LHC and OCD award $33 million to improve housing in flood-impacted parishes

Originally posted by Leesville Daily Leader.

Today the Louisiana Housing Corporation (LHC) Board of Directors awarded $30.4 million in Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds to address long-term housing needs in parishes impacted by the 2016 floods. Funding will be used to construct or rehabilitate seven multifamily rental properties. The properties are projected to benefit 825 individuals and families across the state.

Community Development to help revitalize communities devastated by the floods.

“The Great Floods of 2016 damaged more than 28,000 rental units, intensifying an already serious housing crunch for our low-to-moderate income households,” Office of Community Development Executive Director Pat Forbes said. “Louisiana’s resilient recovery depends on strengthening every aspect of our communities, including affordable rental housing. Combining CDBG funds with $37.2 million in Low Income Housing Tax Credits will provide critically needed energy-efficient affordable housing for our hard-pressed low-to-moderate income families. This program replicates the successful piggyback funding model used by the state to build affordable rental housing after hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike.”

LHC and OCD have awarded funds to:

Valencia Park of Spanish Town, Baton Rouge
‒ Target Population: Veterans
‒ Total Development Cost: $21,006,594

CDBG –DR Funds: $5,723,931
‒ 122 Units

Cypress at Gardere Affordable Senior Housing, Baton Rouge
‒ Target Population: Seniors
‒ Total Development Cost: $18,565,353

CDBG –DR Funds: $3,845,000
‒ 99 Units

Sherwood Oaks, Baton Rouge
‒ Target Population: Special Needs
‒ Total Development Cost: $27,689,328

CDBG –DR Funds: $5,989,634
‒ 248 Units

Progress Park, Baton Rouge
‒ Target Population: Seniors
‒ Total Development Cost: $5,537,226

CDBG –DR Funds: $2,638,736
‒ 48 Units

Cypress Pointe RAD, Bogalusa
‒ Target Population: Family
‒ Total Development Cost: $14,868,818

CDBG –DR Funds: $4,579,878
‒ 112 Units

Hammond Eastside, Hammond
‒ Target Population: Veterans
‒ Total Development Cost: $4,904,059

CDBG –DR Funds: $3,090,829
‒ 28 Units

Ardenwood Mixed-Income MF Apartments, Baton Rouge|
‒ Target Population: Family
‒ Total Development Cost: $26,420,079

CDBG –DR Funds: $4,570,309
‒ 168 Units

In partnership with the OCD, nearly $140 million has been made available to rehabilitate rental housing in flood-impacted communities.

New CTEC school coming to EBR Parish

Originally published by BR Proud.

A new school is coming to East Baton Rouge Parish and doors open this fall. 

The Career Technology Education Center, also known as CTEC, will offer students across the district a new educational track for high school studies and post-graduation careers. 

CTEC will help students who are ready to begin their career straight from high school or want to dual enroll in technical college courses. The Education Center will initially offer four main areas of focus with different specializations built into each area of study.

1. Computer Science/Information Technology: cyber engineering, IT programming, IT networking

2. Medical: emergency medical tech, health sciences

3. Manufacturing: operations, instrumentation, automotive

4. Skilled Crafts: HVAC, electrician, drafting, carpentry

CTEC will accept close to 150 students with plans to eventually acept more than 300 students. To learn more about CTEC and to apply to become a student or a teacher visit https://sites.google.com/ebrschools.org/ebrctec.

Ardendale’s Career and Technical Education Center to provide high-demand workforce training to high schoolers

Originally published by Baton Rouge Business Report.

For years, local business and industry leaders have complained they can’t find enough skilled workers to fill positions in their companies and plants. At the same time, many young people complain they can’t find a good-paying job.

The East Baton Rouge Career and Technical Education Center, which opens next fall on the campus of the Ardendale urban village in Melrose East, seeks to address both problems by offering high school juniors and seniors the opportunity to earn a diploma from their regular high school while also receiving workforce training and industry certification in high-demand fields that need skilled workers.

The dual-enrollment facility is a proverbial win-win for the community and promises to put a dent in one of the area’s most pressing challenges. But before it can open next August, as planned, a lot has to happen.

For one, the school’s newly appointed administration needs to recruit dozens of instructors, which could be difficult given the differential between a private sector paycheck and a public school teacher’s salary.

