CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. - At Austin Peay State University, news that Michigan-based Hemlock Semiconductor Corporation is building a $1.2 billion solar technology plant has kicked the school's chemistry department into high gear.
The plant will mean the creation of hundreds of highly specialized jobs and the state is giving Austin Peay the means to train future workers.
Tennessee will give APSU $6.4 million to start a whole new curriculum.
"We wanted to create a program suited to what Hemlock would need, but also what other companies would need," said APSU chemistry professor Dr. Robin Reed.
His department is planning what looks like a popular two-year degree in chemical engineering technology.
"It's very busy for us because we have received so many calls, so many inquiries," said the professor as he walked around Clarksville's Rivers and Spires Festival Friday.
Hemlock, which makes products for solar cells and semiconductor devices, is introducing itself to Clarksville as one of the sponsors of the popular event.
The company will have a booth at the festival where potential job seekers can get information.
Austin Peay students see Hemlock as a career opportunity.
"I knew it would open up many job possibilities to people who are graduating here because it's kind of a daunting task looking for employment, and this just provides a great opportunity. It's local," said APSU chemistry major Emily Lawhon.
County officials expect the Hemlock plant to create 500 to 1,000 new jobs and maybe more.
"As we prepare to turn over the site to their construction team in October, it looks like it will be $2.5 billion which is what they said would be the upper threshold to do this first phase," said Clarksville-Montgomery Co. Economic and Development CEO James Chavez.
He said average salaries at the plant may be between $70,000 and $80,000 a year.
"One of the reasons they located here was they believe the labor was here, the talent was here," said Chavez.
Austin Peay hopes to do its part by making that labor pool even better.