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December 19, 2012 | Tom Ballard

Roane State adding Clinton facility, Rabinowitz leaving top workforce position

Roane State Community College (RSCC), which has experienced an impressive succession of workforce development “wins” in the federal grant world, is expanding into Clinton to add capacity to deliver some of these services.

At the same time that the college is expanding, it is losing the administrator who has overseen the workforce programs that have acronyms like AMTEC, ACE and STEM. Lou Rabinowitz, RSCC’s Director of Workforce Connections, is leaving the college at the end of the month to return to his private sector consulting practice.

We sat down with Rabinowitz last week to talk about the latest expansion and his thoughts about the future after three years of leading the overall effort.

“All the pieces just came together” to create the Clinton Higher Education and Training Center, Rabinowitz says, crediting Nolan Nevels, RSCC Director of the Advanced Materials Training and Education Center (AMTEC) for creating the opportunity.

He explained that Nevels was a participant in the Leadership Anderson County program. “He participated the way he should have,” Rabinowitz explained.

Because Nevels was so immersed in the program, he learned that Clinton had a vacant, 26,000 square foot Armory near Eagle Bend Manufacturing, and the latter was sending its employees to a community college in Bowling Green, KY for training. Eagle Bend Manufacturing was also an active participant in the AMTEC initiative.

Rabinowitz said the city and RSCC were able to strike a deal that allows the college to lease the space for a dollar a year for five years, do some cosmetic improvements such as painting, and pay a scaled amount of the utilities that will average about 50 percent of the cost over the five-year period. The location is advantageous to Roane State since the Armory is so close to Interstate 75.

“It will be a “one-stop shop for industry” in the region, Rabinowitz said, adding that it might even have some academic credit programs. “It’s looking more and more like we are going to use all of the space.”

Eagle Bend is even donating a new industrial robot for training programs.

Initial plans call for RSCC to move several programs into the facility. They include its mechatronics offerings, materials handling training, some AMTEC courses and the administrative offices for the RX Tennessee program that Roane State coordinates. The latter is a $12.5 million federally-funded initiative involving 12 other Tennessee community colleges and several technology centers that is designed “to improve the opportunities to Trade Adjustment Assistance-eligible workers and others in health care-related training while at the same time meet the needs of the health care employers and industry.”

For Rabinowitz, it’s a bitter sweet time. He speaks glowingly of Roane State’s recently retired President (Gary Goff) and its new President (Chris Whaley). He talks about the exciting work that he has done “connecting the dots” between those with needs and Roane State’s capabilities.

“It’s been exceptional to work with people who are like minded,” Rabinowitz says of his direct reports and colleagues.

He will depart December 31 with a great sense of accomplishment but three regrets. “The timing is good for me, but not for the college,” Rabinowitz says. He’s leaving good people behind and, as is the case almost any time someone leaves a job, there are a few items he wishes he had time to complete.

Today, in addition to its campus in Oak Ridge, RSCC has opened two important training locations – one in the Halcyon Commercialization Center in the Oak Ridge Science and Technology Park and the soon-to-open facility in Clinton. That’s a pretty good three-year legacy of commitment to improving access to workforce training.

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