The Manchester Board of Mayor and Aldermen met with South Central Tennessee Development District representatives on Wednesday, Nov. 28 to open the discussion of future grants and plans for the city, including building a long-term building for Tennessee College of Applied Technology classes.
Currently, TCAT-McMinnville operates a 14-acre satellite campus out of VIAM in the Coffee County Interstate Industrial Park, but this arrangement is slated to end in five years.
“We’ve got the TCAT program here,” said Alderman Ryan French. “We’ve got a facility that’s very temporary. We’ve got a five-year window to replace them, that’s, as far as I’m concerned, must be one of our top priorities to maintain that program.”
He asked South Central Director of Economic Development/Special Projects Nathan Ward and Senior Advisor to the Executive Director Richard Stewart if they knew of any grant opportunities available to the city for such a purpose.
Ward explained that everyone is for workplace development, especially if it involves educating and training the future workforce. He added that companies like Great Lake Cheese are looking for that when they are planning on expanding their business in a new area.
State Governor Bill Haslam initiated the Drive to 55 and Labor Education Alignment Program (LEAP), which provided funding to educate citizens. LEAP was designed to provide grants for technology and staff salary, however, not brick-and-mortar building construction.
French suggested they turn the future educational space into an incubator space – a building designed to have numerous entities teaching out of it, including TCAT, Motlow State Community College and, perhaps, Middle Tennessee State University. He noted there are grants available to construct such spaces and BOMA would have to move quickly if they want to be ahead of their deadline for their current industrial manufacturing program at VIAM.
“In five years, if we don’t have a solution for that, well, I don’t want to lose it,” French said.
Ward suggested BOMA look into Lawrence County, where a Columbia State Community College satellite campus is working with the county to build a brand new educational facility and talking about adding incubator spaces for TCAT and Tennessee Tech University as well.
But before Manchester can apply for grants, BOMA needs to decide on where the building will be.
“I always thought it this made perfect sense if something was here. We’ve got people, we’ve got location,” Vice Mayor Bill Nickels said.
Alderman Marilyn Howard added that it should be a joint venture between the city and county.
Locations aldermen brought up included the old alternative school, Riverview Alternative School site on Emerson Street, the Manchester Industrial Park and the county’s industrial park.
French was all for looking into Riverview School.
“I don’t think we can do anything with, so we’ve got space,” he said. “It’s got four walls. That’s a joint property for the city and county. And we have plenty of space in the industrial park…and the county was going to offer space up too, but they were going to do it in the joint industrial park, which is, you know, that’s fine too, but I think it would be advantageous to have sign here in the county industrial park, or in our industrial park or if we do it at Riverview School.”
Riverview School is owned by both the county and the city. Manchester Mayor Lonnie Norman said he didn’t know the details behind the county involvement.
To build there, the site would need to be completely redone and French believes the standing structure might need to be demolished.
“Tie an incubator program grant to it…we could have incubator space there, we could have TCAT space there, if we wanted Motlow space there, etc., etc.,” French said. “We’re in a really good position, we were bringing up the conference center, the conference center is receiving grants for, they’re going to start a program where they’re taking employees through and getting them food certified and then they’ll hire out into the local economy into, you know, the chefs and those kinds of things, and we can compel that even on the other side of things with TCAT.”
French added that having a facility in Manchester will add fuel to the competitive fire for bringing in industry and employers.
If an educational facility is built, it may not be a satellite campus, but a teaching center. A satellite campus cannot be within 25 miles of the main educational facility. Manchester is less than 20 miles from Motlow.
Planning for trash disposal
With TCAT on their mind, Nickels brought up the fact that the city of Manchester will need to enter into a new garbage disposal contract in as little as six years. The current facility used to dump trash in Murfreesboro is estimated to fill to capacity in six years.
Stewart recommended the city look into gasification, which is the process of converting trash into gas by burning it. Stewart assured aldermen that the process has improved and will not lead to the air ruining health.
Nickels said Manchester pays about $1.2 million a year for residential trash pick, which does not include commercial pickup. If they’re looking to build an educational facility in five years, Nickels would like an alternative plan in place for trash pickup by then.
Aldermen Mark Messick agreed that BOMA needs to get moving.
“In my short career as an aldermen, it seems to me like we don’t get anything done,” Messick said. “I mean, I’ve only been here three months, but it seems like we always just roll, roll, roll, but it takes forever. Let’s don’t take forever on this TCAT. This is something worthy and I think everybody in the community is behind it.
About South Central
South Central Tennessee Development District serves 13 counties in Tennessee. The organization provides public transport and senior citizen programs to Manchester, as well as funds some grants to the city and the county.