CTEC administrators also have to figure out how to get their incoming students prepared to take courses like computer programming and networking, mechanical instrumentation and commercial plumbing, to name a few. That will require working with the East Baton Rouge Parish School System to make sure existing high schools offer the necessary prerequisites for kids that will attend CTEC, and also setting up temporary boot camps until the district’s schools are up to speed.

“It’s all still a work in progress,” says Summer Dann, a mechanical engineer by training, who was named executive director of CTEC earlier this fall. “There are a lot of logistics to coordinate but we’re really excited about it.”

“In three generations, no one has ever communicated like this and connected the dots. This is a phenomenal program and EBR has been late to the dance. We are happy they have finally been able to make it happen.”

—STEPHEN TOUPS, executive vice president, Turner Industries

The $17 million facility, under construction next to the McKay Automotive Training Center at Ardendale, has been in the works for more than a decade and is the product of a collaborative effort between multiple agencies and organizations led by the Baton Rouge Area Foundation. BRAF first conceived  building Ardendale in the middle of one of Baton Rouge’s most troubled areas in the mid-2000s, with the idea of using the urban village model as a catalyst to spur economic development that would spread organically. The automotive training center and CTEC are key anchors in the model.

“This is the best of a public-private partnership, where the city, the school board, the RDA, BRAF, BRAC and BRCC for over 10 years have worked on a dream to change young people’s lives,” BRAF Executive Vice President John Spain says.

CTEC is modeled after a program in Newnan, Georgia, a small city outside of Atlanta that realized back in the early 2000s it was losing its young people after high school, even while good jobs in the community remain unfilled.

“So they did something that sounds so simple but isn’t—they trained young people for jobs that exist,” Spain says.

CTEC plans to do the same thing. The school will focus on providing job training in four high-demand areas: computer science, skilled crafts, medical and manufacturing. Students enrolled in the school—juniors and seniors—will attend class at their regular high school for half the day, then take classes at CTEC for the other half.

“We will try to map business needs and community needs to student needs,” Dann says.

CTEC will also offer “professionalism” classes that help students learn how to find and apply for internships and jobs.

The school plans to enroll 150 students next fall. Those students will be admitted based on an application and interview process. Dann is currently making the rounds at local high schools, meeting with principals to let them know what CTEC has to offer and to enlist their help in encouraging students who would be a good fit for the school to apply.

Eventually, CTEC will be able to accommodate 300 students on its existing campus, and it has available space on its site to expand.

Before any of that can happen, however, CTEC has to recruit faculty, which Dann says will be a challenge. Though the local business community has been very generous with donating tools and equipment that can be used in CTEC training, Dann wonders how willing experienced professionals and tradesmen will be to give up good-paying positions to teach school.

“One of the reasons we’re doing this is because we have a workforce shortage,” she says. “So the people who are working are well paid and don’t want to give up a good job.”

Dann is hoping to recruit retired workers or those in mid-career who are maybe looking to do something different with their lives.

Another challenge she is working through is figuring out how to get incoming students up to speed so they are ready to take classes that will enable them to be certified as plumbers, electricians, EMTs and certified nursing assistants.

Some EBR high schools already offer the kind of prerequisites CTEC students will need to take. Dann is working with the system to bring those kinds of classes—jobsite safety courses, for instance—to other schools. In the meantime, she plans to create a boot camp or extended orientation program that incoming students can take over the summer before the start of the new school year.

Local industry executives who have long complained about the challenges of hiring skilled workers say CTEC has the potential to transform the local workforce and the economy.

“In three generations, no one has ever communicated like this and connected the dots,” Turner Industries Executive Vice President Stephen Toups says. “This is a phenomenal program and EBR has been late to the dance. We are happy they have finally been able to make it happen.”

New 'piggyback' funding program targets rebuilding of mixed income rentals in flooded parishes

Originally published by The Advocate.

With the capital area's rental housing market still tighter than normal due to the 2016 floods, officials are launching a new program to encourage developers to build affordable apartments in the hardest hit parishes, including East Baton Rouge.

The Piggyback 2018 program is the third major initiative since the flood disaster to use federal funding to subsidize construction of rental units. Approximately 28,000 rental units were damaged during the floods, according to the state's Office of Community Development.

The program — announced Friday by the Louisiana Housing Corporation — works by giving additional loans to those receiving low-income housing tax credits, the primary subsidy with which low-income apartments are built.

The new federal money "piggybacks" on the tax credit program, allowing developers to build mixed income complexes with some apartments that can be rented out at market rates.

