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Panola College partners with Portacool, LLC to provide job growth opportunity

Sept. 15, 2016 at 9:08 a.m.

Panola College and Portacool, LLC have teamed up to offer current Portacool employees the opportunity to improve their skills thanks to a Skills Development Fund grant of $72,670. Pictured left to right: Greg Powell, Whitney McBee, Rob Kennedy, Laurie King, and Natalie Oswalt.

Panola College and Portacool, LLC have teamed up to offer current Portacool employees the opportunity to improve their skills thanks to a Skills Development Fund grant.

The $72,670 state grant is funded by the Texas Workforce Commission, and will allow workers to increase their skill level and an opportunity to further their career. The Skills Development Fund is the primary job-training program used by the Texas Workforce Commission to provide local and customized training for Texas businesses.

"Success, we believe, is achieved through collaboration among businesses, the public community, technical colleges, the Workforce Development Boards and economic development partners," said Diane Mosley, Texas Workforce Commission Project Development Specialist in Austin.

During the 12-month period of the grant, Panola College will provide customized training to Portacool employees. In addition to paying for instruction, the grant covers the cost of new equipment needed to successfully complete the training.

According to Whitney McBee, Director of Workforce and Continuing Education, this is not the first time Panola College and Portacool have teamed up for the betterment of the workforce. The College is excited to partner with the Center, Texas-based Portacool again at the Shelby Regional Training Center (SRTC).

"Panola College faculty and visiting contract instructors will train the Portacool employees in a variety of subjects, including leadership, office skills, and customer service, as well as hydraulic and forklift operations," McBee said. "We have even contracted with a professional for a two-day session on plastics and molding equipment."

The courses Panola College will provide includes basic electrical and commercial wiring and programmable logic control. The grant provides funds for the purchase of a new electrical systems training unit. Upon completion of the grant with Portacool, this training unit will remain with Panola College at the SRTC to be used for credit courses and training for other area employers.

The Portacool Human Resources Department said employees will be allowed to attend training during their regular working hours and the training they receive will be specific to their jobs and customized to fit the needs of Portacool's growth and expansion plans.

It has been more than 25 years since Portacool was founded in East Texas. The company's growth has been nothing short of phenomenal.

"In 1990, we started with one product and two entrepreneurs in Center," said Ben Wulf, CEO of Portacool, LLC. "We have grown into an international company with a full line of portable evaporative coolers used everywhere from Texas Stadium to the Sheik's Mosque in Abu Dhabi. We've kept our headquarters and manufacturing plant in Center because we appreciate the workforce, the culture and overall pride of our East Texas roots."

Portacool evaporative coolers are distributed nationally and in 56 countries. The skills development grant funds will assist in training employees to compete in the international market.

"Through the training attained in this Skills Development project, all Portacool tradesmen and supervisors will be cross-trained in multiple skill sets with outcomes customized to address individual skill deficiencies," said Rob Kennedy, Portacool Chief Financial Officer. "As part of our strategic vision, Portacool will be able to expand by consolidating operations and utilizing our own dedicated multi-skilled employees to support manufacturing and distribution of current and future volumes."

Panola College leadership looks forward to the opportunity to implement this program as a stepping-stone to elevating the status of East Texas to entice corporate and industrial development.

"We believe this Skills Development Grant is a win-win for Panola College and Portacool," said Dr. Greg Powell, Panola College President. "We are proud of the partnership that we have with Shelby County, and the work we are doing through the SRTC and the Shelby College Center."

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