If the Thomaston-Upson Industrial Development Authority gets their way, a new program could be coming to the Flint River campus of Southern Crescent Technical College (SCTC). TUIDA Executive Director Kyle Fletcher told the board she had met with representatives of Lamar County to work together in hopes of moving the school’s mechatronics program from the Griffin campus to the Thomaston campus. Fletcher stated that Mechatronics is a combination of robotics and electronics and allows for enhanced curriculum training for students pursuing careers in the industrial engineering.
“We want to move the mechatronics lab from Griffin down here to Thomaston because we feel like that would be a little more enhanced than the Industrial Systems program (a similar program that is currently available),” Fletcher said.
She explained to the board the program would work with local industries in both Upson and Lamar Counties to possibly allow on-the -job training for those that tie into it; adding they would be working with the local school systems and SCTC if the move is granted.
“Any effort to bring students in or industries in to our campus here would be greatly needed as we all have concerns I think about the future of the Flint River campus of Southern Crescent,” Fletcher said. “This is a group effort with Lamar County and I am thrilled that they want that pathway and that course in our community. I think that is good news.”
In other business, TUIDA board member and Thomaston Mayor Hays Arnold spoke to the board about the Export-Import Highway project, which was the topic at a recent Lunch and Learn hosted by the Thomaston-Upson Chamber of Commerce and encouraged others to be supportive of the initiative. Arnold stated he felt the meeting was very inspirational and the guest speaker, KC Conway, who is Senior VP of Credit Risk Management at Sun Trust, is very supportive of the project which would expand the east-west corridor from LaGrange to Macon (including Highway 74 in Thomaston) to serve as a direct route for truck traffic from the Port of Savannah to Central West Georgia.
“He (Conway) made the point that this Export-Import Highway project is the most important transportation project he’s seen here in 20 years in the state of Georgia,” Arnold stated. “It’s my opinion and I think the opinion of many others, that this is our best chance to get as close to having an interstate as anyone could possibly have without it being an actual interstate.”
Arnold added that support for the project is picking up throughout the state, but it is going to take a dedicated group of people working hard to gain the exposure needed to make the dream a reality.
“For the four years I was chairman of Three Rivers (Regional Commission) I made it a point to promote this project because it is not only good for Upson County, but good for the state,” Arnold noted. “But, I will be stepping down off that board and as chair at the end of this year and it is very possible that it could get somebody else that doesn’t have the focus on that as I have tried to maintain. So, as a local group, we need people to be carrying the torch and be passing the baton.”
Finally, Fletcher updated the board on the SR 36 turn lane project at the intersection of 36 and Ben Hill Road. Once constructed the turn lane will give added safety for all drivers with the increase of log trucks coming in and out of Interfor. Fletcher stated Upson County had secured an additional $160,000 in LMIG (Local Maintenance Improvement Grant) funding for the project and there has been excellent cooperation from the property owners in the area.
“This project was not just for Interfor,” Fletcher said, “it was a safety issue for anybody that travels SR 36, so I am very excited about it. Everything just kind of falls into place it seems. It was a project that was first looked at in 2004, but they were unable to move forward and I think the stars were better aligned this time. It is something to celebrate once it’s achieved because everybody travels that highway.”
TUIDA board member Scott Blackstock agreed that the project will benefit the entire community.
“It is just by the grace of God that somebody hasn’t been killed out there,” Blackstock said. “Fortunately, we are being proactive and this is being put in place before something tragic happens.”
Ashley Biles can be reached by calling 706-647-5414 or on Twitter @AshleyBiles1