published Friday, May 24th, 2013

Georgia Northwestern Technical Community College opening campus near Ringgold

Northwest Georgia Technical College hopes to open a campus in Catoosa County, and the most likely spot is this 50-acre tract of land owned by the Catoosa County Development Authority.
Northwest Georgia Technical College hopes to open a campus in Catoosa County, and the most likely spot is this 50-acre tract of land owned by the Catoosa County Development Authority.
Photo by John Rawlston.
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Catoosa County will get a Georgia Northwestern Technical Community College campus on Old Alabama Highway near Interstate 75 fronted by new restaurants and retail development.

The county won't donate the land near Ringgold as once proposed; the college is buying it.

"It's a win for the county," Catoosa County Commission Chairman Keith Greene said.

Catoosa County bought the vacant, 50-acre site just north of Holcomb Road in 2008 for about $2 million using revenue from the special purpose local option sales tax, a 1 cent levy per $1 of sales.

County officials initially planned to develop the acreage as an industrial park, but that idea lost steam as the tanking economy spawned a surplus of industrial space along I-75.

Then, the county considered giving the Old Alabama Highway acreage away after the technical college scrapped plans to build a new Catoosa County campus on 37 acres at Cloud Springs and Dietz roads because of traffic and flooding worries.

However, state Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, who represents Catoosa County, was able to get state money set aside so the college could buy the Old Alabama Highway acreage, county Commission Chairman Keith Greene said.

Mullis was appointed chairman of the Senate Rules Committee this year, making him the third most powerful member of the Senate.

"Senator Mullis allocated funds from the state," Greene said.

'Break even' deal

The college agreed last week to pay $1.2 million, or $32,000 an acre, to buy the 38 acres from the Catoosa County Economic Development Authority.

"The property acquisition request has been submitted to the Georgia State Properties Commission and the details will not be finalized until the request has been approved," college spokeswoman Amber Jordan said in an email.

"We expect that to happen in June."

A local developer, whom Greene didn't want to name, is buying the remaining 12 acres fronting State Route 151, as Old Alabama Highway officially is called, for about $50,000 an acre, or $600,000.

"There's going to be restaurants and retail," Greene said. "I'm not exactly sure what [specific businesses are] going in there."

The county has agreed to fund infrastructure improvements, Greene said, including a new entrance to the property off Holcomb Road. The expenses will be covered, he said, by the money the county makes selling the land.

"It's break even," Greene said.

County officials are looking forward to tax revenue from the new commercial development. They also expect the new campus will help attract and retain industry.

Former college President Craig McDaniel said last year that the centerpiece of the new Catoosa County campus would be an automated robotics lab to prepare students for jobs in the region's automotive industry. The school calls the course work its "Auto Alley" initiative.

The technical college serves nine Northwest Georgia counties. Once the Catoosa campus opens, only Chattooga and Dade counties will be without satellite campuses.

Groundbreaking should begin next year on the Ringgold campus, Greene said.

Catoosa County Commissioner Robert "Bobby" Winters thinks the 50-acre parcel is a prime spot for the campus. Old Alabama Highway is due to be widened to four lanes there, he said.

"I feel very deeply it's going to help that area grow," Winters said. "It's a beautiful piece of land."

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6651.

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers Catoosa and Walker counties for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California. Stories he's covered include crime in blighted parts of metro Detroit and Reno, Nev.; environmental activists tree-sitting in California's Sierra Nevada foothills; attempts by the Michigan Militia to take over a township¹s government in northern Michigan. A native of Michigan, ...

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