County eyes $2.5 million investment for technical school

The Manchester satellite location of Tennessee College of Applied Technology on Volunteer Parkway may see a substantial expansion if a planned partnership goes through.

Coffee County leaders say they want to bring a technical school here and are poised to put their money where their mouth is as they are on the verge of anteing up $2.5 million to have Coffee County get its own college of applied technology.

Coffee County Mayor Gary Cordell brought in a proposal before the Budget and Finance committee Tuesday evening, pointing out it’s time Coffee County got its own Tennessee College of Applied Technology center.

Cordell said for the last three years there have been discussions about the county having its own TCAT because of his concern of young people leaving the county for school and not coming back.

 “We have a lot of young people that are going to school elsewhere, and they’re leaving and not coming back. Hopefully with a TCAT here what it’ll do in the county is keep a lot of our young people in the future stay around here in Coffee County,” said Cordell.

Cordell mentioned there are currently waiting lists for industrial maintenance, welding and electrician classes – all professions that are commonly trained at TCAT schools around the state. Enrollment in TCATs has skyrocketed since Tennessee Promise started providing two years of college, free of charge, to all qualified state residents.

The current proposal being considered is that the county would buy a building from VIAM Manufacturing for $2.5 million. The building would hold nine or ten classes and accommodate about 400 students.

Two years ago VIAM donated the use of the building for five years, free of charge, to TCAT to open up an industrial maintenance satellite training center. The third year of this agreement starts in January and they want to sell the building.

Coffee County Industrial Board Director Kimber Sharp was in attendance to talk to the committee about the potential of how this proposal would help Coffee County.

 “There are two prospects that are looking at Coffee County, in the top three, that could bring jobs, roughly 500, but training, availability in training and workforce are a big factor in their decision. These are companies that want to invest $100 million to the community and provide 400 jobs at $18 an hour,” Sharp revealed.

Even though the deal is not set in stone, the proposal is if the county can purchase the building, TCAT and the Board of Regions can give the county a triple net lease for one dollar a year where they will provide all the equipment, staff and training for the facility. No other details were given during the meeting as negotiations are still ongoing.

“Every county wants a TCAT and they can’t put one in every county. They have to see that the county is willing to show some skin in order to get one,” Sharp noted.

She explained that if Coffee County wanted to build a new TCAT building, they would have to start immediately as it would take two years to get plans approved for the building to get started.

Counties that would be able to use the TCAT would be Coffee, Grundy, Marion, and some of Warren even though there is a TCAT in McMinnville. The TCAT would be able to work with the high school so students could get a head start in the program. It would also have night classes available for workers wanting to continue an education while working.

A final decision will be made about the TCAT at either the next Budget and Finance meeting or a special meeting that could be called once all the details of the proposal are finalized and negotiation with TCAT and the Board of Regions has concluded.

There are 27 TCATs statewide with McMinnville being the closest to Coffee County.

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