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Speakers tout manufacturing

By David Purtell

david.purtell@salisburypost.com

Manufacturing was on the menu for the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce’s November breakfast meeting at Trinity Oaks Thursday.

More than 100 guests heard from three speakers about the important role manufacturing plays in the community and region.

Denise Hallett, with Vulcan Materials — the nation’s largest producer of crushed stone — said manufacturers work to support the communities they’re located in.

She stressed the importance of the relationship between the county’s education system and the manufacturing community.

“We’re so fortunate here in Rowan County to have education, K-12 and beyond, that wants to collaborate with our businesses to learn what they can do to educate our students so they will stay here,” she said.

Hallett said infrastructure improvements across the state are needed to support growing industries, and that legislators need to make the state’s corporate tax policy more competitive.

Gene Beneduce, N.C. State University’s Industrial Extension regional project manager in Kannapolis, said the manufacturing industry is changing for the better.

“Our focus is to help manufacturing organizations lead, improve, grow and connect; help them to get better in what they do through optimizing their processes.” Beneduce, an engineer, said about his work.

He said the U.S. produces 17 percent of the world’s manufactured products, second behind China’s 19 percent. But the gap is closing as labor and transportation costs for China no longer create a significant advantage, he said.

The U.S. manufacturing industry supports and estimated 17.2 million jobs, he said. And in North Carolina, over 400,000 people work in manufacturing. There are nearly 9,000 manufacturing companies in the state, and that 80 percent of them have 100 employees or less.

“We make a lot of really cool things here in North Carolina.,” he said, referencing the furniture, chemical, and metal fabrication industries.

“Manufacturing is different these days,” he said about how production processes have become smarter and more efficient.

“It’s about people, workforce, and manufacturing plants are safe, good environments to work in these days,” Beneduce said.

Craig Lamb, vice president of corporate and continuing education at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, talked about the growing need manufacturers have for qualified workers.

In a study, manufacturers across the country said they had a difficult time filling 68 percent of their jobs because of skill gaps in the workforce, Lamb said.

He talked about RCCC’s Certified Production Technician program, which prepares students for the workforce by teaching them in an environment designed like a manufacturing facility.

He said workers today need a background in safety, quality, manufacturing processes and maintenance awareness.

The CPT program allows students to develop the necessary background skills, Lamb said.

He said communities need to align their workforce and economic development programs to create a system that develops qualified workers.

The region will have over 3,000 new manufacturing jobs in the next decade, Lamb said.

Contact reporter David Purtell at 704-797-4264.

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