North Carolina Economic Development Guide

2016

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40 North Carolina Economic Development Guide rolling intensive-care units. It's an assembly-line environment that would have buf aloed Henry Ford's employees. "We're something that doesn't exist in manufacturing textbooks," says founder and president Mark Van Arnam. "We're a production facility, but we build custom products. We have assembly lines, but every product is basically dif erent." That requires a trained workforce. "We have cabinet-makers, electricians, painters, assemblers. If you had a blank sheet of paper and were just going into this business, this is the area you'd pick if you knew about it." Adds Brian Petersen, Altec human-resources manager, "Our folks, most are entrepreneurs who've grown shrubbery, tobacco or other crops to supplement their income. They know what it takes to make an industry successful." GE Aviation's Hobbs says isolation has bred resourceful people. "Rural areas are a key indicator of good workforces. There's a lot of ingenuity among rural people and farmers. If something breaks on the farm, it's not like they have spare parts 10 minutes away. They fi gure things out. This translates well to a manufacturing workspace." In almost every case, however, advanced manufacturing requires additional skills only gained through specialized training. GE Aviation workers in West Jef erson, for example, train in-house and at Wilkes Community College's Applied Engineering Technology Center. "Rural manufacturing can be dif cult when it comes to training," Hobbs says. "But this has exceeded my expectations. They set up right next door and train for best practices all across our supply chain. North Carolina took what I would have considered a disadvantage and turned it into an advantage." Manufacturers frequently send workers through the N.C. Community College System's no-cost NCWorks customized training programs. Linamar, TE Connectivity and GE Aviation workers, for example, train at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College. Snap-on, TEAM and other workers in Cherokee County train at Tri-County Community College's Applied Technology Center in Marble. Mayland Community College in Yancey has a joint program supported by Bombardier U.S. Inc. in Spruce Pine — the Canada-based company makes recreational machines and others — along with Altec's Advanced Design Center and Welding Lab, Phillips Advanced Technology Labor for mechatronics, which combines electronics and mechanical engineering and robotics, and Glen Raven Mills classrooms. In Mayland's new Anspach Advanced Manufacturing School, studies include metal laser sintering and 3-D metal printing. Assistance goes beyond customized workforce training. Commerce's Mitchell says the state's economic-development ef orts make manufacturing a high priority. Her division was created by the N.C. General Assembly in 2013 specifi cally to encourage rural economic development. Since, Mitchell's rural division has allocated more than $34 million in grants for projects that reuse vacant industrial buildings or require infrastructure such as water and sewer. GE Aviation's statewide building and expansion program could receive more than $3.75 million in job-development grants over 12 years, if thresholds are met. Additionally, in West Jef erson, where the expansion comes in a region hit by two decades of textile and other job losses, Ashe County and the town kicked in another $1.2 million. The investment means more than 100 new jobs that pay an annual average of nearly $48,000. The countywide average is $36,500. Meanwhile, rapidly growing AEV will move to a 210,000-square-foot building this year. It was occupied by Gates Corp., whose nearly 250 workers made automotive belts and hoses until 2014. "We benefi ted from a block grant from the state in 1995, when we built the building we're in now, and it has served us well," Van Arnam says. "This is a little dif erent. We're moving into an existing building, but we've been given a building reuse grant by Pat Mitchell's rural economic-development division for $500,000. Our expenditure will be many times that, but it helps." Aid is available for smaller manufacturers, too. Franklin- based Brasstown Beef LLC received about $90,000 from the rural building-reuse fund in July 2015. The money will go toward expanding its nearly 12,000-square-foot building, making room for recently acquired Nantahala Meats, another longstanding processor, and fi ve more jobs. Brasstown's customers include Denver-based restaurant chain Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. Macon County will chip in $4,300. The local- matching requirement is typical, and Mitchell says some rural counties scramble to raise it.. "It's probably hard, but if you're going to ask the state to put taxpayers' money into a project, you should be willing to put in some of your own." Rural manufacturing can be dif cult when it comes to training. But this has exceeded my expectations. ... North Carolina took what I would have considered a disadvantage and turned it into an advantage." — Randy Hobbs, GE Aviation

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