GoldenLEAF Golden Leaf Foundation North Carolina

Home | Calendar | Scholarships | FAQ | Grantee Forms | Contact Us        

about usgrant seekersgrant recipientssearch grantsnews and events



LEAF Lines - Winter 2014-2015 Edition

Golden LEAF provides $2.14 million grant for advanced manufacturing center
Center training workers, leasing to tenants and providing needed space at college

In McDowell County, a strong partnership between the county, community College, public school system and local industry is behind the creation of the new Universal Advanced Manufacturing Center (UAMC).

The state-of-the-art training center offers welding, machining, electronics, and HVAC programs as well as other customized industry training.

The center is already training workers, leasing space to tenants and providing expanded training and lab space at McDowell Technical Community College.

Golden LEAF President and Governor McCrory

On October 23, 2014, Governor Pat McCrory (second from right) joined Golden LEAF President Dan Gerlach (right) as he presented (from left) County Manager Chuck Abernathy and Commission Chairman Randy Hollifield with the $2.14 million ceremonial check for the Universal Center.

"McDowell County's Universal Advanced Manufacturing Center has set an excellent example of how to improve workforce development. Our administration remains focused on growing the economy and connecting people to jobs. This one-stop-shop for workforce training is exactly what we need in North Carolina and wouldn't have happened without the support of organizations like Golden LEAF. It was an honor to cut the ribbon on this facility and I want to congratulate and thank Golden LEAF for sharing our commitment to closing the skills gap in North Carolina, improving rural economic development and getting more people to work."

Governor Pat McCrory

On October 23, 2014, Golden LEAF President Dan Gerlach joined Governor Pat McCrory and officials from McDowell County to dedicate the UAMC. At the dedication, Gerlach presented a $2.14 million ceremonial check to county officials. McDowell County received a grant through Golden LEAF's Community Assistance Initiative for architectural, engineering, design and construction costs to renovate and upfit space for McDowell Technical Community College and at the new UAMC.

"We are very appreciative of Golden LEAF," said County Manager Chuck Abernathy. "The project was beyond our capacity to do without the grant. I'm not so sure that it would have happened, at least as quickly as it did."

Abernathy said that there is not another collaborative center like the UAMC in the state.

"We can't find anything out there like this," said Abernathy. "There isn't a consolidated facility where everything is under one roof -- training, economic development and even industry. You can't find that in our state."

This type of training and recruitment center is especially important in a county with high manufacturing employment, said Abernathy.

"McDowell County is third in the state in manufacturing," said Abernathy. "Thirty percent of our workforce is employed in the manufacturing industry but our companies are saying that their ability to recruit and hire is not where it needs to be due to the lack of skilled applicants."

Universal Center Equipment

The Universal Center has state-of-the-art training equipment for its students.

The UAMC offers customized industry training for new or expanding businesses and is self-sustaining through lease revenues. There are three companies located in the facility. One of the businesses is new to the area and the other two were existing local businesses that chose to relocate to the leased space. These three businesses employ about 125 people.

The county also relocated its economic development corporation (EDC) office to the center. Now, all new businesses are recruited through the EDC which is located in the UAMC.

McDowell Tech moved all of its manufacturing programs to the UAMC, which freed up much needed space at the college's main campus for growing programs such as the early college high school program.


Golden LEAF grant supports the training of 350 workers for major expansion
at GE Aviation
Foundation president presents $200,000 ceremonial check
to A-B Tech officials

On November 6, 2014, Golden LEAF President Dan Gerlach attended the grand opening of Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College's (A-B Tech) new Composites Center of Excellence (CCE), which is expected to help train 290 incumbent and 60 new workers for a major expansion at GE Aviation. The CCE is a state-of-the-art training facility to support workforce training for growing advanced manufacturing industries in Buncombe and Madison counties.

Gerlach presented A-B Tech representatives with a $200,000 ceremonial Golden LEAF check representing the Golden LEAF grant that helped renovate the facility and provide an autoclave for the new center.

A-B Tech

Golden LEAF President Dan Gerlach (second from right) presents a ceremonial check to A-B Tech officials at the November 6, 2014 ceremony.

"The Golden LEAF grant was extremely vital to the project," said Kevin Kimrey, Director of Workforce Development at A-B Tech. "If one part of the funding structures was missing, then the facility would not have come together."

The CCE provides a hands-on training environment with state-of-the-art machinery for making parts from composites. Composite parts are formed by layering composite materials over a form and then using an autoclave to join the layers together to make a structure. GE Aviation will be transitioning from producing metal to composite engine parts over several years. Incumbent workers trained in machining will be given the opportunity to learn about working in composites at the CCE.


Golden LEAF funding provided A-B Tech with an autoclave, one of the essential pieces of equipment for making composite materials.