To obtain funding, projects have to contain more than half apartments for people making 80 percent or less of the area median income and remain at reduced prices for 35 years. Five percent of all units must be for permanent supportive housing, used by people with very low incomes or chronic health conditions.

The program is attractive to developers because the loans that are offered are long — 35 years — and the interest rates are lower than conventional banks can offer.

The piggyback program is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Community Development Block Grant Disaster Relief Program. Applications will be accepted through March 16.

"We understand, after disasters such as the 2016 flood, everyone is impacted," LHC Executive Director Keith Cunningham said in an interview. "With the use of CDBG funds, we’re able to meet both the low to moderate mission as well as create some market rate components."

The program is expected to result in 500 new affordable housing units, according to a draft document on what state officials project for the program.

Priority will be given based on a number of factors, including whether the project is in one of the most flood damaged parishes and if rents in that parish are high relative to incomes. East Baton Rouge fits in both categories, while Ascension and Livingston fit into the first but not the second.

Cunningham said he expects to receive applications for complexes that would serve both families and elderly people.

Office of Community Development Director Pat Forbes said in a statement that the piggyback program will help resolve the shortage of affordable housing for working households.

“Over 28,000 rental units in Louisiana were damaged in The Great Floods of 2016, worsening what was already a terrible shortage of affordable rental housing from before the floods,” Forbes said in a statement. “Our low-to-moderate income residents and our state need these new, affordable rental units to help drive the long-term recovery from these storms.”

According to documents provided by LHC, 1,804 units in the housing corporation's tax credit-financed portfolio were damaged by the August 2016 floods. Of those, 974 have been repaired.

The new funding opportunity is modeled on a program implemented after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita that expended $600 million to create over 7,000 rental units, including 4,420 with affordable rental rates, according to a 2015 LSU analysis of the earlier program. The housing corporation continues to recycle money from that program, building more housing as loans are repaid.

"We saw ourselves where we could learn from past examples, we could learn from the techniques and the programs that were developed after the last storms we’ve had in the state of Louisiana, dating back to Katrina," Cunningham said.

Stephen Barnes, director of LSU’s economics and policy group, who analyzed the use of CDBG funding after Katrina and Rita for the state and city of New Orleans, said his analysis showed the piggyback program was effective in bringing people back to the most damaged regions.

He said homeowners who flood typically are offered more appropriate incentives to get their lives back on track when compared to those living in rental properties. In addition, rentals are often owned by out-of-state developers able to move their money elsewhere, he said.

“When you think about this whole region being so widely impacted (by the 2016 floods), that even has the potential for really reshaping that community,” he said, noting that owner-occupied homes could come back while rentals disappear.

“That mix of housing is important to really getting the area back on its feet. Having those rental properties is going to be an important part of making sure you have nearby housing for the workforce of that community,” he said.

Though on a smaller scale, Barnes said, the new piggyback program could have similar effects to the post-Katrina one.

"My guess is those dollars will help restore housing that would bring population back into these impacted communities and give them the base of population and housing stock to start moving forward," Barnes said.

He noted that implementation is key, and how the program is administered could affect the outcomes.

Of the money appropriated for the piggyback program, $17.7 million is a re-allocation from the $38.25 million Multifamily Restoration Loan program announced in May.

Mural projects transform buildings all over Baton Rouge

REd Stick Arts.jpg

The largest art gallery in Baton Rouge charges no admission.

The paintings — and there are dozens of them — are splashed across downtown buildings, northside grocery stores and the facades of run-down houses.

Some of these artworks depict iconic personalities like Gov. Huey P. Long in his crisp linen suit, while others capture Mississippi Delta blues musicians or a child curled up in a stand of trees. Still others are whimsical, brightly colored shapes or surrealist visions.

All are bold statements; some downright stop-you-in-your tracks incredible.

“I think people will come to the city to see that,” said Jacob Zumo, a Baton Rouge artist hired by the Fletcher & Roy law firm to paint a mural of basketball great “Pistol” Pete Maravich, jazz legend Louis Armstrong and Gov. Long on the firm’s Government Street office. “It’s awesome. It’s just something people can come to the city and see, landmarks coming up.”

The murals provide a cultural connection to a “vast segment of the population” that “has little if any exposure to art on a daily basis,” said Casey Phillips, executive director of the Walls Project, one of three nonprofit organizations responsible for the surge in public art.

