How A Vacant Car Dealership Can Make A difference

Jill Caren
By Jill Caren
Updated December 17th, 2023

We see them everywhere, abandoned businesses that seem to have no future.

In Bristol, Tennessee that was the case with a car dealership that has been sitting vacant since 2019.

Mitch Walters, the owner of Friendship Automotive is the owner of the property and with his family decided to make an amazing offer to the Bristol Tennessee City Schools.

The Walters family owns several car dealerships, having purchased the building to be donated on Volunteer Parkway back in 1993 where they ran their Friendship Ford dealership.

In 2019, they moved that dealership to a location at West State Street leaving the Volunteer Parkway building empty. The family was trying to find a good fit for the property as it was special to them since it is where their business started.

The idea to donate it to a school stemmed from his own experience in needing to find more skilled automotive technicians.

We know there is a great need for skilled workers in our region, including automotive technicians,” Mitch Walters said. “We are very proud of this partnership and excited about this opportunity to help the next generation have the very best career opportunities possible.

Mitch Walters

In a meeting with school officials, Walters and his sons announced they will be donating the building and acting as a partner with the school district to create a new opportunity for high school students.

friendship career center logo

The building will be the “Friendship Career Center” and will house the Viking Academy.

The Viking Academy will serve as an off-site learning program for Tenneessee High School and Tennessee Middle School.

The programs will be focused on work-based learning and will include courses in:

  • Automotive
  • Mechanical
  • Electrical
  • Plumbing
  • Agriculture

The community does have an existing Career and Technical program, this new facility will serve as an offset of that. They hope to be open and start using the new facility in August of 2022 at the latest.

The school system also received a grant in May 2021 so they could create what is called an Innovative High School Model program. The purpose of this grant is to create partnerships with the community to help improve how prepared students are for new careers in their local community.

The funds they received will be used to create the Viking Academy program and do any work that is needed on the building.

The Viking Academy will serve the community by helping students gain skills that will help them start a career, go to college or join the military. The hope is to provide a high quality education in career and technical courses that can help graduates gain employment in some of the most in-demand blue collar careers in the Bristol area.

While most of us probably cannot donate a dealership – we can all do a part in making a difference in the blue collar community. By getting involved and helping inspire others to see the value in a trade career we can improve lives – and our communities.

Image credit: / Facebook
Story credit: Bristol TN City Schools

Jill Caren is an international SEO consultant and founder of 2Dogs Media. She is also a trainer, journalist, and speaker who helps brands increase their organic search visibility, traffic, and conversions. She is also the co-founder of Blue Collar Brain, a resource for those looking to enter a trade career.

She has been featured on MSN, Wealth of Geeks, Hubspot, SEO Powersuite, and other publications for her work as an SEO and advocate for skilled trades.