"The first cohort of eight incumbent GE Aviation workers is currently being trained," said Kimrey. "A class also began in October that is open to the general public. The 16-week composites 101 course gives students a basic knowledge of composites manufacturing and hands-on experience with the tools and technology used in the manufacturing process. The idea is to get people interested in working for GE Aviation or other composites companies. We have several different companies that use composites manufacturing within a 100-mile radius."

When GE Aviation begins hiring new employees, A-B Tech will assist in pre-hire activities by offering computerized assessments at the CCE. Successful candidates will be invited to complete a 40-hour pre-employment training program.

"The pre-employment training is essentially an extended job interview," said Kimrey. "It will help GE get the right people for the job."

Candidates who complete the 40-hour pre-employment training course will automatically get an interview at GE Aviation. If a candidate is hired, they will return to A-B Tech for another 80 hours of post-hire training before going to GE Aviation for additional training.

"A-B Tech is excited about having a state-of-the-art facility, one of a kind in western North Carolina, to train people in aerospace and general composites structure and repair," said Kimrey. "This is a high-tech component of advanced manufacturing that will see tremendous growth in the future."


Golden LEAF celebrates transformative health science project in Rocky Mount
Edgecombe Community College's new facility to feature
simulated hospital

Edgecombe Community College's (ECC) new Biotechnology and Medical Simulation Center funded in part through a $1.5 million Golden LEAF grant is projected to open in August 2015. The 3-story, 46,000-square-foot training facility will be located on the Rocky Mount Campus of ECC in downtown Rocky Mount. The Golden LEAF grant will support design and construction costs.

ECC Groundbreaking

On October 29, 2014, Golden LEAF President Dan Gerlach (second from left) joined Edgecombe Community College representatives and key city, county and state officials for the groundbreaking of the new Biotechnology and Medical Simulation Center at Edgecombe Community College's Rocky Mount Campus.

"Next fall, when this high tech facility opens, a new era in health care education will begin in Edgecombe County and eastern North Carolina," said Wick Baker, chair of the Edgecombe Community College Board of Trustees. "This facility will usher in the latest model for health care education, which is realistic training through the use of patient simulators. As president of Vidant Edgecombe Hospital in Tarboro, I can personally attest to the excitement and anticipation we all share."

ECC New Building

Since the groundbreaking in October, construction has remained on schedule.

The new facility will feature traditional classrooms and office space as well as a simulated hospital environment on the 2nd and 3rd floors. The simulated rooms will function like emergency rooms, operating rooms, ICUs, nurses' stations, and the back of an ambulance. The building will house 14 of the college's 22 health sciences programs. ECC is also planning several new programs for the facility.

ECC Nursing

The Biotechnology and Medical Simulation Center will provide students with training on state-of-the-art equipment like this patient simulator.


Golden LEAF President helps break ground for
UNCP's jobs incubator

Incubator to provide training, support services for up to
12 new businesses

The University of North Carolina at Pembroke's new Entrepreneurship Incubator (EI) began renovations on October 24, 2014 with a ceremonial groundbreaking. Golden LEAF provided a $200,000 grant to support the renovations of the facility. The EI will house the university's two existing business development units and support 8-12 new businesses.


Golden LEAF President Dan Gerlach (left) attended the ceremonial groundbreaking for the UNC-P EI that was held on October 24, 2014.

The EI will provide professional assistance, trained interns, and guidance in accounting, advertising, graphic design, information technology, web design, and corporate management, as well as access to financial, marketing, and legal services for aspiring entrepreneurs and businesses locating in the incubator. The training and support services provided by the EI should result in the creation and growth of sustainable businesses that can add jobs in the region and improve the area's economic health.

The incubator will house consultants from the Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC), a statewide UNC-directed network, and the Thomas Family Center for Entrepreneurship, the university's privately-funded business and academic development program. The 16,800 square-foot storefront is expected to open in August 2015. A director for the incubator will be hired in early 2015.


Golden LEAF News Links

Golden LEAF News

Golden LEAF News - Jan 2015

Golden LEAF News - Dec 2014

Golden LEAF News - Nov 2014

Golden LEAF News - Oct 2014

Golden LEAF News - Sept 2014

Golden LEAF News - Aug 2014

Golden LEAF News - July 2014

Golden LEAF News - June 2014

Golden LEAF News - May 2014

Golden LEAF News - April 2014

Golden LEAF News - March 2014

Golden LEAF News - Feb 2014

Golden LEAF News - Jan 2014

LEAF Lines

LEAF Lines - past editions archive





Questions about Golden LEAF?
Please contact Mark Sorrells at

Comments or feedback about our newsletter?
Please contact Jenny Tinklepaugh at

© 2015 Golden LEAF Foundation, Inc. All rights reserved.

