published Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

Chattanooga State revs up Wacker Institute

Rachel Cramer, center, and Claire Ballew welcome guests to a news conference to introduce the Wacker Institute to the public in this file photo.
Rachel Cramer, center, and Claire Ballew welcome guests to a news conference to introduce the Wacker Institute to the public in this file photo. Photo by Jake Daniels.

A $5 million project is under way at Chattanooga State Community College to prepare the future work force of Wacker Polysilicon North America, company and school officials said.

“Wacker is investing $1.4 billion in a new plant and ... they have to have a very sophisticated work force on board, ready, trained and fully functional from Day One and that’s 2013,” Chattanooga State President James Catanzaro said Monday during a news conference at the school.

The Wacker Institute, as it has been named, will be part of the college’s engineering technology division and, in June, will offer fast-track degrees starting in areas including chemical and mechanical technology, according to school officials.

  • The Wacker Institute, a partnership between Chattanooga State Community College and Wacker Polysilicon North America, will be part of the Engineering Technology Division at Chattanooga State.

  • The four main areas of study will include chemical technology, chemical laboratory technology, mechanical technology and electrical and Instrumentation technology.

  • The Wacker Institute and other engineering technology programs will be housed in the former Olan Mills building adjacent to Chattanooga State beginning in the fall 2011 semester.

  • The institute will occupy 25,000 square feet of the 149,000-square-foot Olan Mills facility.

Source: Chattanooga State Community College

Beginning in the fall 2011 semester, the Wacker Institute and other engineering technology programs will be housed in the former Olan Mills building adjacent to Chattanooga State, taking up 25,000 square feet of the 149,000-square-foot facility.

The Germany-based Wacker donated $3 million to the college for the construction of a state-of-the-art chemical training plant for the institute.

Ingomar Kovar, chief manager and president of Wacker Polysilicon North America, LLC, said the company looked at different places for the creation of the institute before deciding on Chattanooga State.

“We looked where we could find the best conditions to get this fast-track on time, and we looked at different locations, different colleges,” he said. “We found very interesting and good facilities everywhere, but we needed a building and everything quickly.”

The Wacker Institute will provide associate degrees in four sequential semesters and will include job training, said Jim Barrott, vice president of technology at Chattanooga State.

Catanzaro said four faculty members have been hired for the institute and the college is ready to take more than 500 students immediately and expects to have more than 2,000 within the next several years.

The college also has work force training partnerships with such companies as Volkswagen, Alstom and TVA, he said.

Wacker announced two years ago it was going to build its polysilicon production plant for the solar power industry in Bradley County. Since the announcement, the company has increased the investment amount from $1 billion to $1.45 billion and the number of workers from 500 to 650.

  • What: Wacker Institute information sessions

  • When: 5-6 p.m. Mondays and 9-10 a.m. Tuesdays, through May 31.

  • Where: Monday sessions at Chattanooga State Community College Health Science Center, Amnicola Highway; Tuesday sessions at Center for Education and Human Services, 71158 Lee Highway.

Wacker expects to hire several hundred production or chemical operators, 50 to 70 technicians and “a whole gamut” of administrative jobs, said Thomas Degnan, vice president of human resources and site services for the company.

And the priority is to hire as many as possible from around the region, said Kovar.

“Overall for our investment, we’ve found optimal, ideal conditions here all the time and we are very happy of how we’ve been treated and welcomed,” said Kovar.

He said there was competition all over the world for this project and “without a doubt” the company made the right decision to build in Southeast Tennessee.

Contact Perla Trevizo at or 423-757-6578. Follow her on Twitter at

about Perla Trevizo...

Perla Trevizo joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 2007 and covers immigration/diversity issues and higher education. She holds a master’s degree in newswire journalism from Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid, Spain, and a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Texas. In 2011 she participated in the Bringing Home the World international reporting fellowship program sponsored by the International Center for Journalists, producing a series on Guatemalan immigrants for which she ...

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