North Central Texas College is in the process of opening a welding certification program thanks to more than $500,000 in donations from the Graham Economic Improvement Corporation and organizations such as Valew, a new-to-town large truck body manufacturer, Southern Bleacher Corp. and the Graham Community Foundation. 

Graham Economic Improvement Corp., GEIC, director Neal Blanton is hopeful that the program will be ready for the upcoming fall semester starting August 25. 

GEIC began in the early 1990s as a way to help facilitate business improvement and relocation to Graham, said Blanton. The seven-man board is chaired by former mayor Wayne Christian, and serves as a city council appointed advisory board. GEIC uses funds generated by sales taxes collected in town to fund its projects as approved by the city council. 

On June 5, Graham City Council approved the GEIC to provide up to $200,000 to fund the welding program. Blanton explained that another $320,000 to $400,000 would come from donations provided by community businesses and organizations. 

“We started talking about it four or five years ago, the importance of a welding program with the oil and gas business here and with Southern and some other people needing an ongoing supply of welders. We talked about it for a long time,” said Blanton. “Until Valew came in, we hadn’t gotten over the top. When they came in with the need of 40 to 50 welders, we re-initiated that talk with NCTC. We kind of got a price of what the cost is going to be.” 

Brett Manahl, general manager of the Valew plant in Graham, said that not only will the program provide a pool of certified welders for the manufacturers here in town, it will also provide another vocational alternative for Graham youth.

Read the entire story in Wednesday's Graham Leader.