Q: What are you asking me to sign?

You are being asked to sign a petition showing you support an election to vote on a new community college district in Brazos County. This college district could allow for either a partnership with other technical workforce providers, creation of a new college, or a change in governance or control of existing Blinn College operations in Brazos County.

Q: What does it mean?

We are gathering signatures so that the Brazos County Commissioners Court can call an election for the citizens to vote on creating a new community college district. It is one step in the process of Brazos County directing and developing the necessary community college and workforce programs that reside in Brazos County.

A new college district doesn’t necessarily mean a new college. It means we’ll be prepared with the resources and structure in place to partner, acquire, attract or create the workforce and community college programs that meet Brazos County’s needs.

If 10 percent of registered voters sign the petition, we can vote on creating the district.

Q: Why was this started?

There is currently a lack of workforce development programs in Brazos County. We have excellent opportunities in higher education, but there is a gap between the workforce that our employers need, and what the region is producing to meet that need. Business and community leaders formed a committee to explore options about what we can do to fill this gap.

We may be able to expand existing options or create partnerships, but to address all options, the committee began the legal process for establishing a new community college. This petition is the next necessary legal step, and the signatures must be presented to the Higher Education Coordinating Board in January.

Q: So what is my obligation if I sign this?

You are simply supporting an election on this issue; you are not indicating how you will vote on the measure.

Q: Will this raise my taxes?

This petition only gives the Brazos County Commissioners Court the authority to call an election on establishing a community college district. The full details will be disclosed prior to that election so the voters can make a fully informed choice.

Q: What does $0.50 on the $100.00 valuation mean?

The State requires the petition to read the maximum tax rate allowed by law, which is $0.50 on the $100.00 valuation of property.  Approval of any tax rate or tax increase, which we anticipate being 1-2 cents per 100 dollar valuation, or $15 dollars a year on a $150,000 valued home, would ultimately be decided at a future election with the proposed tax rate known in advance.

Q: What is the Brazos Talent Initiative?

The Brazos Talent Initiative is a product of the Research Valley Partnership, a public-private economic development corporate serving the citizens of Brazos County, Texas. In June, 2016, the Partnership formed a Talent Pipeline Initiative Steering Committee to rapidly expand career and technical training workforce development in Brazos County. We renamed the initiative the Brazos Talent Initiative to more accurately reflect our goals.

Q: How do you plan to expand workforce development?

Between June and October, 2016, we have managed a detailed fact-finding process to explore solutions for workforce development. These activities included commissioning a study by the Perryman Group regarding current and future workforce demands of the market, polling Brazos County registered voters for their views on this subject, and directly engaging educational service providers. We also issued a Request for Proposals to Blinn College, Texas State Technical College, and Texas Engineering Extension Service, seeking their response on a comprehensive plan, resources and timeline.

The fact is that there are deficiencies in current course offerings for career and technical training, and few, if any, workforce programs offered by private industry in the area. If we don’t do something to change that, we are inhibiting our economic growth.

Q: So you want to create a new community college?

It’s important to note that we are not creating a second community college; we are evaluating the options that would allow Brazos County management and control of the workforce and community college programs that reside in Brazos County.

The Brazos Talent Initiative allows us to partner with Blinn, acquire existing facilities, or create a new, separate community college and workforce training program.

BTI’s obligation is to explore the legalities of solutions to address our initiative through multiple scenarios to expand educational services. To keep all options available, we filed a Letter of Intent with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board on October 19, 2016, seeking to form a new community college tax district based in Brazos County. This was necessary to satisfy the Board’s procedural requirements to keep this option available. Our next step is to gather signatures on a petition that would allow us to hold an election and let the voters decide. We must then present the petition at the Board’s January 2017 meeting.

Each of these steps is necessary to keep all our options open; we will continue our fact finding and due diligence in considering all options through December 15, 2016.

Q: How many signatures do you need?

The law requires us to procure signatures of 10 percent of registered voters.

Q: Why do we need another community college when Blinn is doing an excellent job?

The question actually is, “why do we need to expand our career and technical training?” And the answer is so that this region does not unintentionally inhibit its economic development. Brazos County and surrounding areas are changing rapidly — economically and demographically — demanding a workforce to meet employment demands for highly technical skills.

