Thread machine at Gaston College

Empowering the Future of Textiles: Centralina EDD Board Meeting at Gaston College

The Centralina Economic Development District (EDD) had the privilege of holding its summer board meeting at Gaston College’s Kimbrell Campus, specifically at the Textile Technology Center.

This visit provided an invaluable opportunity to explore the enduring significance of the textile industry in our region and its ongoing contributions to economic development and innovation.

Manufactured in Union County, NC, this Circular Knitting Machine serves its purpose to create tubular fabrics in a continuous loop for small knitted products like t-shirts.

Key Takeaways

  • The Textile Technology Center offers extensive activities and training programs, focusing on product development and specialized testing laboratories.
  • The Fiber Innovation Center is set to become a central hub for advancing fiber technology and driving innovation within the textile sector.
  • The importance of strategic partnerships and collaboration is essential for regional workforce development.

Supporting Innovation and Workforce Development: Gaston College’s Fiber Innovation Center

The Centralina EDD has demonstrated its commitment to regional economic growth by supporting Gaston College in securing a significant grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA). In 2023, Gaston College was awarded $1.1 million to purchase advanced manufacturing equipment. This funding will bolster the capabilities of existing textile and apparel firms, enhance the talent pipeline, and foster entrepreneurial opportunities at the Fiber Innovation Center.

Strengthening the Textile Industry through Advanced Education and Training

Jasmine Wade-Cox, Executive Director of the Textile Technology Center at Gaston College, presented a detailed overview of the center’s extensive activities and training programs during a recent board meeting. The center focuses on four key product development areas and operates three specialized testing laboratories. These facilities are pivotal in driving innovation and ensuring the production of high-performance, sustainable materials.

Gaston College offers three comprehensive textile education pathways designed to equip students with the necessary skills and knowledge to excel in the textile industry. Additionally, the center provides customized training programs tailored for incumbent workers, ensuring that the current workforce remains well-prepared and able to meet industry demands. These educational initiatives are crucial for maintaining a robust and skilled workforce capable of sustaining the region’s textile industry.

The Fiber Innovation Center: A Hub for Technological Advancements

The Fiber Innovation Center is poised to become a central hub for advancing fiber technology and driving innovation within the textile sector. This state-of-the-art facility will support the development of high-performance, sustainable materials with applications spanning from household to industrial products. By promoting cutting-edge research and development, the center will play a crucial role in maintaining the global competitiveness of the textile industry in the Carolinas and abroad.

Insights from the Tour of Harney Hall and the Fiber Innovation Center

Don Rusch, Director of the Textile Technology Center provides an overview of this Vortex Spinning Machine which uses air to spin yarn.

Board members had the opportunity to tour Harney Hall and the newly established Fiber Innovation Center, gaining firsthand insight into the complex process of transforming fibers into yarn and fabric. The tour provided a comprehensive view of the diverse applications of these fabrics, which include clothing, household items, fire protection, and industrial uses. This engaging experience highlighted the intricate and innovative processes involved in textile production.

Fostering Regional Workforce Development through Collaboration

During a working lunch, board members engaged in a lively discussion on regional workforce development with Ms. Wade-Cox. They explored various aspects of the Textile Technology Center’s operations, including current enrollment numbers, the nature of partnerships with industry collaborators, and the specific employers leveraging the center’s resources and training programs. This interactive session underscored the center’s significant impact on workforce development and the importance of strategic partnerships in driving success.

Conclusion

The support from Centralina EDD and the awarded EDA grant marks a significant milestone for Gaston College and the regional textile industry. With the advanced manufacturing equipment funded by this grant, the Fiber Innovation Center is well-positioned to lead advancements in fiber technology, support existing firms, and create new entrepreneurial opportunities. Through comprehensive education pathways and customized training programs, Gaston College is ensuring a well-prepared and skilled workforce that will continue to drive the textile industry forward. The collaborative efforts and strategic partnerships fostered by the Textile Technology Center are essential in achieving sustained economic growth and innovation in the region.

CEDD members attending the tour of Gaston College Fiber Innovation Center include: (L-R) Randy Collins, Anson County EDC; Donny Hicks, Gaston County EDC; Jasmine Wade-Cox, Gaston College; Cliff Brumfield, Lincoln County EDC; Anna Lu Wilson, Centralina Regional Council, Angela Karchmer, Gaston County Workforce Development Board, Ron Mahle, Union County EDC; Veronica Grantham, NC Department of Commerce Division of Workforce Solutions; Todd Black, Iredell County EDC; Patrick Lucitt, UNC Charlotte

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Monroe_springpainting

Building Future Success: Good Jobs Great Cities Initiative City of Monroe, NC

The City of Monroe, North Carolina, is at the forefront of economic revitalization and community empowerment through its participation in the Good Jobs Great Cities Academy (GJGCA). This two-year workforce development initiative, awarded by the National League of Cities and the U.S. Department of Labor, aligns seamlessly with the overarching goals of the Centralina Economic Development Strategy (CEDS), which is a locally-based, regionally driven economic development plan that focuses on three goals.  1) Expand Economic Opportunity, 2) Build Community Supportive Infrastructure and 3) Strengthen Regional Resilience and Global Competitiveness. Centralina Regional Council and the Centralina Workforce Development Board have been supportive partners throughout this program’s inception which started in April 2023.

