New Higher Education Center nearly ready to open in Clinton

The new Clinton Higher Education Center building on Frank L. Diggs Drive is nearly ready to open. It will house technical-education programs designed for workforce devel- opment. (photo:G. Chambers Williams III )
Clinton’s new Higher Education Center plans to hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony next month, and work on the $11 million-plus facility is almost finished.

Workers this past week were putting the final touches on the 46,635-square-foot building at 220 Frank L. Diggs Drive in the I-75 Industrial Park near Interstate 75 Exit 122.

Construction of the building began about this time last year after the city of Clinton issued a building permit on Aug. 21, 2020, for the $10.66 million structure, which sits on land donated by SL Tennessee, a South Korean auto-parts maker that has a manufacturing plant nearby.

The ribbon-cutting will take place sometime in October, but the exact date hasn’t been set yet, as it depends on Gov. Bill Lee’s schedule, said Andy Wallace, president of the Anderson County Economic Development Association. Lee is planning to be here for the event, Wallace said.

The new facility will house technical-education programs of both the Tennessee College of Applied Technology in Knoxville and Roane State Community College, Wallace said.

Workforce development is the goal of the programs the center will offer, focusing on training for jobs that are available with local manufacturers such as those based in Clinton’s industrial parks.

“The technical skills this center will be teaching are needed not only in Anderson County, but across the state,” Wallace said. “The courses offered at the center will include mechatronics, welding, and other programs in high need.

“To our area employers, this new education facility shows the commitment of the community to help develop the workforces for these local industries.”

An official groundbreaking for the new education center was held on Dec. 7, 2018, and it was announced then that the facility would open sometime in late 2019.

But it was not until September 2020 that the Tennessee State Building Commission approved the design of the new building.

Lt. Gov. Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) was instrumental in getting grants and state appropriations from the legislature to pay for the building and its training equipment, and he also helped guide the design through the State Building Commission.

“Our technical colleges provide students the invaluable skills they need to compete in today’s job market,” McNally said after the commission approved the design. “Tennessee works hard to attract high-quality jobs to our state. It is important that those jobs go to Tennesseans.

“We have some of the hardest-working people in the nation right here in Anderson County,” he said. “Our TCAT facilities are some of the most-effective institutions of higher learning in the state. I am tremendously pleased to see this campus begin to take shape and look forward to it becoming a key economic driver for our region.”

The single-level building will host TCAT Knoxville training courses in diesel and automotive technology, machine tool, industrial electrical maintenance, welding, mechatronics and building construction trades.

Roane State’s programs will include plastic injection molding, industrial electrical maintenance and mechatronics.

There will be multi-functional classrooms for each program, along with faculty and administrative office space.

“The new location in Anderson County is specifically targeted for students and employers in that region,” TCAT Knoxville President Kelli Chaney said last September. “We’re meeting a need with targeted training and other programs.

“Basically, it’s a workforce-development issue that has to be solved – and that building will be the answer. The employers are the driving force behind getting that location in Anderson County.

“The new campus will have much more space, many more opportunities and easier access for students in that area — to get to a campus that is innovative and creative, targeting advanced manufacturing, automotive and the building trades,” Chaney said.

Wallace said Monday that there are more million-dollar-plus grants in the works to help with equipment to expand the offerings at the new center.

“Even though it’s taken longer to do than we expected, it’s a better facility than what was originally planned,” Wallace said. “And we always want to thank the communities for their support of this center.”