Baton Rouge’s blank walls have attracted mural artists from Europe and New York as well as local artists and teens interested in developing their talents.

“Communities are coming together around the art to contribute to the re-imagining of their city artistically and socially,” Phillips said. “World-class artists are painting alongside children from local neighborhoods and inspiring future generations of artists.”

The mural scene jump-started in 2011 and ’12, when both the Walls Project and the Old South Baton Rouge-based Museum of Public Art both started hiring artists to paint the city.

“Cinq Ombres,” the Walls Project’s first mural produced in 2012, is a grid of colorful squares and parallelograms on Florida Boulevard downtown. Painted by local artists Saliha Staib and Clark Derbes, the Walls Project funded the mural through a Kickstarter campaign, with hundreds of donors contributing more than $30,000.

The Walls’ murals now number 29, and the group has started offering walking and biking tours of its sites.

Outside of downtown, art projects funded by the Museum of Public Art cover old houses and dilapidated concrete and cinder-block walls.

They are eye-catching, vibrant images created by artists from France and Australia. In one, two young boys in tank tops and backward caps string up laundry on a clothes line — a visual like something from an award-winning children’s book. On a large brick building covered with murals, a surrealist party scene plays out. On an old wood-frame shotgun house, a man holds up a match, its flame seeming to set fire to the porch roof.

Kevin Harris, the director of the Museum of Public Art, declined to be interviewed by The Advocate. The museum’s website says: “We believe that Public Art is a force for positive community development in ways conscious and unconscious. How the message is conveyed through imagery, text, and symbolism, effects the soul of the community … instilling a sense of hope, and history, through creative expression which unfortunately in many inner city communities, is stymied and stifled. …

“The inspiration for Public Art comes from the street corner, the barber shop, the basketball court … wherever people are. We are in touch and in tune with the community and strive to create imagery that is relevant to the needs and lives of the people whom we serve with art.”

Community activist Evelyn Ware-Jackson said Harris inspired her to create The Red Stick Project, a series of murals transforming the Melrose East neighborhood nicknamed “Mall City.”

North of Bon Carré, the former Bon Marche Mall, near the intersection of Florida Boulevard and Lobdell Avenue, many of the neighborhood’s streets bear the names of artists — Van Gogh, Titian, Rodin and Cezanne.

“People have lived there for years and never realized they are artists, the most famous artists in history,” Ware-Jackson said.

With local artists and talented students, Ware-Jackson’s project has decorated Melrose East with murals that invoke the paintings of those masters of the art world.

Since 2013 the project has produced 24 murals, including a painting of Vincent Van Gogh’s “Wheat Fields” on the side of a grocery store. Their rendering of Italian painter Titian’s clouds on a laundromat include portraits of neighborhood children who helped create some of the artwork.

“The main thing we wanted to do was mentor young artists,” Ware-Jackson said, “have older artists mentor the younger artists and teach them things about the art and speak some other things into their lives as they were painting.”

Ware-Jackson hopes that the murals help Melrose East dispel its reputation as a high-crime area.

“It’s a calming effect,” she said. “It brings a lot of peace and calm and, of course, the beauty of it is awesome.”


State-of-the-art high school career training center opening next fall

Originally published by Baton Rouge Business Report.

When the new East Baton Rouge Parish Career and Technical Education Center opens on its Ardendale campus next fall, it will enroll some 150 high school students in a state-of-the-art, dual enrollment facility that will enable them to earn a diploma from their regular high school while also receiving workforce training and industry certification in high-demand fields that need skilled workers.

The school, currently under construction next to the McKay Automotive Training Center, has been more than a decade in the works and is the product of a collaborative effort between multiple agencies and organizations.

Officials discussed plans and details for the facility, which promises to be unlike anything Baton Rouge has ever seen, at a luncheon held today by the Foundation for East Baton Rouge School System. 

“This is the best of a public-private partnership, where the city, the school board, the RDA, BRAF, BRAC and BRCC for over 10 years have worked on a dream to change young people’s lives,” said John Spain, BRAF executive vice president. 

It’s hoped the school—a complement to the automotive training center—will lead to additional mixed-use development at the Ardendale urban village. CTEC is modeled after a program in Newnan, Georgia, which realized, years ago, that it was losing young people after high school, even while jobs in that community remain unfilled.

