Roane State grant to help industry grow

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Roane State Community College has received a $1.64 million grant that will fund several initiatives designed to promote the growth of the composites industry in East Tennessee.

The college was awarded the grant as 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 college is very excited to receive this grant,” Roane State President Gary Goff said.

“We greatly appreciate the support of our industry partners, and we look forward to helping make East Tennessee a leader in composites and to preparing students to work in this exciting field,” he added.

The Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge aims to accelerate innovation-fueled job creation and global competitiveness by awarding grants to regions that demonstrate the existence of high-growth industry clusters that support a wide range of economic and workforce development activities.

“This grant provides an excellent opportunity for Roane State to highlight its commitment to quality education and its engagement in the economic and workforce development of our communities,” said Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor John Morgan.

“This is a notable award, and we are proud of Roane State for being selected to receive it.”

Roane State’s grant targeted composites, with a focus on low-cost carbon fiber technology.

Composites such as carbon fiber are used to create lightweight, durable and energy efficient products.

The region has a significant number of businesses that would benefit from use of composites in their products.

“This award recognizes collaboration in a high-tech field that will facilitate job creation in Tennessee,” said Walter Perry, district director, U.S. Small Business Administration, Tennessee district office.

“This was the only award in the state and was a result of collaborative efforts to focus on the cutting-edge composites industry.”

Partners with Roane State in the grant include Oak Ridge Carbon Fiber Composites Consortium, University of Tennessee Center for Industrial Services, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, East Tennessee Economic Council, Innovation Valley Inc., Tech 2020, Tennessee Automotive Manufacturers Association, Toho Tenax, Composite Applications Group, Poly Carbon Industries, Scenic Industries and boat companies represented by the Tellico Reservoir Development Agency.

With the grant funding, Roane State is developing a project called the Advanced Composites Employment Accelerator.

According to economic development estimates, the effort is expected to produce 750 new jobs in the composites industry. Initiatives will include:
• Developing an associate’s degree program at Roane State to prepare students to work in the composites industry.
• Identifying gaps in the supply chain and matching existing companies to fill the gaps.
• Organizing events to promote how composites can benefit businesses.
• Helping small businesses to understand and take advantage of opportunities in the composites industry
• Delivering training to rural areas
• Promoting the growth of the Oak Ridge Carbon Fiber Composites Consortium
The Oak Ridge Carbon Fiber Composites Consortium, established by Oak Ridge National Laboratory in July, works to accelerate the development, demonstration and commercial application of new low-cost carbon fiber and composites materials in many different industry sectors.