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Roane State Community College’s new Advanced Composites Employment accelerator is more than a training program.
The grant-funded program also teaches companies, including small businesses, how they can utilize breakthroughs in the composites industry to grow and create jobs.
“It’s an economic development opportunity with a training component to it,” ACE director Mike Farmer said during the recent kickoff meeting for the program at Tech 20/20. “That’s the purpose of what we are doing.”
“We’ve gone through an industrial revolution; now we have an opportunity to go through a re-industrial revolution,” he said. “We have so many things converging here.”
Composite materials, such as carbon fiber, are used to create lightweight, durable and energy efficient products.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory is leading research in how to affordably make carbon fiber so that it can be used widely in manufacturing.
As part of the ACE program, Roane State will develop a two-year associate’s degree program to prepare students to work in the composites industry. Economic development goals include identifying gaps in the supply chain and matching existing companies to fill the gaps; organizing events to promote how composites can benefit businesses; and helping companies utilize advancements in composites technology.
“We’re excited to be a part of this, and we look forward to working with all of you to help find the right industries that can benefit from these services and benefit from Oak Ridge National Laboratory resources and, in the end, create high-quality jobs,” said Paul Jennings, executive director of the University of Tennessee Institute for Public Service Center for Industrial Services.
Roane State received a $1.64 million grant last September to launch ACE. The grant was part of President Obama’s $37 million Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge, a multi-agency competition to support the advancement of 20 high-growth, regional industry clusters.
The U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration will provide 60 percent of the grant funding over four years. The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration will provide 30 percent of the grant funding, and 10 percent will come from the U.S. Small Business Administration.
“We want to make sure that we provide the tools for how to start up small businesses around carbon fiber technology,” said Walter Perry, Tennessee district director of the U.S. Small Business Administration. “It’s about job creation.”
ACE partners include East Tennessee Economic Council; Innovation Valley Inc.; ORNL; Street Legal; Tech 20/20; Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development Local Workforce Investment Areas 2, 3 and 4; Tennessee Automotive Manufacturers Association; Tennessee Small Business Development Centers; and the University of Tennessee Institute for Public Service Center for Industrial Services.
Contact Farmer at email@example.com or 354-3000, Ext. 4862, for more about the program.