President and CEO of Wacker Chemical Corporation Dr. Ingomar Kovar could barely contain his excitement at Wednesday morning’s grand opening of the pilot plant and training facility, the Wacker Institute at Chattanooga State Community College. 

“I’m really fired up already,” he said before giving his official remarks to the large crowd of about 120 people. 

Wacker Polysilicon North America built the $5 million pilot plant and training facility, which is part of the engineering technology division at Chattanooga State. 

Students of the institute learn the skills needed to make polysilicon, which is the raw material used in solar panels. 

There are currently 65 employees in training and 110 enrolled in upcoming classes, leaders said. 

And Kovar said the institute, which is in the old Olan Mills building on Amnicola Highway, is more than bricks and mortar. It represents the future of technology, education and the local economy, he said. 

“The concept of the Wacker Institute is a pioneering and innovative learning experience that both Chattanooga State and Wacker jointly feel is consistent and symbolic of the principle of investing in a sustainable future,” he said.  “While we might be hard-pressed to understand what the future may hold, it is always the present world in which we live where the future is created.”

The Wacker Institute has several labs and classrooms in the 25,000-square-foot facility. (Photo: Staff)

Chattanooga State Community College President Dr. Jim Catanzaro spoke to about 100 people at the grand opening of the Wacker Institute. u201cThis is truly a state-of-the-art training facility with world-class science labs. Itu2019s a one-of-a-kind program we are pleased to deliver for Wacker Polysilicon,u201d he said. u201cAs a leader in technology education, we maintain a continuous commitment to excellenceu2014the Wacker Institute enables us to provide a unique learning experience to prepare our students for a career in the growing photovoltaics industry, one of the fastest-growing industries in the world.u201d (Photo: Staff)

Meet Wacker Joe, who is set up at the Wacker Institute’s safety training lab. Leaders said they provide the students with hands-on training and that safety is an important part of the job. (Photo: Staff)
Dr. Ingomar Kovar, president and CEO of Wacker Chemical Corporation, joked with the crowd that the kind of distilling done at Wacker is not the kind that Tennesseans might be familiar with in making moonshine. (Photo: Staff)