Manufacturing plays a significant role in North Carolina’s economy. North Carolina has the largest manufacturing workforce in the southeast with more than 460,000 manufacturing workers, according to the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina (EDPNC). The Golden LEAF Foundation supports the growth of business and industry to create new jobs in rural, tobacco-dependent areas by providing necessary public infrastructure and supporting workforce training.
In the last year, the Foundation supported eight projects totaling $5.4 million to help locate or expand manufacturing companies that will create 1,260 new jobs over the next few years. Part of the reason companies locate in North Carolina is the availability of a good, skilled workforce. Golden LEAF also provided funding for 11 projects totaling $2.7 million to support workforce training programs specifically related to skills needed for local manufacturing companies.
On September 16, 2020, Scott T. Hamilton, Golden LEAF President, Chief Executive Officer spoke at the ribbon cutting for a new machining lab at Reidsville High School in Rockingham County. Golden LEAF awarded $200,000 in February 2019 to support the initiation of the manual machining pathway. The result of a collaborative approach to filling local employer needs, the machining pathway will prepare students for employment or help them to matriculate into the Computer Integrated Machining Program at Rockingham Community College.
The inaugural class of students had the honor of cutting the ribbon on the new machining lab and participated in the guided tour of the facility.
“Partnerships like the one between the schools, community college, economic development corporations, workforce development, non-profits, and local business help make long-term strategies successful,” said Hamilton. “We are excited to see the results of this partnership and the hard work of the students involved in the program for years to come.”
A similar project in Yadkin County is already yielding results. Golden LEAF made two significant investments to help build an industrial training center after a consortium of leaders deemed the need for the strategic facility to build a strong manufacturing workforce in the county. In August 2015, Golden LEAF provided $200,000 to support Surry Community College, which serves Yadkin County, to construct and equip Phase I of the new industrial training center campus in Yadkin County. In June 2017, Golden LEAF awarded $800,000 through its Community-Based Grants Initiative to equip major manufacturing programs of the new industrial training center.
The G. Allen Mebane IV Industrial Training Center provides advanced manufacturing training in mechatronics, electronics engineering, electrical systems, welding, and computer integrated machining. The center targets the needs of new and expanding business and industry and is the result of a strategic partnership between Surry Community College, area public schools, economic development council, Chambers of Commerce, Yadkin public officials, and business and industry.
“With the new facility, cutting edge industrial training equipment, new career pathways, new scholarship initiatives to ensure every Yadkin County student can attend college, and stakeholder endorsement, the Yadkin Center has seen significant enrollment growth and has a valid plan for tackling area workforce deficits,” said Marion F. Venable, Surry Community College Foundation Executive Director. “Surry Community College’s experience has confirmed that detailed planning, resource management, collaboration, and a valid, transformational project ensures success.”
To date, 19 students enrolled in these programs have earned degrees; 10 students have been employed in their field; and 367 students have received 583 third party industry credentials.
“Golden LEAF is proud to do its part in supporting the strong manufacturing presence in North Carolina,” said Hamilton. “We will continue to fund strategies that work to grow the knowledge and skills needed to fill these quality jobs.”
Learn more about manufacturing projects Golden LEAF has supported through the years:
- Catawba Valley Community College – Furniture Academy
- Rockingham County Schools – Machining Lab
- Guilford Technical Community College – Apprenticeship Program
- Forsyth Technical Community College – Machining Center
- Surry County Schools – Next Generation Career Academy
- Rowan-Cabarrus Community College – Mechatronics, machining, and welding Programs
- Wilkes Community College – Machining Program – Ashe County Campus
New or Expanded Manufacturing Businesses
- City of Shelby – Washburn Switch Business Park (Clearwater Paper)
- Rockingham County – Elevated Storage Tank (Ontex Operations)
- Henderson County/ City of Asheville – Public Roads – (Sierra Nevada/ New Belgium)
- Rutherford County – Equipment Lease (Trelleborg Coated Systems US, Inc.)
- Manufacturing Operations – Changed Normal Operations to Support Pandemic Needs (SylvanSport and Watauga Opportunities Inc.)