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Robotics Development Complex To Be Built at Alabama Community College

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A robotics research and development complex will be built at Calhoun Community College in Decatur and is expected to train 450 people a year, Gov. Bob Riley announced Monday.

The governor said the complex will feature a two-year training program and help attract high-tech industry while improving the efficiency of existing industries.

Robotics manufacturers including Japan-based Omron and Mitsubishi, Switzerland-based ABB Robotics, Wisconsin-based Rockwell Automation and Ohio-based Motoman Robots have pledged more than $40 million in robotic machinery for the Decatur plant, said Ed Castile, director of Alabama Industrial Development Training.

“We’re not doing this to prove a point,” Riley said. “We’re doing it so that every company that comes to Alabama is going to have an innate advantage because of the training that we are able to provide.”

Dr. David Williams, president of the University of Alabama in Huntsville, said the state is “uniquely positioned to become a national leader in robotics and enhance the state’s competitive advantage over other states in this field.”

Williams, whose university is a partner in the project, said proximity to Huntsville, with its aerospace and other high-tech industries, was a major factor in choosing Calhoun Community College. Wallace State Community College in Hanceville also was considered.

When the state budget permits, a second plant on the same site is planned for use by NASA and the U.S. Army Missile Command for research, development and testing of robotics for military and space exploration projects. At a third proposed plant, also on the site, companies would be able to build and adapt robots for new industries.

Riley said about $8 million in state funds and between $7 million and $8 million in city and county funds will be used to build the plant. Construction is to begin in six to eight months and training in about 18 months.

Riley said graduates of the two-year program will be ready to walk onto a manufacturing plant floor and begin work immediately. He said the program also will provide a step up for those seeking a bachelor’s or master’s degree at a four-year school.

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