LITTLE ROCK – I helped cut the ribbon on yet another Arkansas tech education school on Wednesday, this one at the South Arkansas Community College in El Dorado.
The Charles A. Hays Advanced Manufacturing Training Center is the most recent addition to Arkansas schools that offer training and certification in skills such as welding, diesel maintenance, nursing, aviation, and information technology.
When I was elected governor, 58 school districts were unserved by secondary career centers. We have now cut that number to 21 unserved school districts. We will continue to make progress.
The business leaders in Union and Calhoun counties expressed their need to beef up the local workforce with highly-trained employees for the increasingly sophisticated equipment at their plants.
As a result, the Hays center came to life through contributions from private businesses, and grants from government agencies. Public-private partnerships such as these have accelerated Arkansas’ economic development.
One company that donated to the school is The Systems Group, which the late Charles A. Hays founded in El Dorado. Mr. Hays, who was cut from the same cloth as many of our state’s other successful entrepreneurs, was born in Calion in a house with dirt floors. As a teenager, he worked at a full-service gas station, and washed and waxed cars after hours. Mr. Hays’ son jokes that his father’s customers didn’t realize his compensation included joy rides in their automobiles.
Along the way, Mr. Hays was a bricklayer, a pipefitter, a welder and an air-conditioning installer. His ambition to own his own company led him to convince the owner of the concrete company where he started out to sell the company to him and to finance it. He scraped together money to buy 13 coin-operated laundries. He started bidding small construction jobs, expanded his services, and enlarged his territory to include pipefitting at steel mills. Now his business conducts business all over the world.
Mr. Hays’ generosity, his kindness, his cooperative spirit, and his creative thinking are characteristics that have made Arkansas a great place to do business. The Advanced Manufacturing Training Center and its staff embody his work ethic and ingenuity, which will inspire everyone who trains there.
Mr. Hays worked with his hands, and he cherished those who followed in his footsteps. This training center will give those who follow him a head start that he didn’t have. For all that Charles Hays accomplished in his life, imagine what he might have accomplished if he could have studied at one of our workforce training centers when he was 18.