Southeast Tennessee Development District Executive Director Beth Jones said Earl Gohl was given an overview of the Tri-State Workforce Alliance, and a preview on a report by Mississippi State University on the skills gap and the strategies needed to more effectively train the workforce. He toured Chattanooga and heard from elected officials what they believe was the key to the city’s downtown redevelopment.
Gohl was unanimously confirmed as federal co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission by the U.S. Senate on March 10. He is the 11th federal co-chair of the Commission since it was established by an act of Congress in 1965.
The tour included a stop at Cleveland State Community College where Assistant Professor of Technology Allan Gentry briefed Gohl on Green Technology training available through the college.
Cleveland State President Dr. Carl Hite said students in all areas of study need to be aware of energy conservation and sustainability.
Hite said the local community college has achieved recognition for its arboretum, designation as a tree campus and wildlife refuge.
“The city of Cleveland is a Tree City USA, Cleveland Utilities has been recognized and Cleveland State as a Tree Campus,” Dr. Hite said. “That is the only tri-fecta in the entire state.”
He said the green initiative is here to stay and colleges have to do a better job of graduating students and making sure that any job — even small business — can be a green business.
Gohl said community colleges such as Cleveland State provide great leadership in providing a trained workforce in green technologies.
“Community colleges are going to lead the way,” he said. “They are the innovators of our communities.”
Gohl said transportation to isolated communities in the Appalachian Mountains improves economic opportunities and safety. It does not necessarily change the culture.
“The challenge is to provide economic opportunity to communities and their is no reason for the local culture to change. In often times, the culture and heritage of a community is one of the strengths and one of the ways they generate their own sustainability,” Gohl.
He said the ARC provides annual funds to each state for their Appalachian Development Highway System on a formula basis. He said about 2,600 miles of the 3,000 miles of roads originally identified have been built since the ARC was established in 1965.
“Their (Tennessee) major project at this point, their one outstanding large project is Corridor K,” he said. “It’s a very expensive project and a very challenging project. It’s going to take awhile to begin construction and complete it.”