Senator Jones Announces $25 Million For Northeast Alabama Projects

Montgomery– With the conclusion of the 2023 legislative session,
Senator Andrew Jones took the opportunity to remark on two historic
multi-million dollar investments by the State of Alabama into District
10– investments which will likely be a game-changer over the decades to

Jones helped shepherd both $8.5 million for a new Northeast Alabama
Challenger Center and an additional $12 million for the Gadsden State
Community College Advanced Manufacturing Center through the budget
process. In multiple meetings with the Governor’s Office, Lt. Governor
Ainsworth, and the Senate and House budget chairs, Jones worked to
include and then protect this funding through every step of the budget

“I am beyond thrilled that $20.5 million in new one-time funding will be
coming to our area,” Jones stated. “These resources will be used to
provide access to both STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math)
education and advanced workforce training for the jobs of the future.
Together, these two projects may well be the spark that our region has
needed for a very long time.”

The proposed Challenger Center will provide an immersive, simulated
space mission experience, utilizing a curriculum developed by NASA for
5th through 8th grade students. The center will likely be located in
Etowah County, while also serving 7 surrounding counties, including all
3 counties in Senate District 10. The center will help students foster
an interest in STEM, where Alabama student scores have long been lagging
behind the national average. Many of the fastest growing jobs are in
STEM-related fields.

“With our proximity to high-tech Huntsville, and uniquely situated
between Birmingham, Chattanooga, and Atlanta, our area is prime for
growth in STEM careers,” said Jones. “The Challenger Center will help
introduce students to all of the opportunities that STEM-based education
can provide for them.”

While the Challenger Center focuses on introducing middle school
students to STEM, Gadsden State’s Advanced Manufacturing Center will
serve to train both adults and high school dual enrollment students for
career opportunities in hi-tech fields. The center will help train the
workforce of tomorrow, focusing on the high-skilled, high-wage,
in-demand jobs of the future. The 50,000 square foot, state-of-the-art
advanced manufacturing center will feature 10 laboratories, 7
classrooms, 11 offices, a multipurpose room, 10 tool and storage rooms,
and a storm shelter among other features.

“Our focus today on advanced manufacturing will position us well for job
growth in the years to come,” Jones continued. “Many of these jobs have
starting salaries equal to or exceeding those of a 4-year college
degree, with some having 6-figure earning potential. I believe that one
day, we will look back on the launch of this facility as a water-shed
moment for Northeast Alabama.”

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