Federal Designation Would Expand Manufacturing, Textile Centers Role

Paul Fogleman,

A consortium of public and private agencies that includes the Manufacturing Solutions Center, is seeking federal designation as a “manufacturing community” for the Northwest Piedmont of North Carolina.

Led by the Western Piedmont Council of Governments, participants aspire to be one of 12 key areas selected to accelerate the resurgence of manufacturing in the United States. As a “Manufacturing Community,” the region, according to COG, would receive elevated consideration for $1.3 billion in federal assistance as well as additional consideration for EDA challenge grants.

Bottom line: pro-manufacturing entities such as the Manufacturing Solutions Center will have the inside tract for federal support of branding and marketing.

Details of the application process were explained to N.C. Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker in late February during her first visit to the MSC. Secretary Decker immediately pledged her support for the effort. The application deadline is in late March.

The Western Piedmont COG – Region E – serves Alexander, Burke, Caldwell and Catawba Counties which has a national reputation for the manufacture of furniture, hosiery, textiles, fiber cable, and components.

According to Dan St. Louis, MSC director, the resurgence of manufacturing has started, with entrepreneurs using sophisticated technology and just-in-time marketing strategies. Entrepreneurs now working in the MSC business incubator are building companies that supply high-quality products to high-end retailers.

The consortium applying for designation includes over 30 public and non-profit organizations and some 20 private companies. Initially, the manufacturing community would help company owners transition to a new generation of leaders. Emphasis also would be on development of workforce training to transfer traditional skills to advanced technologies.

The program also would focus on implementation of environmentally-friendly manufacturing practices, waste reduction, and regional testing and research and development resources. The Conover-based MSC would be the initial resource in partnership with the Textile Technology Center in Belmont.

Both centers are state-supported with mandates to help existing companies as well as start-ups.

St. Louis said he and Sam Buff, director of the Textile Center, are working in concert to grow manufacturing in the global economy.

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