Rick Wagner • May 22, 2008 at 12:00 AM

A Toyota Motor Corp. automotive training facility may locate at Northeast State Technical Community College’s Gray campus, school President Bill Locke said Thursday.

After college health programs relocate from Gray and other locations to Kingsport this fall, the Toyota program would fit in well with the school’s new motor sports program and expanding automotive technology, Locke said at the annual board meeting of the Northeast State Foundation, held Thursday in Kingsport.

Even if Toyota does not participate, Locke said the Gray property the state of Tennessee bought for the college this year still will be the new home for automotive technology and an automotive training center. However, he said development would be slower without Toyota because of Tennessee budget cuts this year.

Locke also gave the more than 100 people who attended the meeting a rundown on the Academic Village being built in downtown Kingsport — a project that overall adds more than $20 million worth of improvements downtown provided by the city, Domtar, Eastman Chemical Co. and a federal grant.

The Regional Center for Applied Technology opened downtown in the fall of 2002, and it will be followed by the Kingsport Center for Health Professions to open this fall and the Kingsport Center for Higher Education and the Regional Center for Advanced Manufacturing, both to open in the fall of 2009.

Aside from the two-year offerings of Northeast State, the higher education center will also have King College, the University of Tennessee, Lincoln Memorial University and possibly other schools offering at least four bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees and three concentrations in an education specialists program.

During its business sessions, the board voted to accept the donation of the location for the manufacturing center from Domtar, which is demolishing an old building there for construction of a new building to be paid for by Eastman. The grant will help pay for new equipment in the manufacturing building.

The board earlier in the meeting voted to change its old policy on donations, which required the immediate sale of donated property, to allow it to keep Domtar’s donation.

Locke said that aside from improving economic development, revitalizing downtown and bettering training opportunities, the property and new building should be worth about $4 million of $5 million and bring the foundation’s assets to $10 million or $11 million.

The board also approved a budget of just more than $1.1 million, concentrated on scholarships, and added 11 scholarships for 2008-09.

Recent graduate Beverly Ehrhart of Kingsport, recipient of the Paul Montgomery Endowed Scholarship, said the scholarship helped her as a non-traditional student with two children and a job. She is pursuing a nursing degree from King College.

And recent graduate Hannah Shepherd, recipient of the Northeast State Faculty and Staff Endowed Scholarship, said her scholarship helped her as one of eight children who worked more than one part-time job until she got sick one summer. She plans to pursue a degree in exercise science from East Tennessee State University.

Joining the 2007-08 President’s Trust by giving $10,000 or more were Wellmont Health System, which gave $1 million, Washington County Triad Packaging Co. Inc., Walt Tittle, Tele-Optics Inc., Sullivan County, Ruritan National, The Other Side Ministries Inc., Johnson City Rotary Club, First Broad Street United Methodist Church, the Earl B. Bolling Memorial Trust and AccuForce Staffing Services.

On other matters, Locke told the group that Northeast State trained at least 16 of the first 20 hires at Nakatetsu, a Japanese-based company in Washington County, and plans to help train 30 more employees next year and 100 after that.

Northeast State also plans to train local workers for Leclerc Foods Inc., a Canada-based bakery that in August plans to open its second U.S. location in the old Carta Mundi building in the Northeast State Business Park in Kingsport near Tri-Cities Regional Airport.

Locke also said he is proud that the Educate and Grow scholarship program, which started with Kingsport and Sullivan County, has now grown to all five counties in Northeast State’s service area.

The program in Sullivan County gives a full scholarship to academically eligible high school graduates in Sullivan through county funding, with Kingsport providing backup funding. Other programs give partial scholarships and are funded through public funds in Washington County, private funds in Carter and Unicoi counties, and an estate bequeath in Johnson County.

In addition, Locke highlighted new interactive television teaching sites in Johnson and Unicoi counties, which give high school students getting a jump-start and older students easier access and a break on travel expenses.

For more information visit www.nstcc.cc.tn.us.

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