Message from the
Dan Gerlach

Dan Gerlach, Golden LEAF President

As the state's policymakers return to Raleigh, it is clear that they have heard from their constituents back home that jobs and education are top priorities. North Carolina has had success as a whole, with our December unemployment rate below that of the nation's and with job growth of 115,000 over the past year alone.

There is optimism, too, with the State's new Economic Development Partnership of NC now formed and with the appointment of Chris Chung, a nationally-respected economic development leader, accepting the top role in that new organization. John Skvarla has accepted the challenge of becoming the Secretary of Commerce, bringing his business and organizational acumen to bear on job creation and economic prosperity across the state. I am personally grateful to their predecessors, Dick Lindemuth and Sharon Decker, for their passion, hard work, and vision to help North Carolina move forward.

But the availability of jobs and the quality of educational opportunity is not as widespread as any of us want it to be. Rural and tobacco-dependent communities in our state are not faring as well as Charlotte or Raleigh. You will read in this issue of LEAF Lines about our efforts to move that needle -- from encouraging world-class companies such as GE Aviation to increase operations at various locations in North Carolina to providing existing employers with a focused facility in McDowell County to find trained employees to fill vacancies to meeting the needs of health care employers in eastern North Carolina through assistance with Edgecombe Community College's new Biotechnology and Medical Simulation Center. Frankly, it's a matter of choosing wisely on ways to give the private sector the confidence and our citizens the chance to build skills necessary for global competition.

If you have faith in small businesses as the fabric of our economy, then read about our support for projects in Star and Pembroke to build opportunity there.

Finally, innovation is not exclusively found in university labs nor corporate research campuses, but in talented and committed professionals such as those working with the NCSU unmanned aerial research program to make agriculture more productive and more viable. This field will also soon be coming to Elizabeth City State University to complement their cornerstone aviation program.

Golden LEAF was created to ensure that the state's Master Settlement Agreement funds would help those North Carolinians and their communities through diverse, opportunistic, and focused grantsmaking. It is quite simply about providing access to opportunity to allow the private sector to find the environment it needs to succeed in places all across North Carolina.

Our grantsmaking is not what it once was, but we are steadfastly committed to doing our part.


Dan Gerlach can be contacted by
e-mail at


Golden LEAF funds unmanned aerial vehicle research to benefit agribusiness NCSU teams working in Hyde, Washington counties to refine new technologies

A North Carolina State University (NCSU) research team took its maiden flight November 13, 2014, with an unmanned aerial system (UAS) in Hyde County. NCSU is using the unmanned aircraft to conduct research over fields in Washington County at the Vernon G. James Research and Extension Center. NCSU is the only agency in the state authorized to fly UASs by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The aircraft and its related technology are expected to have a big impact on the agribusiness economy by providing timely data and crop management solutions for growers.

Unmanned Aerial System

The NCSU research team launches the Golden LEAF-funded UAS for the first time on November 13th in Hyde County.

Golden LEAF funded two grants totaling $261,384 to NCSU to purchase a UAS package and communication equipment. The grants also provide initial salaries, other equipment, travel, and testing costs to study agriculture in Hyde and Washington counties. NCSU's research team is currently testing the systems, cameras and other communications equipment. The team will analyze the data gathered to identify agribusiness applications and work with the FAA on regulations for UAS use.

Unmanned Aerial System

Researchers use the Golden LEAF-funded unmanned aircraft and communications equipment to capture data.

"This research is exciting because the images have a tremendous potential for what we do on an agriculture management standpoint," said Professor Ron Heiniger of the Vernon G. James Center. "We are able to identify things we can't visually see going on during a growing season."

Heiniger said the main benefits of the unmanned aircraft to growers are that they can help with field scouting and crop management and, eventually, serve as sprayers of water, fertilizer or pesticides.

"Timing is critical with farmers," said Heiniger. "Growers have used satellite imagery before but can't wait as long as it takes to get the information from satellites. It is not instantaneous. Farmers don't have that kind of time to wait for the picture to be developed and a plan to be made because a day's time can make a big difference in a field."

The possibilities of using unmanned aircraft for agriculture management are already being shared with growers.

"We are talking to farmers, who are knowledgeable about what the technology is all about," said Heiniger. "We are having meetings explaining the new technology and holding demonstrations at field days. Farmers are definitely interested. Young people interested in agribusiness are also excited about the combination of robotics and agriculture."

The initial grant, awarded in 2013, provided funding to NCSU to develop Hyde County Airport as a center for flying the unmanned aircraft. Researchers have provided initial UAS data to local farmers, the FAA, and industry partners, and are testing equipment such as cameras and infrared systems for the best use of aerial imagery of crops to analyze crop stress, ripeness, and fertilization needs.