“So they did something that sounds so simple but isn’t—train young people for jobs that exist,” Spain said. 
CTEC plans to do the same thing. The school will focus on job training in four high-demand areas: computer science, skilled crafts, medical and manufacturing. Students enrolled in the school—juniors and seniors—will attend class at their regular high school for half the day, then take classes at CTEC. 

“We will try to map business needs and community needs to student needs,” said Summer Dann, CTEC’s newly named executive director who, herself, is a mechanical engineer. CTEC will also offer “professionalism” classes that help students learn how to find and apply for internships and jobs. 

Though the school will start with 150 students next fall, the facility can accommodate up to 300 students and has room on its campus to expand.

Marketing and recruitment efforts are expected to begin early next year. Dann plans to visit area high schools and their administrators to talk up the program and begin to educate the community. 

Local industry executives, who have long complained about the challenges of hiring skilled workers, say CTEC has the potential to transform the local workforce and the economy.

“In three generations no one has ever communicated like this and connected the dots,” said Turner Industries Executive Vice President Stevie Toups, who attended the luncheon. “If we can get behind this as a community, this is world class stuff.”     

Photo gallery: Inside the McKay Automotive Training Center



2115 North Lobdell Ave.
Photography by Tim Mueller

Owner: Baton Rouge Community College

Architect: BCB Architects (Bani, Carville & Brown)

Contractor: Ratcliff Construction Co.

Cost: $14.7 million

Completed: March 2017

Use: The 83,000-square-foot facility features two fully equipped diesel labs, three industry standard diagnostic/technical labs, six high-tech classroom environments, and a 100-seat auditorium.

FORM FOLLOWS FUNCTION: “The Baton Rouge Community College McKay Automotive Technology Center is the first structure built at the New Ardendale Development. From its early inception, the design team of BCB Architects understood the ATC’s scale and accessibility should accommodate pedestrians for the future residential component of the development while still incorporating the scale and needs of an automotive training facility. The result was a user-friendly street front design with porches along the classrooms, giving the structure a welcoming feel for pedestrian traffic. The rear of the building increases in scale, allowing for more natural light in auto technician labs and access for larger training vehicles.”

—Matthew Daigrepont and Richard Brown, project architects

Baton Rouge Community College’s New Auto Training Center Promises to Help Fill a Local Shortage of Skilled Technicians

Originally published by Baton Rouge Business Report.

Gerry Lane Enterprises President Eric Lane can’t find enough certified auto repair technicians to keep his four Baton Rouge area dealerships fully staffed. And he knows he’s not alone.

“I don’t think there’s a service department in Baton Rouge who doesn’t need more techs,” says Lane, adding he’s currently looking for at least 11 certified technicians.

The need for All Star Automotive Group President and CEO Matt McKay is even greater. He says he would hire 60 technicians today for his company’s 11 area dealerships, if only he could find them. Describing the need as “tremendous,” McKay says dealerships and repair shops all across Louisiana are struggling to find skilled workers.

“You can call any car dealer in the state and ask them if they need technicians,” he says, “and they will say, ‘Yes.’”

“We’re creating a strong entry-level technician. We’re working to supply the demand for now and the future.” —Van Guarino, automotive department chair, Baton Rouge Community College

Lane and McKay are among those hoping the new McKay Automotive Training Center at Baton Rouge Community College—named for John W. McKay Jr., Matt’s late father, who worked for more than 30 years as a teacher, coach and principal in the local school system—will help fill the gap in their industry and make Baton Rouge a destination for auto technician training.

The new 83,000-square-foot center has been a decade in the making and cost roughly $25 million to build. BRCC contributed $19 million, while the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority and BRCC Foundation collectively contributed the other $6 million. A ribbon cutting was held on March 15 to mark completion of the center, for which ground was broken about two years ago.

“We’re creating a strong entry-level technician,” says Van Guarino, the BRCC automotive department chair and a well-known instructor who previously taught at the Livingston Parish Literacy and Technology Center. “We’re working to supply the demand for now and the future.”

Serving as a centerpiece of the Ardendale mixed-use development that’s under development on a 200-acre tract northeast of BRCC near Florida Boulevard, the auto center features two fully equipped diesel labs, three industry standard diagnostic/technical labs, six high-tech classrooms and a 100-seat auditorium. It offers students specialized classroom instruction and practical shop experience to prepare them to fill entry level technician jobs immediately after graduation.

