President Obama Visits Innovation Valley

February 06, 2015 Written by Knoxville Chamber

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden visited Knoxville to announce a new education initiative and a new manufacturing hub.

Obama and Biden first visited Pellissippi State Community College to announce the proposed America’s College Promise program to a packed auditorium. This program, inspired by Gov. Bill Haslam’s Tennessee Promise, provides students two years of free community college or technical school as long as they meet certain benchmarks like maintaining a 2.5 GPA and part-time student status.

“A college degree is the surest ticket to the middle class,” Obama said in his speech. “It is the key to getting a good job that pays a good income – and to provide you the security where even if you don’t have the same job for 30 years, you’re so adaptable and you have a skill set and the capacity to learn new skills, it ensures you’re always employable.”

The next stop on the trip was Techmer PM in Clinton. The company – which produces advanced composite material – served as the backdrop of Obama’s announcement that the University of Tennessee will lead the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation. The institute is a $259 million private-public partnership, with a $70 million commitment from the U.S. Department of Energy and $189 million from IACMI’s partners.

The institute will focus on advanced fiber-reinforced polymer composites that combine strong fibers with tough plastics to yield materials that are lighter and stronger than steel. IACMI is one of four institutes the Obama administration has commissioned to accelerate advanced manufacturing.

“This project places the university and its partners in a unique position to strengthen Tennessee’s economy,” UT Chancellor Jimmy Cheek said in a press release. “We are very honored to have been selected for this role in shaping the future of composites manufacturing through IACMI. This will build upon our deep collaborations with our consortium partners and spark innovation and growth within our nation’s industries.”