Centralina’s CEDS places a strong emphasis on workforce development and education, recognizing them as pillars for economic success. Likewise, the City of Monroe has placed a high importance on these items and recently launched MonroeWorks, to connect jobseekers and local precision manufacturers.  This website hub helps residents find training programs for high-demand fields like advanced manufacturing and clean energy and connects to available jobs posted on NCWorks.gov. Aligning education and upskilling with industry needs gives residents the necessary tools to thrive in a rapidly evolving job market.

The City of Monroe’s strong partnership with local businesses and industries has encouraged job creation and economic growth. Last fall, the city brought together 80 leaders from government, business and non-profit sectors to discuss barriers to hiring in the manufacturing industry.  Other initiatives such as job fairs, apprenticeship programs and youth apprenticeships conducted in partnership with South Piedmont Community College have contributed to building the workforce capacity. These efforts not only attract talent and investment but also drive sustainable economic expansion across the region.

The City of Monroe’s participation in the Good Jobs Great Cities Academy serves as a shining example of how local initiatives can align with regional economic strategies for transformative impact. By staying committed to workforce development, education and job creation, the City of Monroe leads the way for inclusive growth and prosperity for all.

Laurie Garner, Business Services Leader, is a key contact in this partnership with the City of Monroe, and she can be reached at 704-384-2713, lgarner@centralina.org 

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supply chain freight

Navigating Supply Chains with NC Manufacturing Extension Partnership

Effective supply chain management is crucial in today’s ever-changing business environment for achieving sustainable growth and gaining a competitive edge. The North Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NCMEP) plays an important role in bolstering the sustainability of the manufacturing industry through its programs, resources and consulting services.

The Centralina Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) addresses the need to engage existing industries to plan for effective solutions in supply chain efforts under Goal 3: Recommendation 2.1.  This strategy involves building a network through local and national suppliers, which will enhance the industry’s resilience to external disruptions.

One of the key benefits of participating in NCMEP’s Supply Chain Program is its focus on collaboration and knowledge sharing. The program assists businesses with the tools and resources needed to streamline the supply chain process, optimize inventory management and leverage innovative technology.

NCMEP empowers businesses to enhance their supplier relationships, ensuring reliability and consistency in the supply chain. By bolstering strategic partnerships and fostering a culture of continuous improvement, NCMEP enables companies to respond effectively to market demands and seize new opportunities for growth.

The Centralina CEDS aligns with the principles of the NCMEP Supply Chain Program and highlights the importance of an effective and resilient supply chain that achieves sustainable growth. 

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Young Children With Bikes And Scooters In Park

The Role of Child Care in the North Carolina Economy

On February 15, 2024, the Centralina Economic Development District guided an interactive discussion between economic developers, child care providers and local government employees and officials to develop actionable solutions and uncover best practices.  See below for the resources that were presented at the event. Click here to view the slides from that presentation.

Child Care and the North Carolina Economy

At the core of economic development is a valuable commodity that is often overlooked: childcare. It’s like a secret ingredient enhancing the flavor of our communities for today and the future. Recently, the Centralina Economic Development District hosted a pivotal discussion with regional childcare partners, focusing on the role of childcare in the North Carolina economy. To help better understand the complexity of the issue, the event sought to unravel the urgency of the childcare crisis while sparking actionable strategies for local governments, economic development organizations and their allies.

Burden of Cost

Across North Carolina, young families grapple with the problem of childcare costs. In our region, annual expenses vary dramatically, ranging from $5,051 for a school-age child to a staggering $15,538 for an infant. These figures represent the stark reality faced by families trying to provide a basic necessity for their children. What’s even more concerning is that childcare emerges as one of the most significant financial hurdles families must face, and it often comes during the early phases of a parent’s career, when earnings tend to be lower.  With annual costs for infant care averaging $11,467, it surpasses the expense of in-state tuition at a 4-year North Carolina public college, standing at $7,354. The disparity is glaring and emphasizes the financial strain that affects numerous households across the state.

In addition, while Federal ARPA funds have offered temporary relief, totaling $1.3 billion since 2021, this lifeline is set to expire in June 2024. The subsequent decrease in federal funding to $400 million casts uncertainty over the childcare landscape in North Carolina.

