Sign unveiling marks property for new Education Center

By: Mary Drennon Email
By: Mary Drennon Email

(Waco) — Educational opportunities are increasing for residents of East Williamson County as of April 23, with the unveiling of a new sign for the East Williamson County Higher Education Center (EWCHEC). The sign is located near the approximately 70 acres of land at the corner of South Loop 79 and Rio Grande Road in Taylor, which will be “home” for the new Higher Education Center.

A collaborative project of multiple entities, the East Williamson County Higher Education Center, approved by the state in the 80th Texas legislature (HB 2074) with Temple College as the lead institute, will provide a portfolio of educational and workforce opportunities for the citizens of rural East Williamson County in a multi-institutional setting.

Such a setting will provide greater access and more opportunities for success in higher education through strategic partnerships with area school districts, the Texas Bioscience Institute, Temple College, Texas State Technical College Waco and other public or private colleges and university partners currently in negotiations with the Center.

Funding for the project — $6 million for Phase I — was secured by bonds based on the partners’ involvement in and commitment to EWCHEC, each of which has pledged to contribute $100,000 annually for the center.

The build out master plan of the main building in Phase I includes classroom space, an automotive lab, administrative space and associated community space; initial plans call for the space to be roughly 25,000 square feet, said Project Manager Casey Sledge of Sledge Engineering LLC.

“We’re so early in the project that there are many unknowns,” Sledge said.

Despite the unknowns, EWCHEC Executive Director Dr. Chuck McCarter is excited about the project.

“This has been a fantastic example of how a community works together for the good of higher education,” said McCarter. “We’re so proud of the communities that have stepped up and contributed.”

Continued McCarter: “This is a regional concept. It involves both Hutto and Taylor, as well as smaller surrounding communities of East Williamson County, which haves long supported education at Temple College Taylor Center.”

And, it’s all been done without tax money, he said.

It’s not so surprising, then, that the Education Center won a 2008 Workforce Best Practices Award from the Texas Economic Development Council, recognizing its collaborative community partnerships and innovation in education.

“We think that should open avenues for grants and other monies,” said McCarter.

They plan to approach the 81st Legislature in the spring of 2009 to seek funding for Phase II.

Funding for the land, which EWCHEC closed on April 15, came from Temple College at Taylor Foundation, securing a note from Franklin Bank, who also sponsored the sign ceremony. The land previously belonged for generations to the Debus family, which was happy to see it go for such a worthy cause.

Construction is expected to start soon, as classes are currently slated to begin in the fall of 2009.

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