The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

June 14, 2013

Bentley encouraged by visit to Calhoun's Robotics Park

By Caleb Odom
For The News Courier

— Gov. Robert Bentley got a firsthand look at state economic development Thursday when he toured the Robotics Technology Park at Calhoun Community College’s Decatur campus.

“It’s very encouraging to see what is happening here at Calhoun,” said Bentley.

The three-phased park is a collaboration between the state, Calhoun, Alabama Industrial Development & Training and robotics-industry leaders from across the nation.

Phase I is the robotics maintenance training center, a 52,000-square-foot facility housing an industry-training program staffed by technical experts from several major robotic and automation brands.

Phase II is the advanced technology research and development center, designed for use by companies developing robotic technology. It features the infrastructure to support research, development and testing of leading edge robotics for military projects, space exploration, and manufacturing processes.

Phase III is awaiting funding and has yet to be built.

With Phase two now complete, students and industry can be trained to work with complex equipment that Bentley said was not like using an iPod.

“Technical training in school is not like it was thirty years ago,” Bentley said. “We need the students who have math, English; they have to have reasoning skills and they have to understand how to operate something so complicated as that.”

Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, echoed the governor’s sentiments about the robotics park.

“This is a world class facility where we have a world class workforce that is very intelligent in the use of robots in the workplace,” Orr said.

District 4 Rep. Mickey Hammon, R-Decatur, said he and Orr worked hard to keep the robotics park at Calhoun by working alongside Gov. Bentley.

“We are told many times that we have the hardest working people in the nation here in Alabama so we want to make sure we have the most well-trained people,” Hammon said.

Alabama Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield looks at the robotics park as an opportunity to grow the state’s exposure on a global level.

“Alabama means something globally,” Canfield said. “Last year 166 countries received Alabama-made products, goods and services. So where in the world is Alabama? We are everywhere and we should be proud of that fact.”

Bentley who travels to France today for an air show is working to recruit more industries to the state.

The governor stressed innovation and entrepreneurship as keys to renewal for industry in Alabama, which goes back to training students and industry with quality equipment.

“We have got bright minds in this state and we need to take advantage of that,” he said.