Expense of childcare costs compared to college
Workforce Challenge 

Childcare programs are dealing with issues of retaining teachers and maintaining operational stability.  Early childhood educators, earning approximately $14 per hour, find themselves at a crossroads. The lure of higher wages in the retail sector, ranging from $18 to $20 per hour, paired with comprehensive benefits packages, draws many educators away from the profession. This constant departure threatens not only the strength of the childcare workforce but also the quality of care provided to our children.

Government Action and Community Resilience

 In the face of these challenges, local and county governments must rise to the occasion. They must recognize early care and education as critical components of the infrastructure necessary for their community to prosper and thrive. By embedding a culture of family-friendliness into planning policies and practices, they can pave the way for a brighter future. Additionally, it’s imperative for governments and community leaders to proactively identify and address barriers that hinder access to childcare services and increase rising costs. Collaboration between government entities, childcare providers, and community stakeholders is essential to forging a path forward that prioritizes the well-being of our children and the sustainability of our economy.

The childcare crisis in North Carolina is not just a financial concern; it’s a public priority that demands attention and action. As we continue to promote economic growth, it is crucial to not overlook the foundational role childcare plays in shaping the future workforce and fostering community resilience. Together, through collaboration and commitment, we can nurture a brighter tomorrow for generations to come.

Curated Child Care Resource Links for Communities in the Centralina Region

REGIONAL

Child Care Demographic Fact Sheets for Each Centralina County (might be slow to load)

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Fostering Regional Prosperity: Centralina EDD’s Commitment to Economic Growth

The Centralina Economic Development District (EDD) has released its Annual Update for the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) as required by the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA). This strategic plan, developed in collaboration with stakeholders across the greater Charlotte region, outlines a vision for the future called “Prosperity for All.” The plan focuses on three core themes—people, place and economy—with corresponding goals to expand economic opportunity, build supportive infrastructure, and strengthen regional resilience and global competitiveness.

Significant progress has been made in advancing the CEDS, which is great news for regional and local economic growth. The strategy covers a range of recommendations, such as workforce development, community support, regional mobility and global competitiveness. You can visit the Centralina EDD visual dashboards designed to track the progress on expanding economic opportunities.

Advancing Action Items

The Centralina EDD has been moving the needle on various action items. Here are a few achievements and their corresponding CEDS action item.

The CEDS has defined 58 action items with a timeline for completion. These action items are categorized as Urgent, Critical and Moderate, and their initiation deadlines are June 2024, June 2025 and June 2027, respectively. The progress of these action items has been closely monitored, and it has been observed that some of them are advancing while others are waiting to begin. Out of the 58 action items, 28 are currently making progress, which is a positive sign that the strategic planning initiated by the Centralina EDD Board in late 2021 is contributing to the success of the initiative.

Highlights & Success Stories October – December 2023
Regional Engagement
  • Four targeted virtual job fairs were organized for local government, education, manufacturing, flexible schedule/remote employment. Goal 1 – 2.2
  • Centralina EDD presented childcare research to statewide EDD coordinators in preparation for the February event. Goal 1 – 3.1
  • Rowan County Manufacturers Network collaborated with local manufacturers, Centralina and Commute with Enterprise program to explore solutions for workforce mobility to employment centers. Goal 2 – 1.1
  • CONNECT Beyond is forming a task force of stakeholders to examine connected and autonomous vehicles and their technology. Goal 2 – 1.3
  • Centralina received a Regional Infrastructure Accelerator grant from the US DOT for CONNECT Beyond implementation, including building an Integrated Mobility Center and building out project service lines for finance innovation, pipeline project facilitation and transit-orientated development. Goal 2 – 3.2
  • Centralina Community Economic Development staff developed a resource addressing stormwater management specifically for local government pre-development meetings. Goal 2 – 3.4
  • Centralina was referenced for Affordable Housing best practice initiatives by the National Association of Development Organizations. Goal 2 – 4.1
  • Exploring supply chain council with Charlotte Regional Business Alliance through NC Manufacturing Extension Partnership. Goal 3 – 2.1
Grant Support
  • UNC Charlotte was awarded an EDA Tech Hub Strategy Development Grant and the Centralina EDD team participated in the application process. Goal 3 – 4.1
  • Provided a letter of support for South Piedmont Community College to create a career center focused on advanced manufacturing training and employment. Goal 1 – 2.4

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Downtown Kannapolis 2020

Celebrating Centralina’s 55th Anniversary with The City of Kannapolis

UNC-Charlotte leads the consortium in partnership with the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance and the Centralina Regional Council.

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EDA Awards Tech Hub Strategy Development Grant

EDA Awards Tech Hub Strategy Development Grant

UNC-Charlotte leads the consortium in partnership with the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance and the Centralina Regional Council.

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textile1

Gaston College Receives $1.1 Million EDA Grant


Gaston College received a significant $1.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration (EDA) to support the addition of advanced manufacturing equipment in the newly constructed state-of-the-art Fiber Innovation Center (FIC) on the Kimbrell Campus in Belmont, N.C. (more…)

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