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Land donated for new LSC-Conroe Center

When voters approved Lone Star College System's bond referendum in May 2008, they set in motion a series of actions that have led to the addition of a full-service satellite center in the high-growth northern portion of the Lone Star College System service area.

Thanks to a donation of 15.7 acres of land by the Greater Conroe Economic Development Council, the city of Conroe and the Montgomery County Industrial Development Corporation, a new Lone Star College-Conroe Center will be built along FM 3083 in Conroe Park North, a rapidly-growing 1,040-acre industrial park that has attracted a number of new businesses in the past few years. The site is approximately 2.5 miles east of Interstate 45 and one mile east of State Highway 75 on the north side of FM 3083.

Plans are already underway for the design and construction of a full-service center that will accommodate approximately 3,000 students with 83,000 square feet of learning space - in two buildings. LSC-Conroe Center's larger building (67,000 square feet) will include eight computer labs, 12 general classrooms, a large biology lab, and specialized classrooms for programs such as phlebotomy and nurse assistant. This building will also house a full range of support services, including a bookstore, library, testing center and tutoring.

The second building (16,000 square feet) will contain the center's industrial programs, including welding, heating/ventilation/air conditioning, and machining. Additionally, the college's two-year-old automotive and diesel technician programs will be housed in this building, complete with two bays for hands-on student learning.

"This is a much-needed expansion of services in a fast-growing area of our college system," said Dr. Richard Carpenter, LSCS chancellor. "We've reached a point where a bigger commitment is needed for this area - both in terms of traditional academic coursework as well as workforce-oriented programs. The fact that nearly 3,000 employees are already working in Conroe Park North also makes this a very attractive deal."

Dr. Carpenter indicated that the existing LSC-Conroe Center, located east of downtown Conroe on State Highway 105, will moves its classes and programs to the new center, which is expected to be completed in time for the spring 2011 semester.

LSCS's commitment to serve the entire Montgomery County region began in 1992 in Conroe's Pinehollow Shopping Center, which served as the home for LSC-Montgomery while the campus on College Park Drive was under construction. Close to 2,000 students took classes in the original LSC-Conroe Center prior to 1995 when the campus opened. In 2001, the LSC-Conroe Center moved to its current location, where it provides workforce training in areas such as welding, machining, AutoCAD, air conditioning and heating, and other technical programs.

Recent enrollment figures show that the largest increase in the number of students taking classes at LSC-Montgomery was from residents of Willis Independent School District - a 33 percent increase from the previous spring semester. Montgomery ISD, which is not a member of LSCS, also had a large increase (28 percent) in enrollment at LSC-Montgomery. Conroe ISD, too, showed an increase and it is, by far, the largest feeder of students to the college. More than 500 residents of Willis are enrolled this spring semester, and almost all of the ZIP codes from the north part of the LSCS service area, especially in Willis and Conroe ISDs, have consistently shown large increases.

Tom Stinson, executive director of the Greater Conroe Economic Development Council, sees a strong need for the college's expansion in the Conroe area.

"The greater Conroe area is experiencing rapid growth - in the range of 7-10 percent annually, and this population needs to be accommodated with higher education opportunities," said Stinson, who has overseen economic development for GCEDC since its inception in 1994. "In terms of businesses, every company we talk to is looking for a skilled, trained workforce, and the college plays a major role in our ability to attract and keep businesses in the area."

To that end, the GCEDC worked extensively with the college and the city of Conroe to facilitate the land deal that will provide adequate space for such a center. According to Stinson, the site in Conroe Park North is ideal.

"It is an optimal location for the center for several reasons," said Stinson. "First, it is close to I-45, which is critical in terms of convenience for students. Second, it is geographically central to an area that is currently growing and will continue to grow for the foreseeable future - both in terms of business and residential activity. Being situated among the businesses in the industrial park gives the college a great opportunity to develop education and training partnerships."