Tennessee College of Applied Technology-Shelbyville hosted its second official groundbreaking for its newly funded facility on Friday. The morning event featured remarks from construction representatives and from state officials.
The $45 million facility is expected to open in the summer of 2024. Architect for the project, Art Carlton from Bauer Askew Design, explained the design phase of the new Bedford County Higher Education Center in which the TCAT-Shelbyville will be located.
The facility will consist of two buildings: the first being the academic building on the forefront of Highway 231 North and then the shop building behind it. The classroom building will be two-storied with a gable roof and have a “stately presence,” Carlton said. The shop building will be one-story with several lab rooms.
“The job of an architect is to capture the vision of the leaders and the team, then put it to life. The Bedford County Higher Education Center is envisioned as a campus to create a great college experience for all students,” said Carlton. “Thank you for placing faith in us. You’ve been an amazing client.”
TCAT President shares vision
TCAT-Shelbyville President Laura Monks explained on Friday that the new facility will allow for the expansion of 10 current programs and provide land and parking to add four new programs. While the current TCAT-Shelbyville has 400 students enrolled, the new location will allow for up to 1,000 students.
The new campus will be located on right behind the 231 North Industrial Park. TCAT-Shelbyville will neighbor the new Duksan Electera electrolyte plant, which recently held its own groundbreaking ceremony.
“This campus will also provide the industrial park a flexible space to assist with current and prospective industry with their training needs,” said Monks. She added that since 1964, TCAT-Shelbyville has probably supplied more than 15,000 skilled workers for the region.
State Rep. Pat Marsh said during the event that the new facility is going to make a difference for Bedford County and southern middle Tennessee for years to come. “After we’re gone, this is going to be here, putting out certificates and keeping our young people at home—working here, making a good living, paying good taxes, and raising their families here.”
Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor Flora Tydings said this new facility will make technical college more accessible for the area. “This will be a true center for both the TCAT, the community college, and our university partners to offer students the opportunity to begin at one level and go as high as they can possibly go.”
The average tuition for TCAT is about $4,000 per year, according to Tydings. “And most of our students go on financial aid. There’s financial aid available for just about anybody in the State of Tennessee.”
Tydings added they are doing everything they can to keep tuition low. “The state has been so good to us to help us do that. Our goal is to always keep it low. She explained they are also looking for alternative resources, such as online books and material, to help keep tuition affordable.
Ron Adcock, an educator and later director at the State Area Vocational-Technical School, as TCAT-Shelbyville was known in the early 1970s, was in attendance at the groundbreaking event on Friday. Adcock, who served as one of the board members until retiring in 2000, said this new TCAT has been a “long time coming.”
“I would say it’s wonderful to see the City and the County work together with their state partners to create something like this because it takes everyone working together to do it. I am tickled to death.”
But some City officials said recently that it “wasn’t easy” to purchase the 33-acre property for this new facility. The new project comes at a cost to the City of Shelbyville and Bedford County, jointly, with a price tag of $2.1 million.
Councilman Henry Feldhaus said, “I want to thank our City Council members who are here because sometimes those votes are tough.”
Feldhaus stated, “The City and the County both recently raised taxes, slightly. But that kind of increase provided the funds, literally, for the City of Shelbyville to write a check for a million dollars to help purchase this land . . . give to the State of Tennessee so that this TCAT could be built. And the County did the same thing.”
He added, “Those kind of tough decisions, like tax increases, give us the opportunity to make investments for the people who aren’t here right now that will be graduating at this facility for years to come.”
The City and County were awarded on Friday for those contributions by the Tennessee Board of Regents. Shelbyville and Bedford County received philanthropic awards for their contributions. See pg. 8B for more photos from the TCAT event.