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Parnell: West Fresno Automotive Training Center Will Be ‘Biggest West of the Mississippi River’



Image of State Center Community College District Chancellor Paul Parnell
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Educators and politicians gathered Wednesday morning in a courtyard at the Fresno City College Old Administration Building to celebrate the award of a $66 million contract to build a new campus in west Fresno.

Chancellor Paul Parnell said the West Fresno Campus will have the biggest automotive technician training center west of the Mississippi River.

They also celebrated the refinancing of bond measure dollars that will save $1.2 million. The refinancing delivers more money to help construct other projects on State Center Community College District’s list of projects, chancellor Paul Parnell said.

The Fresno City College graduates on hand for Wednesday’s news conference included Congressman Jim Costa, D-Fresno, Fresno Mayor Lee Brand, and State Center board president John Leal, who spoke at the sparsely attended event on a near-empty campus.

The number of invited guests was kept to a minimum for coronavirus social distancing, the district said.

Project Will Boost West Fresno

The long-awaited West Fresno Campus will give a much-needed boost to the economy of a community that has “been neglected for far too long,” Brand said.

The city is providing $16.5 million from a Transformative Climate Community grant for the $86.5 million project, which includes the $66 million contract awarded Tuesday evening to Harris Construction Company, Inc.

Fresno Mayor Lee Brand speaks Wednesday at the State Center Community College District news conference. (GV Wire/Nancy Price)

State Center Chancellor Paul Parnell

The project’s planners include former City Councilman Oliver Baines, who is now heading the city’s Police Reform Commission, and trustee Eric Payne, whose Area 2 seat encompasses most of West Fresno, Parnell said.

But the people of West Fresno also played a large part in planning for the campus that will be built at the southwest corner of Church and Walnut avenues in southwest Fresno, he said.

State Center officials met with “literally hundreds of people in our west Fresno area, so we’re not doing what we think is right for west Fresno, but west Fresno is doing what’s right for west Fresno, and it’s going to become part of our city that it always should have been part of our city,” he said.

More Opportunities on Tap

Parnell said the West Fresno Campus will have the biggest automotive technician training center west of the Mississippi River. The campus also will be home to the medical assistant program now at Fresno City College and will provide general education classes that students will need to move on to a four-year university.

When it was Costa’s turn to speak, he reminisced about growing up in west Fresno, taking his first communion at St. Alphonsus Catholic Church, eating Mello ice cream, “a whole host of things that reflected what west Fresno was for me in the 1960s, and my parents, and (then) you see what’s occurred in the last 50 years.

“I think it really reflects, and it’s incumbent on all of us, to know that we can do a better job. The renderings of State Center’s facility in west Fresno is a commitment, Dr. Parnell, President Leal, and all the State (Center) board members who are here, of your desire to form a more perfect union, realizing that we have a lot of work to do.”

Mayor Lee Brand, Council President Miguel Arias, Chancellor Paul Parnell, and State Center trustees line up for a group photo Wednesday. (GV Wire/Nancy Price)





Nancy Price is a multimedia journalist for GV Wire. A longtime reporter and editor who has worked for newspapers in California, Florida, Alaska, Illinois and Kansas, Nancy joined GV Wire in July 2019. She previously worked as an assistant metro editor for 13 years at The Fresno Bee. Nancy earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Her hobbies include singing with the Fresno Master Chorale and volunteering with Fresno Filmworks. You can reach Nancy at 559-492-4087 or Send an Email