(TARKIO, Mo.) -- Community leaders in Tarkio have looked to their past to plan for their future.
Established in 1883, Tarkio College had nearly 900 students and was primarily known for its teaching and theater arts program. However, it's been dormant for more than two decades after closing in the 1990's due to a variety of factors, which has had a big negative impact on the local economy.
However, for years community leaders have been working to revive the school, and now, after rebranding the school as Tarkio Technical Tech, the campus is seeing a spark of activity.
"The economy doesn't demand 50-60 percent of our students be a college graduate," said John Davis, school president. "Right now the demand is greater in these areas than it is for college graduates."
Two years ago Tarkio Tech reopened with just one student. This fall semester they are at nearly 30, offering six different programs in some in-demand industries such as plumbing, welding and HVAC installation.
Student Grant Turnbull, who graduated from Tarkio High School, said he enrolled in the plumbing program to follow a family legacy.
"My grandpa was a plumber. There's a need for it around here and there's money involved. I'd like to supply the need," Turnbull said.
Tarkio Tech's graduates are often taking jobs making between $24-32 per hour, without the baggage of huge student debt.
"Welding employers are telling us that we'll take every one of your welding students," Davis said. "Wind companies are very excited about this. Plumbing and HVAC are the same way, whether you are an HVAC company in Tarkio, or Shenendoah or St. Joe.you're turning down half the jobs because you don't have enough people."
Administrators and community leaders are thinking big about the future.
"It could be huge," said Krisit McEnany, a local real estate agent and owner of Total Property Services. "Just the fact that our employers will have better employees that could even possibly bring in employers that are looking for that skilled labor force. Also a lot of tech programs bring in entrepreneurs and people who want to run their own businesses."
More than just training future welders, electricians and plumbers, Davis said that the school also wants to develop good citizens who serve others. The school also will soon offer a Christian business program to develop good citizens who serve others.
"The student will learn two things--How to build and develop and maintain a business and they'll learn how to do it based on sound, moral Christian principles. You're not just out there to make a buck but also expand your community and grow your community," Davis said.
Starting next year, Tarkio Tech will be eligible to receive GI Bill funds and VA funds. There are also plans to expand their student housing options and other continued growth.