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OTC Celebrates New Equipment for CTD Program
Thanks USDA & Community

Donnie Thomas, acting state director of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development, was among those who celebrated with students and leaders of Okefenokee Technical College on January 13. The cause for celebration was the addition of a 2009 Navistar International LoneStar tractor and a 53 foot trailer to the commercial truck driving (CTD) program. The semi tractor and trailer were purchased using USDA grant funds totaling $98,000 and other funding sources (local & federal) totaling $32,166.

“Equipment like this keeps student training on track,” Thomas said. “When we invest in education, we are investing in the future.”

Truck drivers are generally in high demand, and a nationwide shortage, combined with anticipated retirements make this program both logical and practical for students.

The ceremony, held to recognize those who helped secure the equipment, began with a warm welcome by OTC President Dr. Gail Thaxton, who dubbed the event as a “Big Idea,” “Good Government,” and “Good Partnership” celebration. She thanked Congressman Jack Kingston, represented by Shae Walden, USDA acting state director Donnie Thomas, and the USDA staff assigned to our area: Ricky Sweat, Tommy Hatcher, and Shandolyn Smith.

“We would not have this opportunity, the truck and trailer, without your support, hard work, and cooperation,” she stated. “It’s been a good partnership, and we appreciate you.”

Thaxton explained how the funding supports workforce development and OTC students. She recognized the CTD students in attendance and thanked them for choosing OTC and the CTD program. She also recognized Andy Brannen, Pamela Farr, John Logan, and Carl Davis, OTC staff who worked on the grant application and pushed it through, and David DeLoach with Yancey Truck Centers, who helped secure the truck.

“OTC has such strong community support and interest,” continued Thaxton, naming community leaders in the audience. “Many of you assisted in the grant application by providing letters of support or data on the numbers of graduates you would hire. Some of you serve on advisory committees for the program, and this counts, as well, in grant applications. Thank you for your support and your presence today.”

“I’ve heard it said,” stated Thaxton, “if we use it, a truck moved it. This year we project to have 50 or more graduates better prepared for the workforce because of this equipment. The project embodied visionary educators with a big idea partnering with good government.”

Andy Brannen, vice president for economic development; John Logan, CTD program director; and Carl Davis, CTD instructor also addressed the audience, thanking area legislators, USDA officials, the community, and OTC students and staff for their support throughout the project and grant application.

The commercial truck driving program at Okefenokee Technical College serves Bacon, Brantley, Charlton, Clinch, Pierce and Ware. Since 2003, 258 students have graduated from the program. Of those, 224 have been employed as professional drivers, 17 have been placed in a related employment field, and 7 continued with their education. This represents a 93.41 percent placement rate. Of the 241 truck driving jobs filled in rural Georgia, about half were serving small businesses.

For more information on Rural Development programs, visit http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/ga.

Following the ceremony, a number of community leaders joined OTC in thanking the USDA for funding educational program equipment. Posing for the photo (L to R): Carl Davis, OTC; Nick Parada, MediaStream; Kris Karle, MediaStream; John Logan, OTC; Pam Taylor, United Community Bank; Larry Gattis, City of Waycross; Raphael Maddox, City of Waycross; Angie Crews, OTC; Shae Walden, US Representative Jack Kingston’s Office; Pam Farr, OTC; Ricky Sweat, USDA; Andy Brannen, OTC; Larry Paulk, OTC Foundation; Dr. Gail Thaxton, OTC; Shandolyn Smith, USDA; Donnie Thomas, USDA; Patrick Simmons, Department of Labor; Dr. Joseph Barrow, Ware County School System; Jan Sanchez, Chamber of Commerce; Jerome Crawley, chamber member; David DeLoach, Yancey Truck Centers; Charlie Gibson, OTC; and Dave Callaway, Waycross Magazine.

USDA officials Donnie Thomas (right), acting state director; Ricky Sweat (3rd from left) area director; and Shandolyn Smith (2nd from right); area specialist met up with OTC administrators prior to the ceremony to admire the truck and trailer purchased for the OTC commercial truck driving program. Shae Walden (4th from left) of U. S. Representative Jack Kingston’s office also inspected the truck and made congratulatory remarks on behalf of Congressman Kingston. OTC representatives who thanked USDA for funding that made the purchase possible included: (L to R) Pam Farr, vice president for administrative services; Andy Brannen, vice president for economic development; (Sweat & Walden); Larry Paulk, chair of the OTC Foundation; Dr. Gail Thaxton, college president; Ola Smith, chair of the OTC Board of Directors; (then Smith & Thomas); and Cindy Tanner (not pictured), director of public relations and information.

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Many friends and supporters were surprised to see such a lavish model truck for student training. OTC officials give credit to David DeLoach of Yancey Truck Centers for his work to secure the deluxe tractor at a time when demand was high and new trucks were scarce.

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Shandolyn Smith with USDA was among many who checked out the cab of the Navistar International LoneStar tractor, named the American Truck Dealer’s 2009 Commercial Truck of the Year.

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CTD instructors John Logan and Carl Davis show off the newest piece of equipment for the commercial truck driving program. Both men, along with numerous CTD students, thanked USDA officials during the ceremony for their part in the purchase.



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