TIANJIN, China (Kiii News) - The new TPCO America Steel Mill is now under construction near Gregory. Project "G", as the Chinese call it, is on schedule to be at least partly operational by the end of this year.
On Wednesday night, Kiii News showed you how Del Mar College, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and the Craft Training Center of the Coastal Bend are working with the Chinese to properly train the hundreds of personnel that will be hired to staff that pipe-making facility. It is a brand new industry for us, and that training regimen is still being formulated.
A local delegation representing those institutions was in China last month, and Kiii News Anchor Joe Gazin was invited to go along.
"There will be a lot of dreams realized. A lot of opportunity as a result of what TPCO America brings to our region," said Dr. Mark Escamilla, president of Del Mar College.
"People who are now in high school, this is something they can look forward to after they graduate," said Dr. Anne Matula of the Craft Training Center.
"This was way beyond my expectations, and it's the kind of thing that'll change the lives of students down the road," TAMUCC's Dr. Luis Cifuentes said.
For those educators from the Coastal Bend, it was clearly an eye-opening visit. Initially, it was a chance to see what winter weather in China is all about. It was very cold, and sometimes snowy; but clearly, the main focus was on how a brand new industry for the Coastal Bend, producing steel pipe for the oil and gas industry, could potentially add more students, more financial resources and more infrastructure to their respective campuses.
At the same time, it also drove home a bold new experiment in international diplomacy that is absolutely underway here. Make no mistake -- China, with it's gleaming new buildings, high-speed trains and vibrant economy, is still a third-world country; a country where most residents in the major cities live in cramped, tenement-style apartments.
And then there are the major restraints on personal freedom. For one thing, it is tough to get around. There are nightmarish traffic jams. Even though per capita income is only about $3,000 a year, more and more Chinese are acquiring vehicles, and many now have computers, but there are restrictions on how they can be used.
For instance, if you want to logon to Facebook or YouTube, you can try, but you can't do it.
The seat of government at Tienanmen Square remains a top attraction for the Chinese, but again, Big Brother is watching.
When Kiii News Anchor Joe Gazin and the group of delegates from the Coastal Bend paid it a visit, they were technically breaking some rules. Videotaping is not allowed without a special permit, and the last time they tried it, they were almost arrested. The only reason they didn't get stopped the second time around was became they went as a group, and went to great pains to avoid looking like any journalism was going on.
China is a country struggling under the burden of 1.4 billion people. Dissent and protest are considered "noise." It is not allowed. Instead, the central government decides how to proceed, and simply does it, often very quickly.
Also, as the group got to see toward the end of their visit, there is also a curious mixture of old and new. The government encourages residents to go to a spiritual shrine dating back to the Ming Dynasty and reenact their own version of Dancing with the Stars, or do whatever they enjoy in order to stay physically fit.
At the same time, most Chinese couples are only allowed to have one child, but despite the great differences and ongoing disputes involving the U.S. and China, some courageous folks in South Texas and one of China's largest companies have found a way to work together on a common goal.
"There is so much we could do together, and this could be a great example for both of our countries," said J.J. Johnston, project manager of TPCO America.
Some 2000 construction jobs will be created as this project moves forward, and when it's fully operational in late 2014, it will support about 800 permanent and relatively high-paying jobs.
If you are interested in applying, you can visit their Website at www.tpcoamerica.com.
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