Michael Kenney is among the first class of students. The 35-year-old Baton Rouge resident grew up watching his grandfather fix cars at the old Northside Motor Exchange on Scenic Highway and tinker with them during his free time as a favor for friends. He initially took a much different route, gaining certification as a barber and in the air conditioning/refrigeration field. But when he decided he wanted to change his career path, Kenney remembered his grandfather.

“While you’re working on cars, they’re not talking to you,” he says of the appeal of the auto repair industry.

Kenney and eight other students, including one female, began the two-year program last fall and were followed by another seven students who started this spring. They will all follow one of two degree tracks, either automotive technology or diesel heavy truck technology, both of which lead to an associate degree in applied science. The course catalog for both tracks follows the guidelines set by the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation and mirrors the standards of the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, commonly known as ASE, which allows for the students to become certified in several areas, such as drivetrain and electrical systems, while working toward their degree.


Baton Rouge Community College Chancellor Larrisa Littleton-Steib says total enrollment cost for the two-year degree program at the auto center is about $15,000 per student, or about $30,000 less than other noted automotive training academies in the country.

Total enrollment cost for the program is about $15,000 per student, which BRCC Chancellor Larrisa Littleton-Steib says is about $30,000 less than other noted automotive training academies in the country. Guarino says the center can accommodate about 300 students at max capacity, and has the ability to accept about 50 new students each spring and fall semester. He’s hopeful he can attain 100% job placement for graduates.

Students who pursue the diesel track degree will gain experience in servicing engines that run big rigs and barges. Smaller diesel engines, such as the ones auto manufacturers like Cadillac have announced they will soon place in some of their cars and small trucks, will be covered in the regular automotive track. Lane says the skills garnered from both degree tracks should be in high demand for years to come.

“I see a big increase in diesel coming now that they finally figured a way to have diesel pass the EPA (emissions testing),” he says.

Students start the two-year program by taking basic tool, safety and electrical courses during the first semester, along with general math and social science classes. In the second semester, they continue with their classroom instruction but also begin internships at select dealerships in Baton Rouge, where they learn under mentors three days a week.

“They need somebody to work with who can bring them along,” Lane says of the importance of the internship. “It’s just critical to have a mentor.”

18-year-old Calvin Jarrett, who recently graduated from Southern University Laboratory School and is in his second semester at the auto center, says his internships at All-Star Kia and All-Star Nissan are providing him the kind of real-world training that he can’t get in the classroom.

“During the week we’re reconditioning cars,” Jarrett says, “so you see all makes and models.”

Getting more local students and graduates into his local dealerships is a welcome change for McKay, who for years has been recruiting graduates from the Houston area. And even though he provided them free housing and tools, the retention rate for out-of-state workers ended up being about 20%.

“They wanted to go back home,” McKay says. “If we would have gotten a retention rate at 50%, we would have been happy.”

For decades, Baton Rouge auto dealers have looked to schools like the Universal Technical Institute of Texas in Houston, as well as others in Ohio and Tennessee, to hire technicians from certified training centers.

“Many of the companies were actually receiving their employees outside the area,” Littleton-Steib says. “They were going to other states to recruit.”

Frustration with the situation led local auto industry leaders like McKay to approach BRAF and BRCC about a decade ago to begin discussing potential solutions for future job needs. The new auto center represents a public-private partnership, by which area dealers like McKay have provided state-of-the-art equipment and vehicles.

And though the ribbon cutting was just held earlier this month, the new auto training center is already continuing to grow. A sister facility, the Baton Rouge Community College Collision Center, will be built adjacent to the new center. The 20,000-square-foot facility will feature four labs and four classrooms, and is expected to cost roughly $6.5 million, says BRCC Executive Director of Marketing and Public Relations Kizzy Payton. Ground was recently broken on the collision center, and it should be completed in about a year.

Lane says the painters and body technicians who will eventually graduate from the collision center should also have no trouble finding work in the Baton Rouge area.

“There’s just not as many people going into body repair and paint as it used to be,” he says. “It’s getting really hard to find a good body man and painter.”

Mayor Broome announces City Parish's $11 million disaster recovery plan, public meetings planned

Originally published by BR Proud.

Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome announced details of the $11 million amended disaster recovery plan for the City of Baton Rouge and the Parish of East Baton Rouge Wednesday.

The Mayor also released information regarding public meetings that will be held to solicit input regarding the new plan.

“We believe our new plan better meets the needs of our residents who have been impacted by the flood,” Mayor Broome said.  “We’re excited to share it and get  feedback.”

