Livingston Parish eyes community college

Creation of a community college in Livingston Parish would meet a major need in one of the fastest-growing areas of the state, officials said Monday evening.

“We think the time is right,” state Sen. Dale Erdey told a crowd that gathered to discuss the idea. “We’ve got a good shot at this.”

As new medical centers, industries and businesses open in the parish, demand increases for people with college and vocational training, said Erdey, R-Livingston.

Randy Rogers, executive director of the Livingston Economic Development Council, expressed similar comments.

“We’re at a point where we need this facility,” Rogers said.

LEDC has made a $5.2 million capital outlay request to the Legislature to build classrooms, a vocational training facility and added infrastructure on the grounds of the Literacy and Technology Center where proponents want to see the college emerge.

State Rep. J. Rogers Pope said he hopes to see a new community college holding classes at that site in Walker by the spring semester of 2014.

The Republican from Denham Springs said the project has the backing of parish and municipal officials, business people, other community colleges and Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond.

The Livingston Parish School Board, which owns the 40-acre site, supports the project, he said.

Parish Council members Sonya Collins and Ricky Goff said they strongly support the proposal.

“It would definitely fill a void,” said Goff, who represents the Walker area.

Medical centers moving into the area have a need for a community college to provide skilled workers, he said.

So do other industries, said Rogers, who added that LEDC has sought the grant because it sees such a college as “an economic development tool.”

The college could help to provide a workforce with academic and vocational skills, he said.

Existing businesses want to get additional training for their workers, but the drives to community colleges in other parishes are time-consuming, Rogers said.

A Livingston site also could provide specific training that fits the local companies, he said.

Tommy Williams, executive director of governmental affairs for the Louisiana Community and Technical College System, said he hopes to see a Board of Regents study on the needs for such a college in Livingston.

He said the four parishes that surround Livingston all have community colleges.