Timing Is Right: Commerce Officials Endorse Manufacturing Solutions Center

Paul Fogleman,
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Opposite page: Shelby Mason, upper left, relates how the MSC helped her launch her new business; Catawba Valley Community College President Garrett Hinshaw, upper right; center: Darrell Frye, vice president of Harriss and Covington Hosiery Co. and chairman of the Hosiery and Textiles Governmental Affairs Council; lower left: Rep.-elect Andy Wells of Hickory; lower right: Sen. Andrew Brock of Davie County.

Timing is everything, declared top U.S. and N.C. commerce officials at the recent dedication of the new Manufacturing Solutions Center.

Speaking to the 400 regional and state officials and manufacturers, U.S. Undersecretary of Commerce Mitt Erskine and N.C. Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco cited the role the MSC will play with the current resurgence of American manufacturing.

“Your timing is good…manufacturing is coming back but in a new form,” Crisco affirmed. He said future manufacturing will utilize sophisticated technology with skilled personnel. Companies will be lean, efficient, and highly-focused, Crisco continued.

Erskine also predicted manufacturing will continue to grow as a component of the U.S. economy. He noted that manufacturing creates more jobs in the supply chain and community than any other segment.

Both Erskine and Crisco paid tribute to Dan St. Louis, director of the center, and his staff for their determination to develop a new state-of-the-art service facility to support manufacturing.

The $3.5 million project was undertaken by the City of Conover with the support of Catawba Valley Community College. Major sources of funds came from national and state Departments of Commerce, the Golden Leaf Foundation and N.C. Rural Development Center.

The 30,000 square foot building houses the Hosiery Technology Center, its testing laboratories, new testing operations for furniture manufacturing, and research and development personnel engaged in helping manufacturers with prototyping and marketing.

More than 10,000 square feet in the building will be used as an incubator for emerging businesses. St. Louis insists that entrepreneurs will be the job creators and new start-ups will be able to operate under the wing of the MSC for the first year or so.

Conover Mayor Lee Moritz shared the stage with CVCC President Garrett Hinshaw, and Secretaries Erskine and Crisco. Moritz underscored the city’s commitment to a pro-business strategy. A former hosiery company executive, Moritz recalled the role the center played in saving the company millions of dollars in problem solving and prototyping.

Among the participants at the opening were advisory board members for the Textile Technology Center, a division of Gaston College. The advisory board held a meeting at the MSC prior to the luncheon and opening ceremonies and received and update on issues and trends from Director Sam Buff. Buff noted that while income for center services are below those for 2011, the number of invoices has increased. More companies are using the textile center, but jobs are smaller. Like the MSC, earned income underwrites a major part of operations.

Both the MSC and textile center receive funds from the N.C. General Assembly and are line items in the Community Colleges budget. Dr. Scott Ralls, president of the N.C. Community Colleges, attended the MSC opening, accompanied by Kennon Briggs, vice president.

During a luncheon sponsored by the Hosiery and Textiles Governmental Affairs Council, Darrell Frye, vice president of Harriss and Covington Hosiery Co. council chairman, emphasized the importance of state support. “It’s all about jobs and our ability to compete globally,” Frye insisted.

Since St. Louis was employed as the hosiery center director 22 years ago, the MSC staff has grown to 18 fulltime technicians and 12 part-time people in the hosiery testing center.

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