For 20 years, the offices of Workforce Solutions Texoma have helped bridge the gap between employee and employer through training and other assistance programs. In those years, the programs have expanded from its humble beginnings with three employees and a $1 million budget to serving the tri-county area with a $10 million budget.

In celebration of its anniversary, local employers, community leaders and other economic developers came together Wednesday to honor the contributions and successes the organization has had in Texoma with a banquet at the Texoma Event Center.

Emerson Process Management was named the Employer of the Year for Grayson County, while Trans Cable International and Zodiac Seats were given the same award for Fannin and Cooke counties, respectively. Emerson was also nominated by Workforce Solutions as the Texas Employer of the Year, and will be judged against other companies across the state this December.

The event also gave officials with Workforce Solutions the opportunity to recognize the efforts of business leaders in the ongoing development of a regional workforce.

“When we look across this room, we can see the incredible support we have in this community,” Workforce Solutions Texoma Executive Director Janie Bates said during the celebration. Bates has served as the executive director for the organization since its inception in 1996.

Among the programs offered through Workforce Solutions are job skills training through local colleges and childcare assistance programs for working parents, Bates said. In the past year, Workforce Solutions assisted in providing nearly $3 million in subsidized childcare services.

“Our main goal is to remove barriers that keep people from going to work,” Bates said, citing transportation and childcare as the biggest barriers.

Workforce Solutions is among the 28 workforce development boards that were created by in the mid 90s by the Texas legislature. Workforce Solutions was the third of these boards to start operations, behind two in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, after being formed, Bates said. The initial board layout started with the county judges of the three representative counties and the mayor of the largest city — Sherman. From there, each representative appointed members to the board.

Former Grayson County Judge Horace Groff said the first few years were difficult for the organization as members learned the duties of a workforce board and navigated changing directions from the legislature.

“We really didn’t know the direction we needed to go,” he said. “It was in constant change and was in limbo for a couple years, but we adjusted to that.”

Denison City Council member Janet Gott has served on the organization’s board since it was created and served six prior years with the Private Industry Council — the predecessor to Workforce Solutions.

Since then, Gott said the organization has grown to be respected and known throughout the state for its efforts in helping the local workforce grow.

“It is wonderful to see this (event) because the successes of the board is undisputed,” Gott said.

During Wednesday’s festivities, Bates spoke briefly on the ongoing efforts the Workforce board and its partners have taken to provide a pipeline of “middle skills” workers for locally available jobs and professions. These are positions that require some post-secondary training, but do not require a four-year degree to step into. For Texoma, these positions include career paths in manufacturing and health care.

Bates was also recognized during Wednesday’s events for her longtime service to the community and her dedication to developing a strong workforce for the region.

“It is always nice to be recognized by the people you work for and work with because the successes of our program are based on these people,” she said.