Gov. Haslam tours Sacred Heart Cathedral project

Gov. Bill Haslam highlighted construction of the new Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on Oct. 14 when he toured the building and held a press conference there to raise awareness for opportunities in the construction trades.

Gov. Haslam was greeted by Bishop Richard F. Stika, Cardinal Justin Rigali, and Father David Boettner, who led the governor on a tour of the cathedral project, which is more than 50 percent complete.

Gov. Haslam is familiar with the project, having been a special guest and speaker at the cathedral groundbreaking in April 2015.

The governor praised the project, congratulating the bishop, cardinal, and cathedral rector Father Boettner for their leadership and the building of the new cathedral. Construction trades and skilled craftsmen are on display with the project, which is considered to have some of the most intricate architectural detail in recent Knoxville contracting history.

Gov. Bill Haslam holds a press conference at the site of the new Sacred Heart Cathedral to discuss employment opportunities in the state’s construction industry.

“I’m really here for two reasons. One is to salute the progress of what is going to be another landmark building in East Tennessee. I’m really grateful to the diocese, the cathedral, the bishop, Father David, Cardinal (Rigali), really everybody. This is a tremendous addition to our community. I happen to live right around the corner, and I’m home just enough that every time I come by here, I say, ‘Wow, look at what they’ve done now.’ It’s really, really impressive,” the governor said.

“Second, we’re here to highlight the work of the skilled craftsmen who are building this building and so many other buildings in Tennessee. Here’s the challenge we have: As the economy has come back, and in Tennessee it has done that, our unemployment in Tennessee has come down faster than any other state in the last year. What that has meant is some new challenges. It has meant that, instead of a whole lot of people looking for work, we have some great employers who are looking for workers, in this particular case our builders.

I really want to thank Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) and our building contractors who are here to emphasize that construction is a great career opportunity for folks. The skilled trades and crafts that you can learn on the job while you are getting paid truly can be a lifetime career opportunity. I think it is estimated that there are about a million workers in the construction industry who are going to retire over the next five to 10 years, which is going to leave us in a shortfall of great workers.

“It is great that the economy has come back so strong in Tennessee. It is great that we have demand for outstanding building contractors like the ones here. That won’t help us if we don’t have people continuously coming into the industry. We’re here today to encourage that. It is a nice role to be out encouraging people to come look at careers rather than going to employers and saying, ‘Hey, you need to hire people.’ It’s a sign of where the economy is in Tennessee. Last week, we were talking about the great careers in manufacturing. This week, we’re talking about construction and the great career opportunities there. Thank you to the professionals who are building this building and so many others represented by ABC. Thank you to Sacred Heart for this tremendous addition to our city and community,” the governor continued.

He encouraged those entering the work force, or those looking at a job change, to consider a career in the construction trades.

The new cathedral is scheduled to be completed by Merit Construction in late 2017 or early 2018, with consecration planned for 2018, which will be the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Diocese of Knoxville.

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