Sparta, White County community leaders form Motlow advisory board

 Pictured are advisory board members, front row from left, Beth Ann Swallows, Motlow Sparta Site coordinator; Melody Edmonds, Motlow interim vice president for academic affairs; Jody Sliger, community development director, Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development; Cain Rogers, First National Bank and White County commissioner; and Tara Ray, attorney. Back row from left, Kurt Dronebarger, White County director of schools; Jim Payne, Motlow College Foundation trustee and Sparta Housing Authority executive director; Dr. Michael Torrence, Motlow president; Robert Officer, guidance counselor, Sparta alderman and Motlow adjunct instructor; Gary Morgan, Motlow Foundation chairman; Mark Farley, Upper Cumberland Development District executive director; and Paul Sherrell, District 43 state representative. Not pictured, Terri Douglas, White County School District academic/career coach.

Pictured are advisory board members, front row from left, Beth Ann Swallows, Motlow Sparta Site coordinator; Melody Edmonds, Motlow interim vice president for academic affairs; Jody Sliger, community development director, Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development; Cain Rogers, First National Bank and White County commissioner; and Tara Ray, attorney. Back row from left, Kurt Dronebarger, White County director of schools; Jim Payne, Motlow College Foundation trustee and Sparta Housing Authority executive director; Dr. Michael Torrence, Motlow president; Robert Officer, guidance counselor, Sparta alderman and Motlow adjunct instructor; Gary Morgan, Motlow Foundation chairman; Mark Farley, Upper Cumberland Development District executive director; and Paul Sherrell, District 43 state representative. Not pictured, Terri Douglas, White County School District academic/career coach.

Sparta and White County elected officials, Motlow State Community College leaders, and civic authorities recently met for an informational breakfast session to reaffirm the community’s commitment to post-secondary education and to chart a course that will expand those opportunities in White County through partnership with Motlow.

The gathering also inaugurated an advisory board for the Motlow Sparta Teaching Site to advance higher education opportunities for White County. The mission and purpose of the Advisory Board is to:

· Assist in fundraising for the Motlow Sparta site

· Support and facilitate planning for the site

· Serve as a liaison role between Motlow and the community

· Assist in exploring the changing needs of the community and support the College for educational opportunities that will assist in high-paying jobs and growth for White County.

The teaching site, located on the White County High School campus, opened in the fall of 2007 as a cooperative effort between the City of Sparta, White County, the White County Board of Education and Motlow. Facility funding comes from the City of Sparta, White County and the White County Board of Education. Motlow provides funding for labor, instruction, and leadership and handles daily operations. Beth Ann Swallows is the coordinator of the Sparta site and operates under the supervision of the Motlow McMinnville campus. She replaced Linda Mackie, who recently retired and had served as the site coordinator since opening in 2007.

“We look forward to expanding what Motlow can do,” said Kurt Dronebarger, White County director of schools. “We have all the things in place to make this work. This is a need for White County as we move forward and see more industry coming to our area. White County is on board as a partner and player (with Motlow).

“I am very proud to have the Motlow partnership on our (White County High School) campus. It is a huge asset that we enjoy and makes a big impact on our high school campus that a lot of other high schools don’t enjoy.”

Dronebarger’s comments echoed the universal commitment to Motlow from officials and the individuals that comprise the advisory board.

Motlow has been a great asset to our community,” said Sparta Mayor Jeff Young. “It is a great opportunity for our high school students as well for adults wanting to further themselves. Motlow provides a great atmosphere and is filled with people that care. They need the commitment from the community to support providing this valuable education.

A community’s ability to provide an educated workforce plays a very important role in its ability to attract new business and industry.

“The big thing why I am in support of Motlow is the economic upside,” said Denny Wayne Robinson, White County executive and advisory board member. “We have three to four hundred new jobs coming online over the next three to four years. We have to have our workforce educated to fill those jobs. We are putting the challenge out to Motlow to help us get the workforce educated.”

Dr. Michael L. Torrence, Motlow president, spoke toward the future in regional terms. He stated that looking at surrounding counties is important for building synergy that builds partnerships and collaboration. “What is important for our community is to look at what is happening around us,” said Torrence. “We are directly impacted by the growth that is happening in Putnam County.”

Torrence went on to explain that the factories of 20 or 30 years ago are not the factories of the present. The industrial market of today is highly computerized and includes advanced manufacturing and robotic systems, which is where he plans to guide Motlow in the future. He listed technology, manufacturing, robotics, and automation as central to the jobs of today.

“The wonderful thing about two-year degrees and certifications now is that you can have high-wage employment. We are talking $50,000 - $75,000 per year salaries.”

He addressed the need to recruit more women to the mechatronics and robotics arena. “Getting women involved is about creating a conversation and generating awareness. Females who might be interested in becoming an LPN, which is a great job to have, deserve to know they can make as much as 40 percent more in wages in mechatronics and robotics. That’s life changing!”

Torrence and the Motlow advisory board agreed the best way to prepare students to compete in the future is to place more emphasis on training in manufacturing.

“When we talk about generational change or impacting the livelihood of women and men, we must commit to the space for dialog. They must understand that manufacturing isn’t dirty and dark any more. That discussion is an important part of collaborative efforts like this,” Torrence added. “Troubleshooting and making sure that what is on the (manufacturing) line continues to run is motivating; and the skill set for that is very different than what it was in my grandfather’s manufacturing career. It is beyond that now. It is not lifting 100-pound boxes; it is making sure the robotic arm does what it is supposed to do.”

For more information about enrolling at Motlow State Community College, contact the White County campus at (931) 837-3341 or visit them at 603 Roosevelt Dr. in Sparta, or go to mscc.edu.