The money was awarded last year by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) through the Community Development Block Grant funds after the great August 2016 flood.  The flood damaged more than 44,000 structures in the City Parish. The previous administration developed a plan that was approved by the Metro Council, but the plan was amended by Mayor Broome’s team to help leverage the dollars more effectively and efficiently. 

The plan will address homelessness prevention, rental repair, and home ownership.  It will increase funding for rental housing repairs and leverage the state’s homeowner assistance program to serve homeowners who may not otherwise qualify for rebuilding assistance. The new plan also reduces the city parish’s administrative costs so more money can go towards households that need it most.

As part of the rollout, the Office of Community Development (OCD) will host two public meetings. Public input is required before the plan can be finalized and resubmitted to HUD for final approval.

The meetings will be held:

  • March 16 at 5:30 p.m. at the Eden Park Branch Library, 5131 Greenwell Springs Road, in Baton Rouge
  • March 20 at 5:30 p.m. at the Carver Branch Library, 720 Terrace Street, in Baton Rouge

Details of the proposed amendment can be found at www.brgov.com/dept/ocd/announcements.htm. If you can’t make the public meetings, comments can be submitted to the Office of Community Development, P.O. Box 1471, Baton Rouge LA 70821-1471 or emailed to ocd@brgov.com. 

For more information, contact the Office of Community Development at (225) 389-3039.

BRCC's Grand Opening of McKay Automotive Training Center

Originally published by BR Proud.

"BRCC is immensely proud to add The McKay Automotive Training Center to its family of educational sites. The eloquent design of the facility, along with the faculty and degree programs promise to provide the Baton Rouge community with trained and effective future leaders in automotive technology. We look forward to the economic growth and development the ATC will provide to the state, city, and surrounding community," said BRCC Chancellor Dr. Larissa Littleton-Steib. "BRCC is also tremendously grateful to everyone who supported this initiative, including Governor John Bel Edwards, the state legislature, the  McKay Family, the Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority, and the Baton Rouge Area Foundation."

The ATC is an 83,000 square feet state-of-the-art training facility with two fully equipped diesel labs, three industry standard diagnostic/technical labs, six high-tech classroom environments, and a 100-seat auditorium. Located in Ardendale, a 200-acre urban village that mixes homes, offices and education centers in an idyllic setting of parks and ponds, BRCC's $25 million ATC is the centerpiece of the newly-minted area.

"To have this beautiful, state-of-the-art facility bear our father's name is an honor for our entire family," said Matt McKay, President & CEO All Star Automotive Group. "Today brings things full circle. Our father was an educator for 30 years in the East Baton Rouge School System, and his first teaching job was at Melrose Elementary School, right down the street. Now his name will forever hang on the walls here at the Automotive Training Center."

McKay added, "There are a lot of people who made this a reality. I'd like thank both Gov. Bobby Jindal and Gov. John Bel Edwards for the initial and ongoing support of this project, as well as the Louisiana Community and Technical College System, the Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority, the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, and many others. None of this would be possible without each of them - my family and I are truly appreciative."

The purpose of Automotive Technology program is to provide specialized classroom instruction and practical shop experience to prepare individuals to engage in the servicing and maintenance of all types of automobiles at the entry level. The program, which offers two Associate of Applied Science degree options in Automotive Technology and Diesel Heavy Truck Technology, prepares the individual to select, safely use, and maintain hand and power tools, jacks, and hoisting equipment. Instruction in the diagnosis of malfunctions and the repair of engines; fuel, electrical, cooling, and brake systems; drive train; and suspension systems are included. 

"Congratulations to our automotive industry partners, Baton Rouge Community College, and the North Baton Rouge community on the grand opening of a world-class workforce training facility.  Thank you to everyone who played a role in making this facility a reality.  Specifically, I want to thank the Governor, the legislature, the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, the local automotive industry led by the All Start Automotive Group, and the Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority for their support," said LCTCS President Dr. Monty Sullivan.  "This facility represents another public-private partnership, which has been instrumental in our ability to respond to workforce demands. While we celebrate a new facility, today is truly about the students today and for years to come who will gain the skills and knowledge necessary to go to work in the automotive industry and make a living for themselves and their families right here in Baton Rouge."  

 Individuals interested in enrolling in the Automotive Technology Program can visit www.mybrcc.edu or call 225-216-8339.