State-of-the-art auto technician school replaces blighted car dealership

A blighted parcel at 2785 Mendenhall Road in East Memphis will be transformed into a new state-of-the-art auto-technician school helping to fill local jobs.

The property, which was previously home to a Dobbs Honda auto dealership in the 1980s and 1990s, has sat dormant for several years.

Greater Memphis Auto Dealers Association is purchasing and renovating the property, and then turning the keys over to William R. Moore College of Technology to train auto technicians. The facility will measure between 25,000 square feet and 30,000 square feet, and will be the only one of its kind in the Mid-South.

“I think it’s going to be regionally attractive for students who want to come to a high-quality program and have immediate access to a job,” said Moore Tech president Stanley “Skip” Redmond, who expects to compete for students regionally with similar programs from as far away as Nashville, St. Louis, Dallas and Chicago.

At full capacity, the vocational school and its two-year program will support up to 200 students per year.

Total project cost is estimated at more than $1.8 million, including $450,000 for the property and nearly $1.4 million in renovations, which includes modifying the showroom and the administrative offices into classroom space and cleaning up and revamping the 23 shop bays.

“They’re in decent shape, but they need special attention to make them look dealer ready,” said Redmond. “The partnership is with all of the new car dealerships, so the technicians that are going to be coming out of our program are going to be qualified to work in a dealer shop. Most of the dealerships here in Memphis are state-of-the-art, and that’s what we want to be.”

Moore Tech had previously offered automotive classes many years ago until the early 2000s, but the program died out as technology outpaced the school's capacity. Now, GMADA will provide the technology in exchange for a steady stream of qualified high-tech technicians.

“I believe that they could probably hire hundreds of our students right away,” said Redmond.

A director for the new center has already been hired, and two or three instructors will be hired in the coming months.

A groundbreaking event is expected to take place on May 29, and construction should be completed by early next year.

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Michael Waddell is a native Memphian who returned to Memphis several years ago after working for nearly a decade in San Diego and St. Petersburg, Fla., as a writer, editor and graphic designer. His work over the past few years has been featured in The Memphis Daily News, Memphis Bioworks Magazine, Memphis Crossroads, the New York Daily News and the New York Post. Contact Michael.