Manufacturing In N.C. Topic For Emerging Issues Forum

Paul Fogleman,

The prestigious Institute for Emerging Issues at N.C. State University is examining and promoting manufacturing in North Carolina.

Some would say “about time.”

Some 430,000 people in North Carolina are employed in manufacturing, ranking the state one of the top in the nation. Manufacturing wages are 52 percent higher than those for other non-farm jobs.

The annual Emerging Issues Forum will be held at the Raleigh Convention Center Feb. 11-12. Former Gov. James B. Hunt, the founder of the forum, will be a central figure at the conference which has examined tax reform, creativity, and other trends affecting government and the economy.

During a recent webinar with institute supporters across the state, Anita Brown-Graham, director, observed “the lesson of the Great Recession is how vital manufacturing is to the economy.

Particular emphasis will be put on how manufacturers have redefined themselves…reinventing the business for the global market, it was suggested.

Scott Ralls, president of the N.C. Community Colleges, said that technology, including robots and computer-driven equipment, has revolutionized production in traditional industries, notably textiles and furniture. The community colleges are adjusting to the need for highly-trained and motivated workers in the 21st century operations.

Dr. Ralls said the average age for people in workforce training programs tends to be older – 31 years. The challenge, he continued, is to attract more females to the manufacturing workforce. “We may never produce enough males,” he asserted as he outlined the growing demand for trained people.

The 2013 forum also will look at growing demands for personnel in other sectors of manufacturing such as biotechnology, welding, hosiery, plastics, electronics and others.

“Too many people think manufacturing is dead,” Ms. Brown-Graham reflected. “Far from it,” she added as she contemplated the upcoming forum.

The Manufacturing Solutions Center, soon to be relocated to Conover, and the Textile Technology Center in Belmont will be among the key manufacturing support agencies represented.

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