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Delgado branches out with new eastern N.O. campus

Ground was broken Friday for the eastern New Orleans campus of Delgado Community College. The $21 million project is one of several that is spurring optimism in an area of the city that is still trying to bounce back from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

As students at Delgado's main campus on City Park Avenue were moving about, Governor Bobby Jindal, state lawmakers and Delgado officials were breaking ground miles away for the new campus. It's located on the site of the old Sidney Collier Technical College at 3727 Louisa Street.

Delgado says the former Sidney Collier campus became part of Delgado in 2010 when Louisiana Technical College Region 1 merged with Delgado.

"We know one of the most important things we can do is to provide skilled workers to grow the private sector economy," said Governor Jindal.

Jindal said 70 percent of companies interested in moving to Louisiana express major concerns about finding enough skilled workers.  The hope for many is that, by opening the college in a depressed community, the surrounding neighborhoods will rebound even faster.

"The kids coming out of these programs, the I-T programs, the electrical programs, air conditioning programs will have good-paying jobs waiting for them," said Jindal.

New Orleans East businesswoman Tangee Wall said it will mean a brighter future for eastern New Orleans.

"It's a great economic push, education is always a plus and it spurs growth especially within young people and I think that's a major, major move of progress and recovery for eastern New Orleans," Wall stated.

The new campus will train students to become nurses, X-ray technicians, carpenters, as well as computer courses and solar energy installation.

The state is providing $12 million for the project and FEMA's portion is $9 million. The first phase of the new campus should be completed by May 2014.

But as Delgado is building a new college campus, there are layoffs planned at the main campus.

"Certainly here in the city it's always a concern when you have to do that.  But what's happened is every time we've done it, we've seen enrollment go up because we align the new programs with the jobs that are in the area," said Dr. Joe May, president of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System.

Delgado is not the only economic development project in the works for the area. On Bullard, at the former Lakeland Medical Complex, city officials will break ground for a new Wal-Mart. Retailer Big Lots is also coming to the area.

"Finally, we've got some very major economic development projects that are coming into our area… We're ripe for it, we've definitely got that mixture of income, we've got that mixture of professionalism, we got the young people," Wall said.

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