A gesture worth a million dollars continues to pay big dividends for Terrell, Terrell ISD, Trinity Valley Community College and hundreds of students who are gaining a more secure financial future through an education in the field of health care.

That gesture and associated efforts by the Terrell Economic Development Corp. has earned it a silver award from the International Economic Development Council’s 2020 Excellence in Economic Development Awards Program. The awards recognize the world’s best economic development programs and partnerships, marketing materials, and the year’s most influential leaders. Terrell EDC was recognized in the Partnerships with Educational Institutions category.

This story involves transformation of a vacant hospital building, which was once owned by the city of Terrell, into a state-of-the-art Health Sciences Center operated by TVCC.

“This is a great example of how Terrell works together to get things done. When I talk to my peers, if you tried to get the college, the school district, the EDC, the city and the chamber to even agree on what flavor of coffee to serve, you would have a difficult task in front of you,” said Ray Dunlap, president of Terrell EDC.

The partnership among the EDC, city, TVCC and TISD is one “that you don’t see very often – don’t see at all around the state of Texas,” remarked Dr. Jerry King, president of TVCC.

In 2015, TVCC acquired the building, which had once housed the now defunct Renaissance Hospital, from the city after it had been vacant for a number of years.

Danny Booth, who headed the EDC before Dunlap and was deeply involved in the deal, called the acquisition “a huge first step.” The next step was to get Terrell EDC involved. Booth went to his board and asked for $1 million for infrastructure improvements at the building. Mayor Rick Carmona, who chaired the EDC board at the time, recalled that “Danny did a great job presenting; it was thorough.” The request sailed through the board unanimously.

With a $1 million contribution in hand, the TVCC Board of Trustees had a decision to make about whether to proceed with establishing a new Health Sciences Center in Terrell.

Said TVCC Trustee Charlie Risinger: “The EDC and the one million dollars. You need to understand how big that was. It wasn’t the dollars as much as it was the gesture. … When the EDC stepped up and did that – that was the difference in some votes being yes instead of no.”

The new 60,000-square-foot Health Science Center opened in January. The shiny new $15 million facility is outfitted with numerous medical training labs, classrooms, hospital rooms, a testing center, a replica ambulance, an operating room, conference rooms and state-of-the-art simulation and information technology. The building also boasts a student lounge, small courtyard, fitness center and yoga studio. Roughly 280 students attend the center, about 200 of which are pursing associate degrees in nursing.

Said King: “It’s not an easy program, believe me. Once they get through the program they can become registered nurses and earn $40,000 to $50,000 a year and have an opportunity in life. Not only for them, but for their kids. And for me, that’s what it’s all about – giving these kids opportunity.”

Behind the Health Science Center, a former maintenance building has been transformed into the TISD Health Sciences Academy, where high school students can take classes and earn dual credits in the field of health care.

Carmona said the whole process, which involved the city, TVCC, TISD and EDC, produced benefits for each party. “The city wins because we no longer have to worry about a the upkeep of a dilapidated building. TVCC wins because they get a new building for the nursing program. The school district is a winner because they get to put kids through there. And the EDC gets to show its benefit to the community with its dollars.”

During a luncheon last week at Hot Rodz to celebrate Terrell EDC’s award, people involved in the effort kept circling back to a community trait that makes Terrell unique.

“It’s not about egos or silos, it’s about what do we need to get the job done. We don’t care who gets the credit; we just get to the finish line … It is something that doesn’t happen by accident. It’s something that we have to continue to nurture. It’s the kind of thing you can lose if you don’t nurture it and make certain you pay attention to it,” noted Dunlap.

Terrell EDC’s effort was among more than 500 submissions to from four countries to the International Economic Development Council’s 2020 Excellence in Economic Development Awards Program.

“The winners of IEDC’s Excellence in Economic Development awards represent the very best of economic development and exemplify the ingenuity, integrity, and leadership that our profession strives for each and every day,” said 2020 IEDC Board Chairman Kenny McDonald. “We’re honored to recognize the more than 100 communities whose marketing campaigns, projects and partnerships

have measurably improved regional quality of life.”

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