Advanced robotics training could become a reality in Warren County, making this community a nationwide leader.
Toward that endeavor, McMinnville officials have pledged $25,000 to the Advanced Robotics Training Task Force.
“I can tell you there is unparalleled excitement from industry about this,” said Todd Herzog, Business Roundtable Action Committee chair and member of the ART Task Force. “This would really put Warren County on the map.”
Herzog’s successful presentation asking for $25,000 was made before city Finance Committee members Ben Newman, chairman, Mike Neal and Jimmy Bonner on Tuesday night.
The task force was formed in December 2014 with one focus -- to bring an ART facility to Warren County. In an effort to do that, the task force includes 22 members of the community working together to determine exactly what would be needed in terms of a building, equipment, and financing.
Herzog says the task force has determined $5 million will be needed.
The $5 million would construct a 10,000-square-foot training center at Motlow and extend the program into local schools.
“Advanced robotics training would be parallel to what we did with Mechatronics,” Herzog said. “We would have a program at high school, middle school and in elementary schools, and we would have a big program at Motlow. The program at Motlow would require a new building. We’ll need approxi-mately $5 million. Obviously, are looking at several grant opportunities. One of those is why I’m here tonight.”
Task force members want to apply for an Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) grant in the amount of $715,000. In order to access that grant possibility, members must secure matching funds of just un-der $215,000.
Herzog asked the city to pledge $25,000 in the upcoming fiscal year 2016-17. The remaining $190,000 would come from: Motlow Foundation $100,000; Three Star Community program $10,000; Todd and Kathy Herzog $5,000; Motlow Mechatronics revenues $30,000; and Warren County School System $45,000.
Warren County government has agreed to donate 4.3 acres for construction.
“Just as a note of clarity, a robot is a Mechatronic device, but it important enough in its own right to study independently from Mechatronics,” said Herzog. “Here is the amazing part, and I’ve studied this from the three major robot suppliers, there are 7,000 robots within 75 miles of McMinnville. Think about that. In use today, there are 7,000. I believe this would be a major benefit for Warren County in every possible regard.”
Task force members are also applying, or have plans to apply, for:
• A grant for $200,000 from the National Science Foundation. The foundation has a program called ATE (advanced technology education).
• A second, larger grant from the National Science Foundation in the amount of $900,000.
• A U.S. Department of Commerce EDA Grant for Public Works totaling $2 million. This is one of the few federal grants that can be used for the construction of a building. Best award for the grant is 80 percent with 20 percent matching funds.
• A U.S. Department of Labor Grant for advanced skills training. Details are unknown until the grant cycle begins.
The program would offer an associate’s degree in advanced robotics training. Herzog says Warren County would be the first community to offer a two-year degree.
“We would train students on operation and maintenance and advanced maintenance,” he said. “We would train industry employees the same way and we would have an advanced robotics training program. Guess what? There is not an associate degree out there anywhere in advanced robotics so we would have something that would be pacesetting, really, for the country and certainly for technology. It would bring a lot of people here for training. It would, certainly, help with industrial recruiting.”
Committee members unanimously approved the donation, if the grant is obtained, with the under-standing it would be in lieu of the city’s annual donation to the Business Roundtable Action Committee. In the 2015-16 fiscal year budget, the city donated $8,000 to BRAC.