(RED OAK, Texas) – More than 20 miles separate the city of Ennis from Texas State Technical College’s North Texas campus in Red Oak in Ellis County.
Ennis can count more than 3.6 million workers within a 60-mile radius of the city. This means there is an array of area jobs, from machining to welding, for which people can learn skills at TSTC.
“From a logistical standpoint, we are learning that we are in the center of a lot of these hubs, these major industries and distribution centers and manufacturing centers,” said Marcus Balch, provost of TSTC’s North Texas campus. “I think that is in large part due to the major interstates coming through. There is a major railway that travels very close to the area, both north and south.”
Marty Nelson, Ennis’ city manager and interim economic development director, said new city leadership is signaling a need to build stronger connections with county entities, including TSTC.
“I think it is a resource that brings value to Ellis County,” he said about TSTC
Nelson said the city’s economic development is divided into four categories: downtown, industrial, maintenance and retail. All provide potential opportunities to work with TSTC.
The city recently completed a $9 million infrastructure project in its eight-block downtown that was heavily damaged by a tornado in spring 2013. Part of the work included installing a fiber-optic network operating downtown irrigation, lighting and sound systems.
“We have city-owned facilities in, and in close proximity to our downtown, and each one has become a hub,” said Ennis Mayor Angeline Juenemann. “Those hubs are connected together to create a Wi-Fi mesh network over our downtown.”
Nelson said the city recently signed a deal with Freshpet to build a manufacturing facility employing about 400 people with average wages of $60,000 a year. Buc-ee’s recently opened on Interstate Highway 45, providing about 175 jobs.
“Having a technically skilled workforce gives you a competitive advantage,” he said. “The availability of a workforce – in many cases, a skilled workforce – might be a great determining factor if you go to the next round in a site selection.”
Adrian Castanon, a coordinator in TSTC’s Career Services office, said Ennis Steel Industries Inc. hired in 2019 a North Texas campus graduate of the Computer Aided Drafting and Design Technology program.
Castanon said that earlier spring he was working with an Ennis company specializing in manufacturing paper and printing labels for retail stores because of interest in TSTC’s Industrial Systems – Electrical Specialization program.
The city is projected to have more than 1,000 new homes constructed in the next 18 months, Nelson said.
“It is reverse migration,” Nelson said. “The Metroplex is so dense and commute times are so long. I think people are trying to find places to live so they don’t have to be in all the congestion.”
For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to tstc.edu.