PORT ARTHUR, Texas — An east Texas foundation is helping an area college fund a state-of-the-art CDL facility, hoping to bring more job opportunities to east and Southeast Texans.
In February 2021, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced Lamar State College-Port Arthur would get a $4.3 million Economic Development Administration CARES Act Recovery Assistance grant to fund the construction of a commercial driver education and examination center.
Despite the funding, university officials feared they would be forced to shrink their original plans of building the largest commercial driver’s license training and testing center in Texas due to rising construction costs.
“This was basically going to be a 10-acre earthworks project, and from the time we received the EDA grant and the start of construction, we saw the price of earthwork services increase by 230 percent,” Dr. Ben Stafford, vice president of workforce training at LSC-PA, said.
The rising costs are less of a concern thanks to a generous contribution from the T.L.L Temple Foundation. The foundation is contributing $1.75 million to the project, so LSC-PA can build the state-of-the-art CDL facility in Jefferson County.
“As it was, with the increased cost of construction, we were looking at completing little more than the concrete slab,” Stafford said. “Now, we’ll be able to build classrooms, simulation labs, and canopies so students and instructors can do their work as intended.”
T.L.L Temple Foundation is located in deep east Texas, leaving some to wonder why it would invest in a CDL center located between Beaumont and Port Arthur.
The reason is that the foundation believes their Southeast Texas investment could bring new job opportunities to residents in the deep east.
“There are existing companies that are struggling to fill positions because there simply aren’t enough people with the proper CDL credentials to meet that need,” Stafford said. “That also inhibits growth. If existing companies can’t find drivers, then those looking to create new companies, and new jobs, are even more challenged in filling those roles. Without enough drivers, new companies just can’t get a foothold in growing the economy.”
The foundation commissioned the Rural East Texas Economic Opportunity Analysis and later learned that truck driving is the single-most high-demand, high-wage job across East Texas.
Lamar State College-Port Arthur officials fostered relations with the T.L.L. Temple Foundation during a recent national grant competition. Later conversations led to the discovery of a common interest, and mutual economic reward for their constituents, in creating more opportunities for CDL training and testing.
“Improving the economic standing of the people within its service area meets the goals of the T.L.L. Temple Foundation,” Dr. Stafford said. “They found a partner in that effort in Lamar State College Port Arthur and with that, the college has been able to see through its goals for a first-class CDL training and testing center.”
Once completed, the project will cover more than 20 acres of land in CDL examination lanes, covered testing and practice areas, a new commercial driver training building, a parking lot, and retention ponds.
The construction of the new CDL training and testing center is expected to begin in March 2023 and will be completed by March 2026.