North Carolina Economic Development Guide

2013

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Mike BelleMe EPIC has the capacity to produce 200 graduates each year. They will be trained in labs paid for in part by their probable future employers ��� companies in North Carolina���s emerging energy cluster. An industry executive calls it groundbreaking. ���The public-private partnership of EPIC is the future of the energy workforce.��� 48 Palo Alto, Calif.-based Electric Power Research Institute Inc., did the same at its Charlotte offce. Collectively, their products include nuclear plants in the U.S., Korea and China; components for wind turbines, smart grids and solar farms; batteries for electric-powered vehicles; and scores of other energy-related products and services. The companies began emphasizing the need for an engineering school whose graduates could fll their employment needs. In 2008, nearly a dozen companies approached UNC Charlotte about setting up a school to prepare energy engineers. Keyes Niemer, who has a Ph.D. in engineering from N.C. State University in Raleigh and an MBA from Queens University in Charlotte, was among those pushing the idea. He is a project manager for the nuclear division of The Shaw Group in Charlotte and a former Duke employee. His background and education underscore the high-powered demands of the energy cluster. ���With all the energy companies moving to the area, we were looking at an opportunity to produce a workforce skilled and available to support the infrastructure of energy companies in North Carolina Economic Development Guide the Southeast and across the country. We began discussing whether it could be at UNC Charlotte, and EPIC grew out of some of those discussions.��� Duke supported the drive. ���It���s a groundbreaking initiative,��� Carter says. ���The public-private partnership of EPIC is the future of the energy workforce. The $4.5 million we donated to help launch it was just the beginning.��� Other companies followed suit. In 2011, Westinghouse donated $3 million for scholarships, services and equipment. That included two 30-ton industrial cranes, money to support training courses in crane design and equipment to teach how to handle nuclear fuel and load it in reactors. With industry support, Charlotte educators and civic leaders were prepped to make their appeal to the General Assembly. ���Duke took the lead, followed by Siemens, Areva and the others,��� Enslin says. ���We went to Raleigh and indicated that Charlotte was emerging as a strong energy hub, especially from an electrical-utility point of view. That was a convincing argument, and the state agreed to fund not just an academic center but the associated building, a number of faculty members to focus on energy and some of the operational budget.��� A concern about EPIC was ftting it into the state���s energy-related education programs. Deputy Commerce Secretary Dale Carroll says N.C. State���s Solar Center, which trains workers and researches sustainable-energy sources, and the Energy Center at Appalachian State University in Boone, which focuses on applied-energy research and renewable energy, are examples of established programs. Most of the state���s community colleges have energy-specifc training, too. ���We���ve got an impressive cross section of programs,��� he says, ���and these centers of excellence can really make a difference,��� not only in training but recruiting energy-related industries to North Carolina. The state���s fnancial stake is most of the $4.7 billion a Carolinas Nuclear Cluster study says those industries pump into the economies

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