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Joe Straus talks to development group about importance of education

By Jessica Rodrigo
June 19, 2014 at 1:19 a.m.
Updated June 20, 2014 at 1:20 a.m.

Joe Straus, speaker of the Texas House, was the featured guest Thursday at the semiannual membership meeting of the Victoria Economic Development Corp.

If you go

WHAT: Victoria Partnership meetings

WHEN: 7:30 a.m. every Tuesday

WHERE: 700 Main Street, Suite 204

More information: Call the VEDC at 361-485-3190 or email vedc@victoriaedc.com.

The speaker of the Texas House made a stop Thursday afternoon at the Victoria Country Club. Not for a round of golf but instead to talk about the state of economic development in Texas and Victoria.

Joe Straus spoke to members of the Victoria Economic Development Corp., city officials and representatives Geanie Morrison and Todd Hunter as the featured speaker for the organization's semiannual membership meeting.

"What is happening here looks like what is happening in all of Texas," he said. "Victoria is a perfect example of the energy revolution."

However, the increasing activity from Eagle Ford Shale, Caterpillar and other industries in the area are taking a toll on the state's infrastructure, which he said is something taxpayers will need to monitor as the Legislature continues to talk about budgets and revenue sources.

The growing population in Texas is also a reflection of the positive increase in available jobs produced by those industries, he said.

"We have to focus on the fundamentals," Straus said. "That includes education, higher education, infrastructure and resources."

Building a strong workforce to fill those positions is one way to foster that growth, he said.

Changes to the state's education system are helping to provide a well-trained workforce, said Carole Kolle, Workforce Solutions Golden Crescent director.To build a pool of potential employees for area industries, she said, students have to start preparing to enter the workforce while they're in school.

"What we're trying to do is educate students on what they need to know early on," she said. "We help them to research the basic skills they need to work in those fields."

House Bill 5, which was approved by the State Board of Education in January, has been a big proponent of educating people who will fill those positions, she said. With assistance from HB5, she said, students can learn about their desired fields, graduate from high school with the right skills and possibly go straight to work. Not every student will attend college, Kolle said.

Retention is important, she said, and preparing the workforce here rather than sending them to school elsewhere will help in the long run.

"They can find a job here and find a self-sustaining job to provide for their families here," she said.

The changes made by the Texas Legislature to the education system can also provide options through career pathways for young people, said Dale Fowler, Victoria Economic Development Corp. president.

He said Straus' views on education and infrastructure are important to continue growing this region.

"Industry needs to be able to move commerce, whether it be by the port or the highway systems," he said.

During the meeting, Fowler announced that VEDC has been working on several new projects to bring more development to Victoria. One of the new projects included the group's new website, which lists available sites and properties for commercial, industrial and office uses.

"We don't expect to get every one," Fowler said. "We can get good companies to think about coming here. But after we get them here, we depend on the community to keep them here."

The upcoming elections will change the political landscape, Straus said, and business owners and community leaders need to vote to make sure the government is working for them.

"Victoria is a good example of what many communities need to focus on," he said.

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