Industrial Commons Bringing Innovation to Manufacturing in Western North Carolina

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From the Appalachian Regional Commission Spotlight


Western North Carolina has a long and proud heritage in the production of textiles and furniture, but the Regional manufacturing industry has been hit hard by automation and outsourcing. The Industrial Commons is revitalizing the manufacturing tradition through the Carolina Textile District, a multi-state network of small and medium-sized textile and apparel manufacturers based in Morganton, North Carolina. With ARC support, the Carolina Textile District is building a value chain network that benefits textile producers across the Region by hosting skill-building workshops for new and existing businesses, building important relationships within the industry, piloting a workforce training program, and more. The Industrial Commons works with over 50 small firms in Western North Carolina and across the rural southeast to build a sustainable, equitable rural manufacturing sector.

Earlier this month, Molly Hemstreet and Sara Chester, co-Directors of the Industrial Commons, were awarded a coveted  J.M.K. Innovation Prize for their vision for the Region’s manufacturing industry. The J.M.K Innovation Prize “focuses especially on new ideas piloted or prototyped by dynamic visionaries at a stage when they typically struggle to acquire seed funding. This year, applicants responded to rapidly shifting challenges in communities across America through efforts that promise profound social impacts.” The Prize means Industrial Commons will receive a $175,000 award and technical assistance over the course of three years to further their impact and share their model with other organizations and across sectors. According to Hemstreet and Chester, “The Industrial Commons is rebuilding a diverse working class. We lead and implement a new vision for labor organizing in rural, industrial work. We encourage and equip a new generation of workers to build pride, skill, and ownership in manufacturing. This preserves our heritage industries and roots previously extracted wealth in the hands of our communities through local ownership and control.”

Find out more about the Industrial Commons.


Potential Role of Secondary CTE Programs in Preparing Students for Apprenticeship Programs

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From Perkins Collaborative Research Network

Much has been written in recent years about the need to provide greater work-based learning opportunities for high school students as an instructional strategy to better prepare students for college and the workforce. Several reports, such as Pathways to Prosperity: Meeting the Challenge of Preparing Young Americans for the 21st Century and Learning for Jobs have argued that other countries, those with robust apprenticeship systems, do a much better job than the United States in preparing all students for careers. This project explores the potential role that secondary career and technical education (CTE) programs may play in preparing students for apprenticeship programs.

Through site visits and interviews of current secondary CTE programs that align with and articulate to apprenticeship programs in a variety of contexts and Career Clusters®, local CTE programs are profiled for common elements and practices that characterize effective programs, as well as the underlying supports and programmatic features that enable success. Resources include a Resource Guide describing the characteristics of effective programs and strategies for engaging employers; three mini-guides offering strategies for aligning CTE and apprenticeship programs, tailored for use by employers, local and regional teams, and state teams; a site visit report and site profiles; and instructional videos and webinars on CTE-Apprenticeship alignment that include lessons learned from local programs.

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Floyd County Schools College and Career Academy announces partnership with Georgia Tech

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From Floyd County Board of Education


Floyd County Schools (FCS) is pleased to announce collaborative agreement between FCS College and Career Academy (CCA) and the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI). This collaboration is part of the GTRI and FCS CCA’s on-going strategy to increase partnerships with business and industry. As a unit of the University System of Georgia, understanding and meeting the needs of industry to help create jobs in the state is a priority to Georgia Tech, and FCS is proud to provide these relevant learning opportunities to students.

“Many of our students are not aware of the different subsets of engineering.  Areas like environmental and biomedical engineering are new and emerging fields and cross over into many different educational disciplines,” said John Parker, FCS Executive Director of Academics. “Relevance is attained through experience. To understand what an environmental engineer does requires actually meeting an environmental engineer.  GTRI has gone out of their way to bridge the relevance gap for our students. We are extremely lucky to have them as a partner.”

