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REMARKS FOR<br />THE HONORABLE GREGORY WINFREE<br />ADMINISTRATOR (ACTING)<br />RESEARCH AND INNOVATIVE TECHNOLOGY ADMINISTRATION<br />OPENING OF TRANSPORTATION CENTER AT SAN JACINTO COLLEGE<br />PASADENA, TEXAS<br />OCTOBER 5, 2011<br />
Today is a great day for Houston—it’s a great day because the opening of this world-class training center is going to prepare and position its students for important and good-paying jobs in the transportation industry.
It’s going give the auto industry great employees who are ready to hit the ground running and begin contributing on day one.
It’s going to help this country retain its preeminence as a builder of world-class cars, and help make those vehicles already on the road safer and more reliable.
Consider what has been achieved here—a 92,000 square foot facility, a partnership with nine major automakers, and a training program where a student essentially walks out the door with a good-paying job in a growing industry.
This is not just a state-of-the-art training center; it’s a booster shot for the local economy.
At every level, the health of the economy is directly linked to health of our transportation systems and infrastructure—and there is no better example of this than the Houston metro area.
Houston’s families depend on its roads and public transit system to get work, to see their doctor, to get to school—for many it’s a life line.
Houston’s industries and businesses depend on the Port of Houston, the Houston Ship Channel and the many distribution centers, rail terminals and pipelines to move products and raw materials.
Houston’s airports help foster international business and travel.
Houston is a community that boasts diversity in both its culture and it’s transportation systems.
A highly-skilled transportation workforce keeps Houston in business and ensures that its roads, highways, rails, ports, pipelines and airways are safe and efficient.
For nearly 50 years, San Jacinto College has offered academic and training programs that reflect Houston’s unique character and identity as a transportation hub—the Transportation Center is just the latest milestone.
Maritime, aerospace, commercial motor vehicle, automotive technology, and many other science, technology, engineering and math curricula have prepared transportation professionals for careers that are in demand.
Most importantly, these training programs have been built on partnerships with government, industry and the business community—creating new job opportunities and supporting economic growth.
The impact of an institution like San Jacinto College often extends beyond a certificate or diploma.
Graduates like Jamie Harris and Roger Gonzales, friends who completed the school’s diesel technology program and then went on to start their own $3.5 million dollar commercial trucking business, are the type of entrepreneurs who use their education as a stepping stone to even greater things.
Or, Kim Kapke who graduated in 2009 with an automotive technology certificate and is now finishing a mechanical engineering degree at the University of Houston.
Community colleges provide opportunities and advance diversity—the Transportation Center will help open even more doors.
It’s not just a great day for Houston, it’s a great day for America, because this Transportation Center shows what’s possible when a community comes together and invests in its transportation workforce—in its future.
What is being accomplished here in Houston should serve as a wakeup call for the rest of the country, because our transportation workforce will be undergoing fundamental changes in the years ahead.
These changes not only threaten the long-term vitality of the nation’s transportation system, but ultimately, the ability of the United States to compete in the global economy.
As the baby boom generation retires, up to fifty percent of the current transportation workforce could leave over the next decade.
With fewer people entering transportation-related fields, replacing these experienced retirees will be a tremendous challenge.
Encouraging more Science, Technology, Engineering and Math students to choose a career in transportation will not solve this problem alone.
We need to train more operators, managers, support personnel, and other skilled workers who are crucial to ensuring that our transportation system remains safe and efficient. <br />
As long as people and goods need to get from point A to point B, transportation professionals will always be in demand—there is no sector with greater potential for creating new jobs.
There is no doubt that times are tough right now and many Americans are looking for work, or living paycheck to paycheck.
People don’t just need jobs, they need good jobs—jobs that help a family buy a home for the first time, or send their children to college.
A strong economic recovery and lasting prosperity are only going to happen if the nation is truly competitive in the global economy.
The fundamental elements that will, and have historically, made the United States the greatest nation in the world, are a modern, resilient infrastructure and an education system that cultivates a highly-skilled workforce.
Our roads, waterways, rails, ports, and airways must be able to meet the demands of the 21st Century and America needs talented men and women, who will design, build, manage, and operate the transportation systems of the future.
These are the ingredients that will grow new industries, strengthen existing ones, and define the American dream for generations.
This will only be possible if our leaders—the decision-makers—are willing to invest in the nation’s future.
President Obama has put together a legislative package, the American Jobs Act, which does exactly that.
This proposal includes a $25 billion investment in school infrastructure that will modernize at least 35,000 public schools.
A $5 billion investment in modernizing community colleges, bolstering their infrastructure in this time of need while ensuring their ability to serve future generations of students and communities.
And it would fund a range of critical repairs and needed rehabilitation projects that would put hundreds of thousands of Americans back to work.
If you need more evidence of how investing in education and transportation can make a difference in our communities, then just look around you.
This Transportation Center is not just a beautiful new building; it’s a valuable resource that is going to equip thousands of people with the kind of skills needed to get a great job.
San Jacinto College is a great example of the unique role that community colleges play in the economy and why the President has made them a priority.
Community colleges offer affordable, specialized training and education programs that connect people to jobs that need to be filled.
There is no field that needs these types of programs more than transportation.
This is why what Chancellor Hellyer and her colleagues have achieved here is so important.
The Transportation Center is more than a beautiful, state-of-the-art facility; it’s a smart investment that is going to pay dividends for years to come.