Amid Northwest Georgia’s ever-expanding economic development, it is becoming increasingly likely that the placement of a new technical college campus could occur.
“A campus such as the one being discussed for Catoosa County could provide significant economic growth, and not just in Catoosa County, but the entire region,” said state Republican Sen. Jeff Mullis of Chickamauga.
Mullis also serves as the director of the Northwest Georgia Joint Development Authority, whose purpose is to bring industry to Catoosa, Walker, Chattooga and Dade counties.
About $3.6 million has been placed in the state’s upcoming budget for development of the new Catoosa tech campus.
Over the years, there has been discussion of a campus being located in Catoosa County to serve as a satellite location for Walker County’s Northwestern Technical College. However, this idea never seemed to garner the support it needed for becoming a reality.
Northwestern Technical College is undergoing a merger with Floyd County’s Coosa Valley Technical College. Plans call for the merger to be completed this summer, with the two campuses being identified as the Georgia Northwestern Technical College. Both campuses would be operating under a combined administrative leadership team.
Jeff King, future provost of Georgia Northwestern Technical College’s Walker Campus, said of the possibility of the Catoosa campus, “Georgia Northwestern is in the preliminary stages of developing the vision required to make the Catoosa campus idea a success for everyone. A dozen career-education programs are being considered for initial offering at the campus. We would have an administration and faculty presence, as well as a bookstore, library, and student center for the students of the Catoosa campus.”
Mullis said the development of such a campus would benefit the area in its efforts to bring a Volkswagen supplier into North Georgia. The German automaker plans to build a $1 billion automotive assembly plant in Chattanooga by 2011. Suppliers for the assembly plant are looking for possible locations across the Tennessee Valley to provide the Chattanooga plant with key components for the vehicles.
“There has been interest expressed by Volkswagen suppliers about locating in Northwest Georgia,” Mullis said, “but whether or not a supplier chooses to locate in our area, a Catoosa campus will make our local economy that much more appealing to potential outside investment in the future. For this reason, it simply makes sense for our area to expand its educational facilities to accommodate the growth and demand for high tech industry.”
King offered some idea of the kinds of programs that could be offered at the Catoosa campus.
“Among the programs we are looking at offering are certified manufacturing specialist, network security specialist, and mechatronics,” King said. “Mechatronics is also known as control and automation engineering. It is an area which works together with computer and automotive engineering, as well as robotics. It is the bringing together of mechanical, electrical, control systems, and software design.”
Mullis said he has been impressed by the work of local leadership in trying to make the Catoosa campus a reality.
“This shows how collaboration can work for the good of our region,” Mullis said.
Leaders involved with the campus proposal include Fort Oglethorpe mayor Ronnie Cobb, along with cooperation from the city of Fort Oglethorpe. Also, the Catoosa County Board of Commissioners, lead chairman Keith Greene, is credited with involvement.
On Tuesday Catoosa commissioners agreed to reserve a 38-acre site at Cloud Springs Road and Dietz Road in Fort Oglethorpe for the campus. “We have also seen strong support from Sen. Don Thomas and Reps. Jay Neal, Tom Dickson, and Tom Weldon,” Mullis said. “So we are seeing the kind of leadership that is necessary to make this project happen, and because of that I am very encouraged.”
Although the state is incurring a bit of budget shortfall, Mullis says he feels the likelihood for funding is good.