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Wallace State vying for center Calhoun wants
Governor set to visit both schools today; officials to present Wallace's proposal

By Bayne Hughes
hughes@decaturdaily.com 340-2432

Calhoun Community College made its pitch in January, and now it is rival Wallace State Community College's turn to try to persuade Gov. Bob Riley to locate a robotics center in Hanceville.

Riley will kick off the North Alabama Rural Action Commission on Tuesday at 2 p.m. at Calhoun. Then he will join new Alabama College System Chancellor Bradley Byrne at Wallace State for a 4 p.m. meeting.

Officials of Wallace State and Cullman Economic Development Agency will make a joint proposal to the governor in hopes of winning the estimated $40 million project.

The chancellor will be in Decatur on Tuesday from 8 a.m. through lunch, touring the Calhoun campus and meeting with officials about the robotics center and a proposed downtown Decatur performing arts center. Then he will go to Hanceville.

State Board of Education Vice President David Byers Jr., who represents Decatur and Hanceville, is scheduled to attend the Wallace meeting.

During Riley's campaign for re-election last year, he said he would like to place a robotics center in North Alabama to provide work-force development for the state's industries, which he estimated use more than 10,000 robots.

During Calhoun's presentation, officials promoted the fact that the school is the closest to Huntsville but not in the Rocket City. The college could easily transition existing robotics classes into the new program while taking advantage of existing work-force development programs.

Calhoun proposed using 10 acres on the north end of the campus, but Riley said that wouldn't be enough for the size of the center he envisions. Calhoun President Marilyn Beck guaranteed the governor that the college could acquire the necessary property.

One suggestion made after the meeting was to locate the center on the now-vacant Lurleen B. Wallace Developmental Center property on the south side of Decatur. The state closed the center for the mentally and physically disabled in 2003 and owns 159 acres along U.S. 31.

Wallace State officials are expected to tout the college's central location between Birmingham and Huntsville and its proximity to large automated manufacturing facilities.

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