By ZOË WATKINS
A reception was held by the Shelbyville-Bedford County Partnership for the new president of Shelbyville’s Tennessee College of Applied Technology.
Jimmy L. Wright was appointed as the 8th president in October of last year and officially began his new role in December, following the retirement of TCAT-S’ last president, Laura Monks.
During the reception, which catered food from Shelbyville’s newest chain restaurant Dos Bros, Wright briefly described his goals and vision for college in the upcoming years to audience of local industry leaders and government officials.
“It is who I am. I believe in student success but student success come from business and industry,” he said.
Prior to becoming TCAT-S’s president, Wright served as chief student affairs officer at Big Sandy Community and Technical College in Prestonsburg, K.y.
Wright also holds a master of arts in higher education from Morehead State University, a bachelor of business administration in management from Sullivan University, and an associate in applied science, computer science, from Prestonsburg Community College. He is working toward a doctor of education in educational leadership at Morehead State University.
Wright is originally from Johnson County, K.y., 66 miles outside of Lexington. He heard about TCAT-S’s job opening on hiring boards but also because of acquaintances he has in Tennessee.
Upon visiting Shelbyville several times prior to being hired, Wright said he immediately felt a connection to the town where he hopes to see the partnerships among industry, education, and workforce development continue.
“I love it here. You all remind me of everything that is embedded in me — everything that I grew up to be.
“In my short time here, I’ve realized that there is a lot of growth going on in Bedford County. But there’s also a lot of need,” said Wright. “How can I advance the students’ skills for the next coming generation of businesses? It’s not something I can do alone.”
Wright emphasized throughout his speech that it’s the community that build technical education programs, not necessarily just the president.
“The working people of Bedford County and the surrounding area will be what drives TCAT-Shelbyville,” said Wright. “TCAT’s here for you all. I cannot create a program until you tell me what you need.”
He said his first goal as president will be to build relationships with local and global industries.
“I’m looking forward to creating new partnerships not just locally but globally. I want to know how TCAT-Shelbyville is going to help outside in these countries — what are we going to offer?”
He also said he wants to show the technical college’s stability and financially sound. “I came to Shelbyville with the concept of if I know it, you all will know. We’re going to talk about it as a relationship, as a partnership.”
Wright was also happy to report that the building design of the new TCAT-S facility on U.S. 231 is back to its full scope and size. The design was originally cut due to a slew of budget cuts, financing, and over-cost of material and labor.
“With legislative support and members of the community, we have received funding that puts the building back to full scope,” said Wright. “I can buy equipment in a year or two, but I cannot have a building that is only half the size of what Bedford County said we needed.”
The facility is set to open in August of 2025 and will hold a max capacity of 1800 students. Currently, TCAT-S has 700 enrolled students, but Wright said he expects that number to increase to over 1,000 once the new campus is opened.
Wright will also be the keynote speaker at the nest Chamber of Commerce Luncheon event on Tuesday, Feb. 27, at 11:30 a.m. at the Fly Arts Center.
Shane Hooper, President/CEO of the Shelbyville-Bedford County Partnership said during the event, “When we turn out students — whether it is Bedford County K-12, TCAT, Motlow, MTSU — our hope is that we are turning out students who have an education that is relevant to you guys [local industry leaders] who are going to hire them. At the end of the day, we are all here to make Shelbyville and Bedford a better place, and you cannot do that without a job.”