(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) — State Representative Mark Cochran (R-Englewood) and State Senator Mike Bell (R-Riceville) today applauded Governor Lee for his $14.2 million funding proposal for the McMinn County Higher Education Center, which was unveiled as part of the proposed Fiscal Year 2019-2020 budget during the State of the State Address on Monday.
Both Cochran and Bell have partnered with state and local education and government officials and local industry partners to see this proposed campus move forward. Presently, Cleveland State’s classes at the Athens campus are currently held at a shopping center at a cost of $150,000 per year.
When completed, the new McMinn County Higher Education Center will house classes for the Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) at Athens, Cleveland State Community College, and UT Ag Extension.
“For many years, we have heard from local plant managers about the shortage of skilled labor and the importance of refocusing our attention on career and technical education,” said Representative Cochran. “This center is evidence of what can be accomplished when state and local governments work in conjunction to respond to the needs of the private sector. We couldn’t be more excited about the opportunities it will provide to our region and truly appreciate Governor Lee for including this item in his budget.”
“This is a great opportunity for our region,” said Senator Bell. “This project will be a shared services campus that will not only create educational training opportunities for local citizens, but will be a catalyst for bringing new jobs to our communities. We want to thank Governor Lee for funding it in his budget. This is a call in action of years of work of dozens of people. This includes Mayor John Gentry, Mayor Chuck Burris, EDA Executive Director Kathy Knight, former Representative John Forgety, members of the McMinn County and Athens City Commissions, along with many other local leaders who have worked diligently to make this project a reality. It was truly a group effort.”
The total cost of the project is $17.75 million.