The groundbreaking ceremony for the new Marion County Regional Institute for Higher Education building took place on October 23. Pictured (l to r): Les Price, Marion County Commissioner Jane Dawkins, Marion County Commissioner and South Pittsburg Mayor John Graham, Marion County Mayor Dr. James Catanzaro, Chattanooga State President David Jackson, Kimball Mayor Julie Bennett, Chattanooga State Kimball Site Director Howell Moss, former Marion County Mayor Henry Lodge, Lodge, Mfg.
It was a long time coming, but as Marion County Mayor John Graham stated, “It’s the future of our entire region!” The groundbreaking ceremony for the new Marion County Regional Institute for Higher Education building took place amid a crowd of more than 100 people on October 23. Regional and local government, business and industry, educational representatives and area residents were on hand to witness this historic occasion.
Mayor Graham was pleased to report that the initial phase of the site actually came in more than $600,000 under budget. That money has been applied along with a $1 million donation to begin phase two: the second of seven buildings.
Former county mayor Howell Moss said, “Almost 20 years ago, the technology boom came to Marion County. With one computer in town and without the knowledge to use it, it became apparent that residents of Marion County would need to retrain for the times.” Moss added that in the early 90s, the county was more worried about building primary schools in the area and had no money to consider a college.
David Jackson, mayor of Kimball recalls, “The city of Kimball had one question…what do we need to do to get this done?” The answer became clear following a meeting with Dr. James Catanzaro, president of Chattanooga State: expand the community college service area into Marion County. The Chattanooga State Kimball site opened in 1993.
When a site became available, it was an old church located on Battle Creek Road that the county purchased. Moss explains, “We filled that up and needed more room, so we built on to the back. It wasn’t real pretty or fancy, but it was functional. We filled that up too.” Without any more room to expand and more students seeking higher educational opportunities, the county began looking at other options culminating in the purchase of a 125-acre piece of land called Holland Farm, off of Highway 41 just inside Kimball.
Excitement and pride was apparent throughout the ceremony. Representing the Marion County Commission, Les Price stated, “ We’ve done a lot in the county, but this is the most important thing we have ever done.” Added Marion County Commissioner and South Pittsburg Mayor Jane Dawkins, “This is the single, most important, life-changing project we could ever be a part of for generations to come.”
Finally, Henry Lodge of Lodge Manufacturing, representing industry summed it up, “It’s clear that industry is changing. Folks have to have the skills demanded in today’s world. Phase two will raise the economic value of the county for all citizens. The role of industry is to provide jobs and growth, but we can only grow with the necessary skill sets. Chattanooga State has innovative programs and there is no college better in the state to provide this!”
Dr. Catanzaro announced that Chattanooga State won the celebrated Bellwether Award earlier this year. This award is bestowed upon a community college with leading edge programs in community college practices worthy of replication. In a final address before the groundbreaking, Dr. Catanzaro stated, “We are going to provide those programs and certificates to you as well.”
For more information about Chattanooga State visit www.chattanoogastate.edu or call the Kimball site at 423-837-1327.