WGTC holds groundbreaking for Callaway Center Culinary Expansion

Published 8:00 pm Friday, April 19, 2019

The fields near West Georgia Technical College’s Callaway Conference Center were under nearly a foot of water, so the ceremonial groundbreaking Friday for the center’s culinary expansion moved indoors.

However, the weather did not dampen the spirits of the crowd, who spoke on the need for a culinary arts program in LaGrange.

“Culinary here in LaGrange is something that needs expertise. We have that expertise,” WGTC President Scott Rule said. “It needs an instructor. We have an instructor. It needs student interest. Well, when we were trying to find a caterer for our Black Tie & Boots event, we heard from Tulla White, a local caterer right here in LaGrange, who said, ‘Boy, I just need more help. I need somewhere where people can be trained to do what I do.’ We’ve heard that loud and clear. He’s not the only voice. He’s just the most recent one I’ve heard, but that is the need that we have here.”

WGTC hopes to serve that need by focusing on a part of the culinary field that is already in demand locally with a certificate program at first, though the program could expand over time.

“We are looking at offering a technical certificate of credit, which is 25 credit hours in baking and pastry,” said Dr. Kristen Douglas, vice president of academic affairs. “We looked at the data for this specific area of LaGrange and Troup County and noticed that there are significant needs in grocery stores … and specific restaurants that are looking for people who have baking specialization as well as pastry skills.”

LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce President Page Estes said that the culinary field is one of the areas expected to see job growth in the area in coming years.

“In the top 25 jobs that we need in the next 10 years in this community, hospitality, food service preparation and food service will be at the top of those lists,” Estes said. “Whether it is at Great Wolf or whether it is at the hospital. It is in some of our small businesses throughout this community. Everyone gathers around the concept of food.”

Estes also recalled when the Callaway Conference Center opened 24 years ago, thanks to the Callaway Foundation, which is also making the expansion possible.

“To the trustees of the Callaway Foundation, please know how grateful we are for your investment in our institution, especially in this beautiful conference center,” said Kelsey Jones, the executive director of the WGTC Foundation. “Your generosity will certainly fill this entire conference center for years to come, and I can’t wait to see how it overflows out these doors and into our community. I am excited to see our graduates serve you as you work, live and play in Troup County, whether it be on your stay-cation at Great Wolf Lodge, or at your daughter’s wedding at Del’avant, or during an important business meeting at lunch downtown.”

Callaway Foundation President Tripp Penn spoke on the expansion as an investment in the local workforce and the American value of hard work.

“There is a measurable value in getting up and going to work, particularly in an area of service to others in a profession such as the culinary arts, and everyone here — you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t believe this — West Georgia Technical College — is a great institution for preparing people to either enter or re-enter the workforce,” Penn said. “It is our privilege to join with the college in supporting this noble mission.”

He also noted the value the expansion will bring to the area.

“This expansion is going to support the training of countless leaders and specialists in the food and hospitality industry throughout the region — not just in Troup County,” Penn said. “[Our region] especially Troup County has seen significant growth in recent years with the addition of several large and small industries. These organizations continue to bring jobs and families and visitors to our area. That is just a wonderful thing for the region.”

Construction on the expansion is expected to be complete in time to register students for classes beginning in January 2020, but WGTC also has plans for the expansion to be used by caterers for events at the college and possibly cooking demonstrations. To learn more about West Georgia Technical College, visit Westgatech.edu.