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Motlow State awarded $5.5 million grant to build Advanced Robotics Training Center in McMinnville

LYNCHBURG, TN (Nov. 17, 2016) — The Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) and the governor’s office announced today that Motlow State Community College has been awarded a $5.5 million grant to build a state-of-the-art robotics training center near its McMinnville campus, according to Fred Rascoe, dean of career and technical programs for the College.

The grant is the largest ever awarded to Motlow State and will have a significant impact on the economies of Warren County and the middle Tennessee and Upper Cumberland regions.

“This is a game changer for the state of Tennessee, the middle Tennessee region, and for Motlow State,” said Tony Kinkel, Motlow president. “We are very excited about this news and we are appreciative to everyone who worked together to make this dream a reality.”

The new robotics training center will be located on 4.5 acres adjacent to the Tennessee College of Applied Technology and the Motlow State McMinnville campus, and was donated to the College by the Warren County Commission. Motlow and the TCAT are partners in the new project.

A news release from Gov. Bill Haslam's office announced the Motlow grant as being part of “the Drive to 55 Capacity Fund, an initiative designed to support colleges and universities as enrollment increases since the launch of Tennessee Promise.”

“Tennessee has seen unprecedented numbers of students enrolling in college for the first time,” Gov. Haslam said in the news release. “As Tennessee Promise has made college a reality for so many of our students, we are committed to providing our institutions with the resources to support them. The Drive to 55 Capacity Fund assists our campuses in getting these students to and through college, so we can continue to close the skills gap in Tennessee’s workforce.”

“This grant will enable Motlow to build a state-of-the-art robotics training center to support existing and new industries throughout the area as they utilize more industrial robots”, said Rascoe. “With the growth of manufacturing in middle Tennessee it makes sense to have a training center to support that growth.

“Currently, it is estimated there are over 7,000 robots in use within 75 miles of Motlow’s McMinnville campus and that number will only grow,” continued Rascoe. “Middle Tennessee is fast becoming a nationwide leader in advanced manufacturing, which uses robotic technology. Motlow State is vital in the process to train skilled workers to support these fast-paced industries.

“This adds another level of technology education for Motlow State,” added Rascoe. “Building upon our mechatronics technology program, this grant will only enhance Motlow’s efforts to offer highly-skilled training; meeting the needs of this fast-paced industry. As a leader in mechatronics technology training, Motlow will be poised to become a leader in advanced robotics technology training as well.”

Key personnel who helped Motlow secure the grant, along with Rascoe and Kinkel, includes Todd Herzog, owner of Accu-Router in McMinnville; Megan Farrischoate, economic development planner and assistant director for the Upper Cumberland Development District in Cookeville; Don Alexander, director of the Warren County Development Board; Bobby Cox, director of Warren County schools; Herschel Wells, county executive of Warren County; Melody Edmonds, interim vice-president for academic affairs at Motlow; and Shane Buchanan, Motlow’s director of mechatronics.

Proposals were reviewed by a team of readers from across state government, including the Department of Economic and Community Development, the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, the Tennessee Board of Regents, and the University of Tennessee system. Based on reader scores and final approval from the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, projects were selected for funding.

“As we have expanded access to higher education through the Drive to 55, it is crucial that we ensure colleges and universities have the resources to prepare students for the workforce,” Mike Krause, executive director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, said in the news release. “The process of awarding these funds was very competitive and each funded program will provide opportunity and growth to students across our state.”