BRCC unveils new campus in Plaquemine

Advocate staff photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND -- Guests socialize after a ribbon cutting for Baton Rouge Community College's Westside campus on Thursday in Plaquemine.  The new campus will start classes in October.
Advocate staff photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND -- Guests socialize after a ribbon cutting for Baton Rouge Community College's Westside campus on Thursday in Plaquemine. The new campus will start classes in October.

PLAQUEMINE Baton Rouge Community College unveiled to the public Thursday its new $3.5 million Westside Campus — a 15,547-square-foot facility that boasts four classrooms, two industrial shops, a health science skills lab and a training room.

The facility, at 25250 Tenant Road in Plaquemine, has become BRCC’s seventh campus extension apart from its main campus in Baton Rouge.

“This campus is really going to increase our service area, in terms of physical buildings, and provides an opportunity for us … to be competitive and increase our course offerings, particularly in career and technical disciplines,” BRCC Chancellor Andrea Lewis Miller said Thursday.

BRCC’s Westside Campus is now offering LPN, medical assistant and certified nursing assistant classes as well as millwright, pipefitting, electrical and instrumentation courses. Welding classes will be taught in partnership with Plaquemine High School.

Lewis said classes kicked off at the Westside Campus on Aug. 26, with more than 100 students now enrolled in the credit and noncredit classes the facility offers.

“Our vision for Plaquemine is to increase course and program offerings to make sure we are meeting the workforce needs for the area,” she said.

Curt Eysink, executive director for the Louisiana Workforce Commission, said the Westside campus will put its students on a career track for local industries such as Dow Chemical Co., which donated $1 million toward the campus’ construction.

“People will leave here making $15 to $20 an hour,” Eysink said during a news conference Thursday at the facility. “This is really a great example of what we’d like to see statewide.”

The road to the project’s completion wasn’t easy.

Construction on the campus was originally scheduled to kick off in September 2011 but was delayed until March 2012 due to a series of unforeseen setbacks. Construction of the facility finally wrapped up in June, officials said.

It was originally slated to be called the Capital Area Technical College Westside Campus and serve as the new home of the CATC’s campus in Plaquemine after its current campus was heavily damaged during Hurricane Gustav in 2008.

The facility’s name changed after BRCC and CATC merged in July.

CATC Regional Director Kay McDaniel called the facility’s grand opening on Thursday a sweet ending.

“The construction of this campus had so many obstacles and challenges but that makes being here today so much sweeter because we worked so hard to get here,” McDaniel said.

He said the merger with BRCC provides more resources for the campus to do a better job.