Construction has yet to begin on the Gulf Coast Growth Ventures plastics and ethylene production plant in Gregory-Portland, but work is well underway to build the facility’s future workforce.
A $100,000 donation from Gulf Coast Growth Ventures in late August is helping expand industrial and technical programs through Del Mar College at seven school districts in San Patricio County. At Ingleside High School, students can enroll in instrumentation classes or welding classes that are part of a dual-credit program through the College.
Zoey Cappleman, a junior at Ingleside High School, is already few weeks into her first instrumentation class.
“I always thought it was like really cool,” Cappleman said. “You get to run stuff, and you get to control huge motors with just a little bitty box.”
Ingleside High School and other participating schools bring in instructors from Del Mar College. Professors, like George Lister, prepare students for what could be a high-paying career.
“This isn’t just a job, this is a career path,” Lister said. “This is job skills that will carry them throughout the rest of their lives.”
Del Mar College and instructors like Lister are filling the growing need for well-trained and local industrial workers. Gulf Coast Growth Ventures plans to bring in about 600 permanent jobs when the plant opens.
Jacob McAlister, the manufacturing manager for Gulf Coast Growth Ventures believe the partnership between them, Del Mar College and San Patricio County Schools will ensure that many of the new hires are local.
“We’re looking to be a part of the community, to impact the community in a positive way,” McAlister said. “And one way to do that is to offer really great jobs to local folks.”
With average salaries of about $90,000 a year, these classes are a win-win for students like Zoey: a high-paying job close to home.
“I want hands-on, like I don’t want to just sit in the office or anything,” Cappleman said. “It’d be exciting to be in there [the plant] with it while it’s happening.”
McAlister also says the plant has already hired 150 people. 80% of the new hires are from the area.
Gulf Coast Growth Ventures hope to have the plant in operations by 2021. Plant officials are still waiting on the air permit. If all goes as planned, that could happen next year. After that, construction of the plant would kick into high gear.