THEC Recommends New McMinn County Higher Ed Center

THEC Recommends New McMinn County Higher Ed Center

Holly Vincent
Thursday, November 15, 2018 12:00 AM

ATHENS, Tenn. – The Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) approved multiple funding recommendations today concerning higher education. These recommendations will be considered by the Finance Committee and the Governor's Office as they prepare the 2019-20 budget proposal.


Included in these recommendations were nine capital projects following a State-wide review of proposals from the UT and TBR systems as well as locally governed universities. The second-rated project is to develop a new McMinn County Higher Education Center. The total project cost is $17.75M.  This facility is intended as a unique collaboration between the Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) at Athens, Cleveland State Community College and UT Ag Extension.


TCAT at Athens has been working for several years to develop an additional facility to support the training needs of industries in the area.  The need for such a center surfaced during a semi-annual plant manager meeting at TCAT-Athens. During the meeting, Tennessee Senator Mike Bell asked the plant managers in attendance how many positions they had available at that time, and the cumulative number was over 200 positions despite the low unemployment rate. This meeting resulted in additional meetings that further highlighted the need for a more skilled workforce to meet the needs of the industries in the area.

TCAT-Athens President Stewart Smith stated, “We are grateful to the Southeast Development District and the Tennessee Department of Economic Development for their tremendous support and guidance through the years as we worked to further develop the plans and deepen the relationships... I’d also like to acknowledge McMinn County for contributing $1 Million, Athens City $275,000 and McMinn EDA $500.000 in kind.”


More recently, conversations have focused on creating partnerships between higher education, state government, local government and K-12 local education. This resulted in a collaborative proposal that was first submitted to the Tennessee Board of Regents and now approved by THEC. The project now goes to the Finance Committee to be considered in the 2019-20 state budget. The Center will house the following TCAT-Athens programs: Machine and Tool, Tool and Dye and Electro Mechanical. There will also be office space for their Coordinator of External Affairs who is their primary contact for industries. Smith indicated that the Center will make an impact on the workforce not just for McMinn County, but also for Meigs, Monroe, Bradley and Polk Counties. 


The new Center will also provide a new and expanded home for Cleveland State's Athens Center. Cleveland State is currently renting a facility in Athens. Once developed, the new Center will save the taxpayers and the college $150k per year. 

Cleveland State President Bill Seymour stated, “I am very proud of the collaboration developed for this project. CSCC and TCAT-Athens are sister institutions who are dedicated to serving the same 5-county service area.  This will expand educational opportunities in the region and better support the training needs of area business and manufacturers.  A new facility in Athens is a major goal of the Community First Strategic Plan. A new center for Cleveland State will provide space for additional full-time faculty who will support additional academic programs that can be completed at that facility” 

The new facility will not only provide the local Agriculture Extension office a permanent home, but it will become a convenient resource for the CSCC Agriculture program that is anchored in Athens.  Another key feature of the facility will be shared common space for all of the entities involved in this partnership and space for industries in the area to receive training for their existing workforce.



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