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Officials and interested citizens discuss possibility of TCAT campus in county

By: Paula Walter
Assistant Editor

A crowd of approximately 50 people from all walks of life, including educators, county and local officials, business owners, Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey and State Representative Timothy Hill attended a meeting to discuss the potential for the establishment of a Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) campus in Johnson County this past week.
Over the past 18 months, representatives from TCAT in Elizabethton have been working together with Johnson County representatives to explore the feasibility of a school campus within the county. For those seeking further education after high school, a local campus would eliminate the necessity to travel the windy roads around Watauga Lake, a consideration for those attending night classes or driving in inclement weather. Transportation to and from Elizabethton or Johnson City can be cost prohibitive. A campus in the county’s own backyard would eliminate those hurdles.
“We need to have a plan, a vision,” said Johnson County Mayor Larry Potter. “We have kids that go on to ETSU and to Milligan, but college isn’t for everyone.” According to Potter, the economy is turning around in Johnson County and people are starting to hire. They are looking for employees with technical training. “I think this could be a game changer for kids in Johnson County,” Potter said. “This could be a big asset.” Several companies in Johnson County, include Park Dale, Danny Herman Truck and Mountain Electric are looking to expand and they will need employees with specific job skills that TCAT can provide.
Johnson County has an empty 50,000 square foot facility on Route 67 that is being evaluated as a feasible location. The facility is located on six acres and the property value is believed to be approximately $1 million to $1.25 million. According to Dean Blevins, director of TCAT in Elizabethton, they are looking at the possibility offering automotive technology and diesel powered equipment technology hybrid, construction trades including residential and commercial wiring, plumbing, carpentry, HVAC and industrial maintenance. Other potential courses are heavy shop programs, licensed practical nursing, advanced manufacturing, administrative office technology, criminal justice, technology foundations and other clean shop programs.

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