Dual credit classes with Texas State Technical College-West Texas and high schools in Brownwood and Bangs have boosted total enrollment at the Brownwood center this semester, Associate Vice President Ken Becker told municipal economic development officials this week.

“Our enrollment has grown from 283 to 405, the biggest number we’ve ever had here,” Becker told the board of directors of the Brownwood Economic Development Corporation Tuesday. Becker, who will assume the position of economic development executive director in Sweetwater on Oct. 1, said this would be his last report to the board.

“I appreciate the opportunity of being able to talk to you each month,” Becker said. “You recognize the importance of technical education in today’s economy and that’s why you worked to bring TSTC to Brownwood. I’ve enjoyed my year and a half I’ve been here.”

Becker provided enrollment statistics showing that 55 percent of TSTC West Texas’ enrollment growth this semester can be attributed to the Brownwood center.

“We’re working with some other high schools in the area, and it’s quite possible they will have dual credit classes by January,” Becker said.

He also said TSTC is making preliminary plans to occupy additional space at the former Montgomery Ward building downtown when several state agencies move to new locations at the end of the year.

In other business before the BEDC board:

Executive Director James Campbell said last month’s employment data is not yet available from the Texas Workforce Commission, but that he expected the jobs environment has remained stable at about a 4.5 percent unemployment rate.

“I prefer to say that 95 1/2 percent of our eligible workers have a job,” Campbell said. “But jobs do remain available, as I still notice ads for help running in the local newspaper. All that means the job market here remains very strong.”

Campbell also reported that Barr Fabrication is in the design phase of its 28,500-square-foot expansion with the expectation of beginning construction later in the fall. Campbell said discussions continue on plans to widen Stephen F. Austin Drive, a stretch of road that was built as part of the Camp Bowie military base during World War II.

“Several industries do support the work,” Campbell said. “That old concrete roadway is only 20 feet wide and it’s getting in poor condition. A number of companies are located off that roadway, and 20 feet is just not adequate. We’re working with County Commissioner Steve Adams to see if we can widen it for truck traffic.”

Campbell said the project could develop rather quickly, perhaps as soon as next spring.

The board heard Brownwood Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Laura Terhune encourage one of them to attend a familiarization and appreciation trip being planned in October by the City of Brownwood, chamber of Commerce and Brownwood Industrial Foundation to the headquarters offices of Kohler and 3M. Another trip is planned to visit Superior Essex headquarters in Atlanta later.

“We have some new people in different places in Brownwood, and we need to introduce each other and tell them we really do appreciate this presence here and everything they do for us,” Terhune said.