

Unlike many states, in the last four years Louisiana has experienced job growth, and Jindal said in the plan for the state to continue creating jobs and keep people from leaving, education is central.

Almost 70 percent of companies that choose to locate in Louisiana express concern about finding skilled workers, he said.

“Four-year schools are great,” Jindal said. “But the majority of jobs created in today’s economy require something more beyond high school but less than a four-year degree.”

And that’s why the state has taken such an interest in expanding community and technical college education, the governor said.

“Now we are giving the faculty and staff and students the facilities they need in order to work to learn and get the training they need,” Jindal said.

The chairman of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System’s Board of Supervisors Michael Murphy said he could remember working at the former technical college school campus near Ferriday High School, and he remembered driving around in 1974 looking for new locations.

The new addition and renovated older space are something to appreciate, Murphy said.

“Look at what we have today,” he said. “What a wonderful, wonderful day.”

Campus Dean Mignonne Ater said the college would not be able to accomplish everything it has without the support of the legislature, local businesses and the community at large.

“Today is more than a ribbon-cutting ceremony,” she said. “It is a celebration of 60 years of work.”

Ater also thanked the school’s students and staff for their patience with the construction.