Pellissippi State starts construction on Blount center

Lesli Bales-SherrodBlount, On the Grow

Pellissippi State Community College broke ground Oct. 23 on its new Ruth and Steve West Workforce Development Center, a joint project with Tennessee College of Applied Technology Knoxville.

The 51,000-square-foot building on the college’s Blount County Campus will help fill the area’s need for highly skilled, college-educated employees. Blount County has experienced $2.8 million in new capital investment and announced 5,500 new jobs since 2011, according to the Blount Partnership.

Steve and Ruth West stand with an artist rendering of the Ruth and Steve West Workforce Development Center

Named for longtime Blount County Campus benefactors Ruth and Steve West, the workforce development center will include space for Pellissippi State’s computer information technology, culinary arts, electrical engineering technology and electromechanical engineering programs while TCAT will have space for its engineering technology program, giving that college its first footprint in Blount County.

“I was on the Blount County Industrial Board for 20 years, and we brought a lot of diverse companies in and continue to do so,” said Steve West, longtime owner of West Chevrolet and a former mayor of Maryville. “But it’s not like it was when I was young. A good attitude and willingness to learn, while important, are not enough in today’s economy. We need more specialized training to fill these jobs.”

The center will help fill that gap, with a unique, integrated approach to workforce development. In addition to Pellissippi State’s partnership with TCAT, the workforce development center also represents a K-12 partnership, offering dual enrollment classes for high school students, focusing on high-demand career skills. Meanwhile, a new corporate training center will give the College’s local industry partners extra space and opportunity to train their employees at Pellissippi State.

Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr. said center “will help us prepare Blount County students for high-demand careers that will sustain them and their families economically and allow them to stay right here at home instead of leaving in search of well-paying jobs.”

The center will also “help us serve our industry partners by providing more space to train their employees and offering individuals the continuing education that helps them move to the next level in their careers,” said Teri Brahams, executive director of Economic and Workforce Development for Pellissippi State.

Construction of the $16.5 million building, which was funded by the state of Tennessee and TCAT in addition to Pellissippi State, is projected to be complete in February 2022.

The Pellissippi State Foundation raised $5.5 million for the workforce development center. In addition to the Wests, the center also received significant financial contributions from donors such as the Economic Development Board of Blount County government, the city of Maryville and the city of Alcoa; Arconic Foundation; Blackberry Farm Foundation; Blount Memorial Hospital; Care Institute Group; Clayton Family Foundation; Clayton Homes Inc.; DENSO North America Foundation; and William Ed Harmon.

Other shovel-wielders were Pellissippi’s Blount County Campus Dean Priscilla Duenkel, Blount County Mayor Ed MitchellJeff Weida of Arconic Tennessee, Louisville Mayor Tom BickersDon Heinemann of Blount Memorial Hospital, Bob Booker of DENSO and Maryville Mayor Tom Taylor.

Also recognized were Alcoa Mayor Clint Abbott, fundraising team members Joy BishopSharon Hannum, Christy Newman, Andy White and Mary Beth West; Chuck Griffin of BarberMcMurry Architects and Raja Jubran of Denark Construction.

Lesli Bales-Sherrod does marketing and writing for Pellissippi State Community College.

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