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Business Roundtable 3-15
Advanced education corridor flourishes
Ultimate Oldies will be in concert April 22 at Park Theater in a concert to benefit robotics fundraising for Warren County schools.

At the end of Vo Tech Drive near Saint Thomas River Park Hospital is the Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT). 
To the immediate right is the expanded campus of Motlow State Community College.  To the immediate left will be the new advanced robotics center of Motlow-McMinnville.  This will truly be a corridor of advanced technology skills training. 
After three years of research, Mechatronics began at Motlow-McMinnville in January 2010. An associate’s degree program in Mechatronics began in August 2012. Between Motlow-McMinnville and Warren County High School, there is about $900,000 of advanced automation devices used in Mechatronics training. 
There are five full-time instructors with double engineering degrees and extensive industrial experience. With over 100 current students, the program is running at full capacity and features a solid placement record with area plants. With three federal grants and local donations, approximately $4.2 million has funded Mechatronics. 
After three years of research with a local task force, advanced robotics training will begin in Warren County at WCHS this August and Motlow-McMinnville during 2018. We did receive a state of Tennessee grant of $5.5 million to build and equip a new 12,500-square-foot building on a county-donated land tract of 4.3 acres next to TCAT.  
BRAC (Business Roundtable Action Committee) and the IDB (Industrial Development Board) have collaborated on a local funding drive to bring robotics to Warren County Schools, starting with a new robotics lab at WCHS.
The equipment budget for WCHS is $115,000. The master plan calls for the placement of robotic training devices at the seven elementary schools and WCMS. This will require about $200,000, counting the $115,000 at WCHS. We have raised $142,000 to date with more expected. 

The donors to date are:

1.    Warren County School Board   -   $50,000
2.    City of McMinnville   -   $30,000
3.    Bridgestone-Warren   -   $10,000
4.    Caney Fork Electric Coop  -  $10,000
5.    Miniature Precision Components  -  $10,000
6.    McMinnville Electric System  -  $10,000
7.    Citizens Tri-County Bank   -   $5,000
8.    Homeland Community Bank  -  $5,000
9.    Ben Lomand Connect  -  $5,000
10.    Todd & Kathy Herzog  -  $5,000
11.  Susan Herzog Lichtman  -  $1,000
12.  Toby Herzog Woodhouse  -  $1,000

What is amazing about the above story covering the last 10 years is there is almost $10 million invested in advanced technology training in our county. We were first in Tennessee with Mechatronics. We will be first with an advanced robotics center. 
Our leadership is clearly manifest to all state leaders, including Gove. Haslam, who visited here Jan. 5. ECD Commissioner Randy Boyd made a visit Jan. 19. Labor Commissioner Burns Phillips was here Sept. 22. Once the Robotics Center is “rolling” we expect a lot of collaboration with state government.
Paralleling the technology build-up was the founding of our local Citizens for Progress (CFP) Scholarship Fund in July 2007. In 10 years, over $600,000 has been raised with public and private funds with over $500,000 in scholarships being awarded to youth from our county. We were ahead of TN Promise by eight plus years. 
TN Promise and TN Reconnect are major difference makers. Gov. Haslam has proposed to make TN Reconnect accessible to all TN adults to obtain a two years of higher education tuition free starting in the fall of 2018. With the advent of the state higher education programs, the CFP Fund has been directed at dual enrollment at WCHS for students taking college classes at Motlow-McMinnville and TCAT. 
Dual enrollment is not covered by TN Promise. Dual enrollment is growing rapidly, as it represents significant value to high school students and their families. The bottom line is there will continue to be a need and benefit for the CFP Fund.
BRAC conducts an annual charity concert to benefit the CFP Fund in April of each year.  This year the concert will be on Saturday evening, April 22, at the Park Theatre, downtown. The featured entertainment will be the Ultimate Oldies from Manchester with a brand new “oldies” show.  The proceeds of this concert, this year only, will be directed at the robotics fundraising at Warren County schools.
In addition to the outstanding ambiance of the Park Theatre, this show will have the expected benefit of being able to use the new 192 permanent seats added to the lower balcony area upstairs. That boosts the Park’s permanent seat capacity to over 570.
Folding chairs can be added to the mezzanine for another 100 plus seats. Please plan to come out and enjoy this fun filled concert. Student volunteers from TCAT will serve as door people and ushers. 
The advanced education accomplishments for Warren County involved a highly efficient and functioning coalition of educators, elected officials, BRAC, and area industry. All parties have been devoted to the “cause” and have been focused on results which clearly have come.  The Robotics Center will bring many, many people to McMinnville for training. We expect to draw all from over the southeast. 
Please put April 22 on your social calendar for the CFP annual concert. Tickets are $15 each and are available at the Chamber of Commerce downtown and at the door on the 22.  Please plan to join us for this worthy cause – our youth.