Gov. Haslam tours Sacred Heart Cathedral construction site

636120408352796682-10.15-GovHaslamSacredHeart-BP-1 Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam on Friday toured the Sacred Heart Cathedral construction site, and said the building highlights the importance of the construction trade to the Tennessee economy.

Merit Construction Co., which is in charge of the project, and the Associated Builders and Contractors of Greater Tennessee hosted the governor on a tour of Sacred Heart Cathedral, which is at 711 S. Northshore Drive, adjoining the original Sacred Heart Cathedral of the Catholic Diocese of Knoxville.

The cathedral, which is slated for completion in 2017, will have 28,000 square feet of floor space, and 1.7 million cubic feet of overall space. It will seat 1,200 people and have a spire reaching 147 feet in the air, said Father David Boettner, vicar general of the Diocese of Knoxville and rector at the cathedral.

After the tour, Haslam talked about the importance of the project.

"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," he said. "This is a tremendous addition to our community."

The other reason was to highlight the work of the skilled craftsmen building the cathedral and other buildings in Tennessee, he said.

"Here is the challenge we have," Haslam said. "The economy has come back and, in Tennessee, unemployment has shrunk faster than in any other state in the last year. But, we are being met with some new challenges. It’s meant that instead of a whole lot of people looking for work, we have some great employers who are looking for workers."

 

Haslam called construction a great career option for those who might not pursue advanced education.“The skills trades and crafts that you can learn on the job as you are getting paid can truly be a lifetime opportunity," he said.

 

Bruce Bosse, president of Merit Construction, agreed that the 636120408328460526-10.15-GovHaslamSacredHeart-BP-3demand for construction workers is high. The workforce is aging and it is getting difficult to find replacement workers, he said.

“What happened is after the economic crash several years ago, a lot of people got out of the industry, and we are told only about half of those got back in,” Bosse said.

Also, construction work seems to have a tough time competing with other fields among young people, he said.

“There are younger folks coming out of school that are just not as interested in crafts,” he said. “Laying bricks for a living versus maybe doing something in the electronics industry, it’s just not as appealing."

Boettner said the cathedral will be the mother church for all Catholic church members in East Tennessee. It is called a cathedral because it contains the bishop’s chair, or cathedral.

Boettner said the plan is to consecrate the church in March 2018.

The cathedral will contain a piece of Tennessee cedar marble that has been blessed by Pope Francis, Boettner said. It is being circulated among all 50 churches in the diocese, and eventually will be kept at Sacred Heart.

This article appears courtesy of the knoxvillebiz.com.

NewsGrant Prettyman