MCALLEN, RGV – It will not be long before students from the Rio Grande Valley start calling this region the Great Rio Grande Valley.

That is the view of Laura Warren, president of The Warren Group Architects and chair of McAllen Economic Development Corporation.

Warren made her prediction when she gave remarks at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new $9.3 million building at South Texas College’s technology campus in south McAllen. She said she prefers to speak from the heart, rather than from prepared remarks.

Warren said South Texas College deserved praise for the opportunities it provides “and for changing the lives of thousands of students for the better. Students that want to stay here and who will no longer continue to say, ‘I am just from the Valley,’ but will say, ‘I am from the Great Rio Grande Valley.’”

Warren added that interest in the region “continues to grow every day.”

Another speaker at the ribbon cutting ceremony was McAllen City Commissioner and banker Omar Quintanilla.

“I want to applaud South Texas College for prioritizing information technology. When we do that we help our workforce prepare for the jobs of tomorrow. We used to say the jobs of the future involve information technology but, in fact, the jobs of today involve information technology,” Quintanilla said.

“We are elated South Texas College is in our city, so that the workforce is trained for the jobs of today.”

Dr. Shirley Reed, president of South Texas College, thanked McAllen Economic Development for its help in getting the college established. She said MEDC leaders like Keith Patridge and the late Mike Allen sent a clear message that the college focus on preparing students for the workforce. She said STC has surely exceeded expectations.

Reed also explained why the new 76,677 square-foot building was important. She pointed out that it was previously the home of Security Plastics.

“It was actually two buildings, together, which gave the architect the opportunity to create this fabulous entry into the facility. We love the colors, we think it is vibrant, it is exciting. It is going to function very well for our intended purpose,” Reed said.

The total cost of the construction was $9 million. “In this day and age, to have a state of the art 76,000 square foot facility for $9 million is pretty outstanding,” Reed said.

Reed ran through how the building would be used.

“We are going to have 42 new offices. We are going to have seven new classrooms. We will have specialty labs, six new computer labs, training labs, and you will see these vibrant, beautiful colors once you take a tour of the facility.”

Reed said a “real showcase” for the new facility is the Festo Lab. Festo is a German company that makes industrial automation equipment.

“We are, I believe, the only one in Texas that has a Festo Lab. It completely simulates the automation process for manufacturing, so we are able to provide state of the art training to any of our students, to our companies. We also work very closely with all companies in the area to provide customized training and we certainly welcome students and faculty from our neighbors across the river to come and take advantage of this facility,” Reed said.

A new STC program that is growing very rapidly, Reed said, is the preparation of electricians and construction supervision. “As you go through the facility, you will see that we can simulate all those programs and students can get the hands-on experience.”

There is also a new welding lab. “You already know there is demand for literally thousands of welders here in the Valley. So, this is another state of the art welding lab, here in the facility. There is also tremendous demand for commercial truck driving, and also the preparation of bus drivers, so we gave included a driving skills pad.”

Reed thanked Econ Construction for constructing the new building and coming in under budget and on time. That remark garnered applause from industry, education and community leaders in the audience. She also thanked Eddie Vela of EGV Architects for making “something very special out of an abandoned manufacturing plant with a leaky roof and even worse fire sprinkling system.”

Reed also thanked Hinojosa Engineering for the parking and site improvements.

After the speeches, those in attendance went outside to see a ribbon-cutting with a difference. Mario Reyna, dean of business, public safety and technology at STC, used a blow torch to split a metal South Texas College sign.

“I think the whole purpose of this new building is to continue the transformation that has taken place in the Valley over the last 20 years,” Reyna said. “Now that we have this new facility, we have even greater space to do more of the automation, more of the information technology and more of the construction supervision that is needed tremendously in our area. Companies need the students with the skills we are producing, and this is only the beginning.”