LSCO becomes example of local economic boom
Last updated 4/18/2023 at 8:38pm
Lamar State College Orange is the leading example of how industrial growth in the county is leading to building expansions to accommodate the influx of newcomers and the need for trained workers.
Wednesday morning at 10, LSCO will have a ground-breaking ceremony for the new construction of a 55,000 square foot academic building. The two story brick building with wide windows will cost about $38.1 million.
In addition, LSCO is opening its first satellite campus outside of Orange County. The college, under President Dr. Tom Johnson, has purchased a 3,000 square foot on Main Street in Lumberton, which is in Hardin County.
The building is being renovated with classes expected to be held there by Spring 2024.
The growth is coming after the official announcement late last year that the Chevron Phillips had chosen Orange as the site for its new $8.5 billion petrochemical plant. The construction of the Golden Triangle Polymers Plant off Highway 87 South is expected to create up to 4,500 construction jobs and 500 permanent jobs.
At the ground-breaking ceremony in March for the new plant, Chevron Phillips announced a $1.3 million grant to LSCO to buy professional-grade equipment to train process operators and instrument technicians for the petrochemical industry.
According to Dr. Johnson, president of LSCO, the college has drawn more students in recent years and a study showed more than 10 percent were coming from the Lumberton area in Hardin County. Opening a satellite center will make it easier for Hardin County residents to go to LSCO classes.
Dr. Johnson has also been touting the cuts in tuition the Texas Legislature has approved for LSCO, along with the number of scholarships available for students of all ages.
Last week, Dr. Johnson was Vidor ISD Superintendent Dr. Jay Killgo and the Lamar University president to announce a program to help Vidor school paraprofessionals get an education to become a certified teacher. Teachers will be needed as workers come to the area with their families for the new jobs.
The new academic building will be replacing the original building the college used in downtown Orange nearly 50 years ago after starting in a World War II-era elementary school. That original building was once a bowling alley and had a few sloping hallways.
The new building will on Fourth Street and the Gatemouth Brown Plaza LSCO opened in 2022, and take up the south block of Green Avenue between Fourth and Fifth Streets. Part of the block was the old Orange National Bank neo-Greek designed building that was demolished in the 1970s for a modern multi-storied mirrored glass building. Through the years, the band went through a variety of owners and was a Capital One bank before closing a decade ago. It was vacant for several years before LSCO acquired the land and began demolishing the building two years ago.
The new academic building will have lecture classrooms, computer classrooms, science laboratories, student gathering places, and faculty rooms.
The state-supported college under Dr. Johnson has worked to help train people to meet the needs of the population and jobs across Southeast Texas. Those jobs include the fields of nursing, pharmacists, and medical technology, along with jobs in the petrochemical industry. The school has even developed a bus-driving course to help school districts get drivers.