Philip J. Lorenz III
Since the groundbreaking for Shelbyville’s Tennessee College of Applied Technology Satellite campus in Franklin County took place on June 20, Christine Hopkins wants the public to know its timeline to completion.
The project’s co-chair, acknowledged that progress on the project has been slow, but expressed enthusiasm, regardless.
The state has already committed around $5 million in grant funding for the county’s TCAT campus which will be located on 8.5 acres of county property adjacent to the Annex on 855 Dinah Shore Blvd. in Winchester.
The county government pledged an additional $1 million for the vo-tech campus’ construction, which will be a one-story 32,500-square-foot structure that will include labs with current technological tools to teach students 21st Century skills required in industries like Nissan North America in Decherd.
Hopkins said the county’s vo-tech project’s final plans, which Oliver Little Gipson Engineering, Inc. hired a Nashville-based architect to finish, need to be submitted to the state by Jan. 31.
She said that is when the state will review the plans for final approval – to ensure it meets safety code requirements, meets standards set by other agencies including the TCAT Board of Regents.
“What we’ve been hearing is that it will take at least 30 days for (all of the agencies, including the state building commission) to get all of the approvals done,” Hopkins said. “We’re hoping we can at least – maybe – start construction in the spring (of 2018).”
Hopkins said the Board of Regents has informed her and others associated with the project that the cost of dollars per square foot has gone up to meet the proposed building’s dimensions.
“We’ve applied for $2 million more (funding from) the Economic Development Administration out of Washington (DC),” she said. “That’s going to take another a couple of months probably to get final approval on that (requested grant). So, the delay in the construction – hopefully will give us an opportunity to find the dollars to make it as large as we need to make it.”
She said if the effort is unable to get additional funding, “we’ll have no choice but to cut (the size of the structure down), according to the dollars we (already) have (committed) for the construction.”
Hopkins said she hopes that if the project plan’s approval and additional funding requests are granted in a timely manner, construction might be able to commence around May 2018.
“The county will own the (satellite school) building, especially initially, maybe even permanently” she said. “We don’t know exactly. There are rules and regulations we (will learn more about later).”
During the groundbreaking ceremony for the county’s satellite campus near the Franklin County Annex Building on Dinah Shore Boulevard, Gary Edwards, the former vice president of Nissan manufacturing in Decherd and for Nissan’s Battery Plant in Smyrna, had spoken about the importance of the groundbreaking event.
“This is very significant,” he had said. “From an industry standpoint, we’ve needed this type of technology training here in Franklin County for many years, and with the committee (and) the leadership that we’ve had here – with Sen. Bowling, Christine Hopkins and our whole committee and our governor, finally, better late than never, (we will have an accessible school to provide technical training for prospective employees).”
Edwards, who is a Franklin County native, said the challenges facing industries in the country are ongoing.
“Technology is changing, globally,” he said. “The industries need the expertise that comes from these new technical (education) centers in order to support our production and support our plan. So, I’m excited, Nissan is very excited about having this facility in Franklin County – we’re very thankful.”
He also spoke about the campus’ impact on young and older Franklin County residents.
“It gives someone who wants to have the expertise a career in a technical field,” he said. “It’s a long-term career, the jobs pay well and again, it supports the industries here.”