A new community college is just one of the options — but not the only option — to meeting the career and technical needs in Brazos County.

Q: The Research Valley has excellent institutions of higher education. Why should we put an additional burden on the region’s taxpayers?

This is a fact-finding process with no pre-determined outcomes. A new community college is an option – not a conclusion. To remove it as an option would be a disservice to the region in not considering all opportunities to meet career and technical needs. To eliminate any viable option could inhibit our economic development.

We will be consistently communicating to the public as this fact-finding process unfolds.

Q: Why was the steering committee formed?

Brazos County is rapidly changing, both economically and demographically, demanding a workforce to meet employment demands for highly technical skills. We formed the Brazos Talent Initiative to begin a fact-finding process that will lead to more discussions on viable options designed to meet these needs, including working with Blinn on additional programs or degree options. The Initiative’s purpose is to work to meet current and future workforce development needs of Brazos County and this region.

Q: Who are the members of BTI?

Andrew Nelson (Co-Chair), Blake Tiepel, Bobby Gutierrez (Secretary), David Reynolds, Dennis Geohring, Irma Cauley, Ivan Olson (Co-Chair), Jason Bienski, John Nichols, Karen Ferguson, Karl Mooney, Kenny Mallard, Michael Parks, Michael Shaefffer, Mike Martindale, Milton Radke, Peter Hugill, Sid Backstrom, Stephanie Sale and Tim Rocka. All of our members are committed to gaining and using facts to support recommendations on options that can fill career and technical trade gaps in our market.

Q: How long ago was this Committee, or BTI, formed?

Noting the changing demographics of our region and anticipated workforce demand, the Brazos Talent Initiative has been reviewing potential options for more than 6 months, requesting partnership and collaboration with existing post-secondary institutions as part of the ongoing fact-finding process. Our feasibility study will arm us with additional information necessary to formulate recommendations that will rapidly expand career and technical infrastructure and programs in Brazos County, giving us the highly skilled and technical workforce we will need in the future.

Q: So it sounds like what you’re proposing is a trade and technical school (vocational)?

We’re not far along enough in the process to propose anything yet. What we do know is that due to our rapidly changing demographics and economic needs, Brazos County and the surrounding area needs high-paying, high-quality scientific, technical and trade occupations undergirded by strong math and communications basics.

We also know there are some deficiencies in current course offerings for career and technical training, and few, if any, workforce programs offered by private industry in the area.

A new community college could be a way to address that, but we are not prepared to recommend it as the only way.

Q: Why did you send the letter to the higher ed board if you’re not recommending a community college?

In order to keep all of our options open, including a community college, we needed to follow the rules of law that would allow us to pursue that option. It’s a preparation step but should not be construed as pointing to a final determination or outcome.

Q: Why is another community college important to our area?

If the Brazos Talent Initiative emerges from this process believing a new community college is the best way to meet the high demand for workforce training, it will be to ensure that current and future job growth is not jeopardized in Brazos County and surrounding area. However, we have not yet reached that conclusion and have no expectations on what the fact-finding process will uncover. Our purpose is to rapidly expand career and technical infrastructure and programs in Brazos County, and we have requested to partner and collaborate with existing post-secondary institutions to explore all options.

Q: I heard on the news that Blinn College believes it can meet both current and future needs in our area.

Blinn College is an excellent institution and an important community partner, which is why our Initiative coalition invited them to expand and enhance their workforce programs to meet the growing and changing needs of our community.

The Brazos Talent Initiative is still in the fact-finding stage in recommending what will develop the highly skilled and technical workforce for high-paying, high-quality scientific, technical and trade occupations undergirded by strong math and communications foundations. A new community college to satisfy the career and technical side of community college activities, complementing the excellent education and coursework Blinn currently offers, is one of the options on the table – but not the only option.

We look forward to continued discussions with Blinn.

Q: I’d like to stay informed of this process. What’s the best way to receive information?

We have set up a website that will be continuously developed throughout this process, www.brazostalentinitiative.org. You can also contact Hayden Paul at hpaul@researchvalley.org, or by calling (979) 260-1755.