A second grant awarded in 2014 supports development and use of unmanned aircraft to improve agricultural practices. By using high resolution, remotely-sensed aerial imagery, the NCSU team can get instant feedback on agricultural-related factors such as nutrient status, pest and disease incidence, and water stress. Images are captured at key times throughout the growing season. The data collected will help assess the agricultural benefits, cost savings and potential increase in productivity.

Because UAS technology is in its infancy, the FAA has strict regulations on its use, said Kyle Snyder with the Institute for Transportation Research and Education at NCSU. Currently, unmanned aircraft are only allowed for personal use and research purposes where permission is granted, but not for commercial use.


Golden LEAF supports small town in creative approach to economic growth
STARworks Center adds new business, increases youth arts programming

In the past two years, the STARworks Center for Creative Enterprise has helped develop a new business in Star, NC, created 10 new jobs, and fostered several youth programs. By attracting new and innovative businesses such as arts manufacturing to the community, the STARworks Center is creatively reinventing a town that lost more jobs in 2001 than its current population.

Star, NC, lost more than 1,000 manufacturing jobs in 2001 when a hosiery manufacturer closed down, said Nancy Gottovi, Executive Director of Central Park NC. Central Park NC is the not-for-profit organization that operates the STARworks Center.

When the former hosiery facility was offered to Central Park NC in 2005, the STARworks Center was created to focus on the development of renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, and creative arts-related businesses. The 11-building facility located on over 12 acres of land has been renovated in stages to accommodate growth of the STARworks Center.

Golden LEAF awarded $100,000 to Central Park NC for construction and design costs to renovate the facility. With the Golden LEAF grant, Central Park NC was able to leverage $1.175 million in federal funding to complete the renovation.

One of the ways the Center has grown is through cultivating a strong glassblowing and ceramics presence, said Gottovi. In the last five years, the STARworks Center along with its glass artist tenants, have succeeded in sustaining the project.

"We have a glass pumpkin sale in the fall and an ornament event in the winter that generates thousands of tourists," said Gottovi. "This year we sold $150,000 worth of pumpkins in one day."

Gottovi said she has worked on cultivating relationships with other like-minded communities.

"We are geographically located next to Seagrove, a strong arts community," she said. "We saw how creating a similar glass community would be a complement to our neighbors."

That relationship helped the STARworks Center bring in Wet Dog Glass, a glassblowing equipment manufacturer, to Star from New Orleans. After Hurricane Katrina, the manufacturer was ready to move to Columbus, Georgia, when the company visited the STARworks Center to provide a consultation for a new glass studio.

"We visited STARworks Center and viewed the space, which we liked, and there was an abundance of it," said Eddie Bernard, founder of Wet Dog Glass. "We met a lot potters and toured the community. We found that even though the town was small, the arts community was large."

Eddie Bernard

Eddie Bernard, founder of Wet Dog Glass, is not only an equipment maker and consultant for glass artists and craftspeople worldwide, but is also himself an artist.

In 2008, Wet Dog Glass moved into the STARworks Center right as the economy was bottoming out, but the company was able to capitalize on the downturn.

"We decided to make our equipment more efficient, which greatly decreased the cost of fuel to run it. It gave us a competitive edge," said Bernard.

Wet Dog Glass is currently working on a certification process which will meet coding and regulation requirements in over 30 countries.

"We sell about 99% glass arts-related equipment," said Bernard. "In the past couple of years, we've been able to pick up global markets such as China, Czech Republic, Australia, France, Norway, Bermuda, and Canada."

Since moving to Star, Wet Dog Glass has expanded and created several new jobs. The company plans to add two more employees this year. Other companies located in the Center include a business solutions office, a graphic design services business and a ceramics studio.


Cindy Garvin with echo3 Graphic Design puts the finishing touches on one of her signs.

"We need jobs, but we also need to improve the quality of life," said Gottovi. "We are not going keep young people in a community with just a job. We are not only supporting small business growth, but also the criticalness of having something to do here."

One thing a creative community wants is a coffee shop, said Gottovi, which the STARworks Center is partnering with a local Eckerd Youth Alternatives program to create.

Another way the STARworks Center is growing interest in youth programming is through a partnership with the local high school to provide glassblowing classes for course credit. The STARworks Center also provides tours and summer camps to get young people interested in the arts.


Grant Programs

Open Grants Program

Economic Catalyst

Open Door Policy:
Call Golden LEAF to discuss project ideas at 888.684.8404 (ask for a program officer) or e-mail


The Golden LEAF Foundation   301 N. Winstead Avenue   Rocky Mount, NC 27804
Phone 252-442-7474   Toll-free 888-684-8404   Fax 252-442-7404   Email

© 2015 Golden LEAF Foundation, Inc. All Rights Reserved