ENTERPRISE EDITORIAL: Lamar trucking facility is great news for region – Beaumont Enterprise

You don’t have to be a gear-head to be excited over the news that Lamar State College Port Arthur has nailed down funding for a multimillion-dollar commercial truck-driving test facility. This is one of the most promising business and academic ventures our region has seen in a while. It has considerable potential for the college and the local economy, possibly becoming one of the largest such facilities in the state.

Any way you look at it, this is an impressive project. It could create 1,800 jobs and generate more than $71 million in private investment. If this proposal comes through as expected — and there is no reason to think otherwise — Southeast Texas is going to be an even better place in coming years.

Lamar state college officials have been pursuing this opportunity for months and finally got approved for a $4.3 million federal grant. The grant was partially funded by CARES Act money given to the U.S. Economic Development Administration for projects with a high potential for job creation and economic recovery.

Ben Stafford, dean of workforce development and continued education at LSCPA, said a facility this large could be a game-changer for the region.

“A place of this size totally dedicated to examinations will be a godsend,” Stafford said. “I think this really puts the community on the map in terms of fulfilling a much-needed service.”

Jefferson County commissioners are donating 22 acres of land for the site, a plot near the federal prison complex bordering a Drainage District 7 easement. The county and the drainage district had been considering that site for a drainage project, but the license facility will include two retention ponds to catch displaced rainwater. That’s important to ensure that it will be as flood-proof as possible in coming years. Any buildings constructed there should be raised as much as possible.

The beauty of this project lies in its usefulness; it will churn out commercially licensed truck drivers in an economy that needs them. Already Golden Pass LNG and Sempra LNG, which are creating multibillion-dollar liquid natural gas export facilities in Sabine Pass, have been in contact with the college to get the many drivers they will need for these projects. Truck drivers make about $40,000 per year or more, a good income for workers without a college degree.

About 20 examiners will be able to test truck drivers at the new center, about double that of other large DPS sites. It will feature multiple examination lanes for commercial driver’s licenses, covered testing and practice areas, a new commercial driver training building and a 5,000-square-foot building for classes. The grant will take several months to process, but college officials believe the center could be open by early 2023.

We always encourage our area officials to seek a diversity of new kinds of jobs for a region, and that’s a goal that should always be pursued. But we can still play to our strengths, and a facility like this will blend in well with the region’s industrial hub and location on Interstate 10.

With the local and national economies poised for a rebound when the COVID-19 threat finally recedes, job creators like this will become even more valuable. Everyone connected with this facility should be proud of their work.


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