Statement of Support for The Aransas County Workforce Center

The road to recovery continues as Aransas County moves forward with efforts to revitalize the economy in our community. The community suffered greatly from Hurricane Harvey in August 2017. And then, almost two years ago, the coronavirus pandemic hit, further impacting our economy so dependent on the tourism industry and a workforce that supports it.

The need for a workforce development center and economic diversification was first identified in the community-wide adopted Economic Development Action Plan, as well as the Long-Term Recovery Plan.

Subsequent to these initiatives, the Texas A&M Coastal Bend Business Innovation Center, College of Business at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and IC2 of the University of Texas at Austin conducted a series of community meetings, focus groups, and interviews as part of their “Communities as a Start-Up” initiative.

One of outcomes of this initiative was a recommendation to develop a workforce development and entrepreneurship center with a “TEAM” concept (technology, entrepreneurship, arts, and maker space).

After years of effort, the Aransas County Workforce Development Center has become a reality. On October 7, 2021, Aransas County, the Aransas County Partnership Economic Development Corporation, Del Mar College, the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration, and other local government, business, and education leaders – announced the establishment of the Aransas County Workforce Development Center at the former ACISD Little Bay campus, which is where the Workforce Development Center will be located.

Aransas County and Del Mar College will oversee renovations made to the building, which were made possible by an EDA grant. It is expected that the renovations will be completed by the end of 2022, and the Center will start training and classes at that time.

Rockport Pilot Story — detailed discussion of the history of the Center.

A variety of training programs will be available. Programs will change over time based upon industry need and community priorities. Initial programs include, but are not limited to: industrial technology and construction trades, small business and technology training, health science and allied health, public safety, merchant marine, geospatial technology (drones), and more.

Classes will be offered as continuing education, dual credit (for ACISD students), certifications, and college credit. Apprenticeships and internships will also be available. Classes will be designed for any and all residents in the community and surrounding area, whether in high school, post high school, mid-career, or retired.

The intent is to train and build a sustainable workforce based on essential jobs, imperative work skills sustainability, entrepreneurial ventures, and career resilience.

The facility is owned by Aransas County and will be leased to Del Mar College. Del Mar College will be responsible for all operations and operational expenses for programs and courses. Training costs are paid for by tuition and fees and industry/business scholarships. The Workforce Development Center represents an extension and expansion of the relationship already established between ACISD and Del Mar College.

The facility is located in the Del Mar College service area, but is not in the Del Mar tax district (and cannot be without petition and election by Aransas County residents). In other words, Aransas County taxpayers will not assume any financial risk in connection with the operation of the Workforce Training Center.

Rockport Pilot article — detailed discussion of the operations of new Center.

We would be remiss not to mention the significant role that Rockport native Lenora Keas, who is the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Del Mar College, played in making the Workforce Development Center a reality.

Without her expertise, commitment to our community, and unwavering support, the Center may not have come to pass.

Lenora (Irwin) Keas grew up in Aransas County, attended ACISD schools, and her family members were long time stakeholders here. Her parents developed Palm Harbor, one of the canal front subdivisions in the Coastal Bend. Her entire family was involved in the community in many ways, not only in real estate development, but also serving others in organizations such as the Rockport Rotary Club, the Aransas County Historical Society, the Rockport-Fulton Chamber of Commerce, and First Methodist Church, to name a few. Her father, Raulie Irwin, Sr., was an Aransas County Commissioner.

The Aransas County Workforce Development Center will be operated as part of the Continuing Education Department of Del Mar College, under Dr. Leonard Rivera.

Click here to view the Continuing Education Programs

Dr. Rivera and his staff have developed Virtual Tours of the new Center. Please scroll down to see the videos.

Aransas County Judge Burt Mills was and is an ardent advocate and supporter of the establishment of the new Workforce Development Center.

One of Judge Mills’ campaign promises is to open the new Workforce Development Center and continue his support of its successful operation in partnership with Del Mar College.

The ACVF has endorsed Judge Mills in the upcoming Republican Party Primary because of his experienced leadership in all aspects of the County government’s business and activities and his proven track record of success for the benefit of the community. The new Workforce Development Center is yet another example of his accomplishments benefitting the citizens of Aransas County.

Click here to read the ACVF endorsement of Judge Mills and Carolyn Smith