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Paperwork was signed Thursday, June 4, for a significant grant that will help get classes going at the Piney River Technical Center in Houston.

The $260,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Community Facilities Grant was awarded to the Houston Industrial Development Authority (IDA). The funding will go toward the purchase of equipment for health services classes offered to Houston High School students at the Tech Center starting this fall, along with a future welding program.

To qualify for the grant, the IDA will provide a $65,000 match. City of Houston economic development director Rob Harrington and Texas County USDA representative Emma Hohenberger were each instrumental in the process of obtaining the grant.

“Receiving this award is a big step in the right direction for the Piney River Technical Center,” Harrington said.

Just over a year ago, the IDA purchased the former Lee Jeans building (on Spruce Street) with plans to turn it into a career and technical center with access to college courses and technical training for high school students and adults throughout Texas County.

“Today we can see some of this come to fruition with the awarding of this grant and the purchasing of the equipment to start the health services classes,” Harrington said. “This center was a dream of a lot of people, and today that dream became that much more real.”

Many partners have had integral roles in the development of the Tech Center project, Harrington said, including the IDA, the City of Houston, the Houston School District, Texas County Memorial Hospital and Brad Hooper and The Overlay Guys.

“With Mineral Area College coming in the fall with a full schedule of classes, we feel that the best days are ahead for the Piney River Technical Center and all of Texas County,” Harrington said. “I have been truly blessed to be able to work with so many wonderful people on this project and look forward to the future. Together this community can accomplish anything, and I am grateful to be a part of it.”

Harrington can be reached by phone at 417-967-3348 or by email at

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