DRA chair visits Demopolis

Published 12:00 pm Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A crowd approximately two dozen local dignitaries gathered at the Demopolis Higher Education Center Tuesday to greet Delta Regional Authority Chairman Chris Masingill.

The occasion provided community leadership opportunity to give Massengill an informal presentation regarding its proposed expansion of the Demopolis Higher Education Center.

“What we’re looking for affects every business. What we’re looking to build here is a career training facility,” Chuck Smith told the crowd in attendance. “By having Shelton (State Community College) as our post-secondary partner, we now qualify for dual-enrollment. That is big.”

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The proposal would create a career and technical training facility as an expansion of the current DHEC building, a structure made possible by a $1.245 million grant from the Delta Regional Authority.

Smith emphasized the importance of making the project a regional responsibility in order to bring it to fruition.

“We, as a community, as a city, as a region, have to pull together and get on the same page,” he said. “What we’re hoping for here is to take the vision that was started 20 years ago and pick it up and run with it,” Smith said.

The center would allow for current high school students and presumably other individuals to partake in technical training and vocational courses in Demopolis.

“We really believe we can get as many kids interested in the technical side of dual-enrollment as we have the academic side of dual-enrollment,” DHEC Director Angela Mance said. “If we can stop our best and brightest students from picking up and leaving Demopolis, then we’ve really done something.”

According to Smith, the project would call for some $2 million for construction and another $2.5 million for furnishings.

“Brick and mortar is not funded through the state of Alabama,” Smith said. “We have to find support through entities such as the Delta Regional Authority.”

After Smith’s presentation, DRA Chairman Masingill addressed the audience.

“You cannot separate education and economic development,” he said. “Kids have to be career ready just like they have to be college ready.”

Masingill also went on to reiterate Smith’s assessment of the importance regional thinking as it pertains to the proposed project.

“What’s good for Demopolis is good for Linden and what’s good for Linden is good for Livingston,” Masingill said. “You cannot face these challenges without doing it as a region.”

While the event did not serve as a formal application, it did serve to raise the visibility of the project and its potential effectiveness in the eyes of the individuals who can help make it a reality.

“I hope this kind of project hits my desk, because if this project his my desk, I bet we can find some resources,” Masingill told those in attendance.

“It’s a critical step. We have to get our message out,” Smith said of Tuesday’s informal session. “The local Delta Regional Authority has been with us 110 percent. The co-chairman coming in has the potential to be a game changer. Hopefully, we can move forward.”