Governor attends ribbon cutting for Anderson County center
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee came to Clinton on Friday (Dec. 10) for the official grand opening and ribbon-cutting for the new $11 million Anderson County Higher Education Center, which will begin its technical-education classes in January.
Work has been completed on the 46,635-square-foot building at 220 Frank L. Diggs Drive in the I-75 Industrial Park near Interstate 75, Exit 122.
The new facility will house technical-education programs of both the Tennessee College of Applied Technology in Knoxville and Roane State Community College, based in Kingston. Both programs will now be under one roof in the Clinton area, after operating in separate facilities in Clinton and Norris for the past several years.
During a ceremony at the new school Friday afternoon, Lee praised the public-private partnership that helped create the center. He said it would be of vital importance in workforce development that would aid in recruiting new employers to the area, as well as helping to retain the current ones, mostly in the automotive industry.
“The private sector drives what we’re doing here,” the governor told those attending the ceremony, who included current students of some of the technical training programs that will be transferred to the facility.
Lee also praised the companies in the area that helped bring the center to life, including the nearby South Korean auto components manufacturer SL Tennessee, which donated the land to the state for the facility.
“When we all work together, we can accomplish a lot in a short period of time,” SL Tennessee manager Scott Laska told the assembled group.
Moving to the new center will be Roane State’s mechatronics classes, which have been meeting in the former National Guard Armory at the fairgrounds in Clinton, and the college’s injection molding and robotics courses.
They will be joined by TCAT classes, including welding, diesel power equipment technology, auto tech, industrial maintenance, and building trades, which had been housed for the past six years in a former supermarket in the Andersonville Crossing shopping center in Norris.
The owners of the closed grocery store have been letting TCAT use the space rent-free during that time, and have even made improvements to the building.
“We will be opening opportunities for the people in our county and region,” Anderson County Mayor Terry Frank said during her remarks at Friday’s ceremony. She called the facility “a win for the people who will find their lives changed, their horizons broadened and their futures brighter.”
Construction of the building began after the city of Clinton issued a building permit on Aug. 21, 2020, for the $10.66 million structure.
Lee was joined by TCAT, Roane State, and local officials, along with others for the ribbon-cutting at the end of the ceremony.
An official groundbreaking for the new center was held on Dec. 7, 2018, and it was announced then that the facility would open sometime in late 2019.
But it was not until September 2020 that the Tennessee State Building Commission approved the design of the new building.
Lt. Gov. Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) was instrumental in getting grants and state appropriations from the legislature to pay for the building and its training equipment, and he also helped guide the design through the State Building Commission.
“Our technical colleges provide students the invaluable skills they need to compete in today’s job market,” McNally said after the commission approved the design. “Tennessee works hard to attract high-quality jobs to our state. It is important that those jobs go to Tennesseans.
The building will host TACT Knoxville training courses in diesel and automotive technology, machine tool, industrial electrical maintenance, welding, mechatronics and building construction trades.
Roane State’s programs will include plastic injection molding, industrial electrical maintenance and mechatronics.
There will be multi-functional classrooms for each program, along with faculty and administrative office space.
“The new location in Anderson County is specifically targeted for students and employers in this region,” TCAT Knoxville President Kelli Chaney said. “We’re meeting a need with targeted training and other programs.
“Basically, it’s a workforce-development issue that has to be solved – and that building will be the answer. The employers are the driving force behind getting that location in Anderson County.
“The new campus will have much more space, many more opportunities and easier access for students in that area -- to get to a campus that is innovative and creative, targeting advanced manufacturing, automotive and the building trades,” Chaney said.
Wallace said Monday that there are more million-dollar-plus grants in the works to help with equipment to expand the offerings at the new center.
“Even though it’s taken longer to do than we expected, it’s a better facility than what was originally planned,” Wallace said. “And we always want to thank the communities for their support of this center.”