Saying the Dynamo of Dixie is back, Chattanooga business and political leaders Friday agreed to launch an education initiative to hone work force skills needed by manufacturers in the city and state.

Tim Spires, Chattanooga Regional Manufacturers Association president, said the system will certify certain worker skills and will attract more industry to the area.

"Education is very important to us," Spires said, noting the CRMA is partnering with the Washington, D.C-based Manufacturing Institute to push the effort.

The local industry association will take the lead in deploying the certification system statewide, Spires said.

"We'll develop a curriculum to direct people to manufacturing jobs," he said.

When certified, manufacturing employers will be more comfortable hiring a worker knowing he or she has needed skills, Spires said.

The local group will work with Chattanooga State Community College to set up the system as the statewide standard for manufacturing education.

Jim Catanzaro, CSCC president, said the school already is heavily involved in training workers for companies, including Volkswagen and Wacker Chemical.

"What an opportunity for all of us," he called the National Association of Manufacturing's Endorsed Manufacturing Skills Certification System.

State Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, said at the VW plant's training academy that Southeast Tennessee is a leader in advanced manufacturing.

"Chattanooga is back," he said. "We're back bold and strong."

Spires said plans are to work with high schools, community colleges and universities to implement the standards. The programs will address personal, academic, workplace and manufacturing technical skills.

He said four states, Texas, Ohio, North Carolina and Washington, piloted the program in 2010. The Manufacturing Institute is expanding it to a dozen more.

Lumina Foundation for Education in Indianapolis is providing financial support. Other grants will be available for education institutions, Spires said.

Both Mayor Ron Littlefield and Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger said they support the effort.