News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


Calhoun: From cotton field to a regional star

Six decades after rising from a cotton field, Calhoun Community College, is a preeminent force in this region’s economic development.

The recent announcement that a regional workforce development initiative led by Calhoun received a $5 million federal grant added to its stature.

The announcement came as Calhoun hosted a regional summit of the Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development initiative. The summit, planned when Calhoun’s role in WIRED was essentially unfunded, was a credit to the school. A collection of luminaries from state and federal government, industry and education descended on the transformed cotton field.

They left impressed.

What Calhoun brings to the table has more to do with personality than facilities. President Marilyn Beck is one of those rare people who combines unrestrained enthusiasm with professionalism. She was practically jumping up and down as she described “the celebration of all celebrations” that took place in her office upon receipt of the grant news. But then, seamlessly, she switched to the business of making sure the grant will benefit the community.

Of all the celebrated speakers at the summit, it was our own Mary Yarbrough, dean of workforce education and technologies, that showed the greatest command of the WIRED concept and how to put it into action. She had done her homework and, like President Beck, combined raw energy with painstaking attention to detail in presenting a plan.

Calhoun’s unique qualities are not lost on outsiders.

Consider that a Decatur school is leading a workforce development program for a region whose unquestioned economic center is in Huntsville.

Consider that in 2005, the U.S. Department of Labor awarded Calhoun a $3.5 million grant to establish the Center for Manufacturing Innovation.

Consider that, also in 2005, Calhoun won a $2.5 million DOL grant for an advanced health education facility.

Calhoun replaced the cottonseeds upon which it was founded with seeds of learning and economic development. The harvest promises to be bountiful.

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