Gov. Bob Riley speaks to the Robotics Committee Thursday at Calhoun Community College as site preparation for the Robotics Center began across U.S. 31. The governor urged the committee to “push the envelope” in completing the center because of two major industrial prospects considering location in Alabama. (News Courier/Kim Rynders)

Gov. Bob Riley told a gathering of the local Robotics Committee Thursday that he would use all means at his disposal to get the three-phase Robotics Center up and running as soon as possible to attract two major companies to Alabama.

Committee Chairman Joe Sparks said Phase I, the Industrial Robotics Maintenance Training Center is scheduled to be in operation by July 2010, and the grand opening and ribbon-cutting is slated for August.

Phase II is the Advanced Technology Research and Development Center and Phase III is the Integration and Entrepreneurial Center.

The group, comprised of business, industry and education leaders, hosted the governor in the third-floor President’s Conference Room of the Math and Science Building at Calhoun Community College, while across U.S. 31 on former Delphi Saginaw property, giant earthmovers began site preparation for Phase I.

Riley said it is imperative to hasten construction as a recruiting tool for industrial prospects.

“Both national and international companies are looking to move here,” said Riley. “The economy is turning around. This is two of the biggest opportunities since I became governor.”

Riley wouldn’t elaborate on the companies, but he did confirm that one of the two prospects is eyeing North Alabama.

“This is huge,” said Riley. “Let me know how I can help. We’ve had great participation, but if there is anything else you need, whether from the Department of Education, the Two-Year College System or the governor’s office, just let me know.

“As soon as we can get up and running it will be great for not only everyone here in Alabama but in the South in general to attract new business.”

An example of the impact the Robotics Center is having even before it is built can be witnessed in the Huntsville Toyota plant landing the contract to manufacture a four-cylinder vehicle.

Jim Bolte, Huntsville Toyota site manager, sits on the Robotics Committee.

“We were already manufacturing the six and eight-cylinder vehicles, but we will now be manufacturing the four-cylinder in June,” said Bolte. “We are the only Toyota plant in the world with that combination.”

Bolte told the group that it was on the strength of robotics training in North Alabama that his plant won the contract. He said the Huntsville plant beat out plants in China, Japan and Australia to build the four-cylinder model.

“The fact that Jim’s plant beat out Australia, China and Japan speaks for itself,” said Riley. “Thank you for what you’ve done, but we have to keep pushing the timetable.”

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