On Tuesday, September 19th, 45 students from FCS CCA visited the GTRI to kick off the yearlong project. Students were excited and eager to have the opportunity to work with the professors and graduate students to begin the process of identifying and developing relevant projects that they will be working on during the school year that will be beneficial to the community.

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Floor 360 wants feedback from middle schoolers on their career aspirations. The survey will help us inform students about opportunities as they pursue their education and prepare for a career.

Please share this survey with any middle schooler in the Northwest Georgia Region. The survey closes November 16, 2017.

Take the Survey


New port would take 50K trucks off Atlanta roads

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From 11Alive News:

The port is expected to shift all that truck traffic to freight trains.  


Author: Doug Richards
Published: 6:27 PM EDT October 23, 2017

ATLANTA — A new inland port opening next year will take 50,000 trucks off the road in Atlanta annually, according to the state Port Authority. The port is expected to shift all that truck traffic to freight trains.

Interstate 285 is designed to bear the weight of truck traffic around Atlanta, and passenger vehicles often feel it. “They get one (truck) on each side (of my car) and it’s a little bit too much,” said Robin Moon, a DeKalb County resident.

“A 15-minute trip takes 40 minutes because of tractor-trailers,” said Karl Douglas of Stockbridge, gassing up at a QuikTrip in DeKalb County. Just south of I-285 near Stockbridge, truck traffic jumped 15 percent from 2006 to 2013, the last year data was available, according to the Georgia Department of Transportation.

But the state is hoping that a new port facility under construction near Chatsworth will at least slow the growth of truck traffic around Atlanta.

The Port of Savannah dispatches thousands of trucks throughout the state. Many of them use highways connecting Savannah to Atlanta and points north. The new port is expected to divert much of that truck traffic by sending freight on railroad lines from Savannah, through Atlanta and on to Chatsworth.



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From the Georgia Department of Economic Development

ATLANTA – October 19, 2017 –The Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD) today announced that Candor, a healthcare coverage marketplace specializing in pairing consumers with top health plans, will create 675 jobs over five years in Floyd County. Through 2023, the company plans to invest $39 million into the local economy as it hires, builds out and trains its technical, sales and customer management teams.

“We are always proud when innovative companies like Candor choose Georgia,” said GDEcD Commissioner Pat Wilson. “Candor is leveraging the power of technology to effectively reach its consumers, and Rome provides them access to the workforce they need to support its growth.”

Candor has developed a smartphone app and chatbot to help consumers find appropriate health care coverage plans. The app and its associated software platform also incorporate tools and support for partner insurance agencies, health insurance carriers, and health care providers. In addition to providing access to health care coverage plans for consumers, Candor enables secure and instant transactions and provides agents and carriers with the ability to visualize market trends and business performance.

“Our community is home to approximately 100,000 people, with a median age of 35, representing a significant group of Millennials,” said John Good, COO and co-founder, Candor. “We launched Candor to make health insurance simple to buy and easy to understand for this population. This is essential, because 97 percent of Americans don’t know what their health insurance covers, and 63 percent of bankruptcies are due to unexpected health expenses,” he said. “We’re pleased to choose Rome as our headquarters, and excited to bring new professional jobs, and a vibrant company culture, to this welcoming city.”

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Northwest Georgia Kicks Off the High Demand Career Initiative!

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The State of Georgia recently awarded the Northwest Georgia Workforce Development Board (NWGWDB) with a grant from the High Demand Career Initiative (HDCI) to develop a sector partnership strategy for the region.  Building upon the work for the region’s Advanced Manufacturing Strategy in 2014, the sector partnership working group will focus on meeting the talent needs of advanced manufacturing industries in the Northwest Georgia region.  The NWGWDB selected Georgia Tech’s Center for Economic Development Research (CEDR) to develop the partnership, which will include asset mapping and the alignment of education and training programs in advanced manufacturing. With the state’s support of demand-driven regional partnerships, this project seeks to understand the needs of industry and develop strategies to close the workforce skills gaps in Northwest Georgia region and across the state.

If you have any questions, or are a manufacturer in the Northwest Georgia region and would like to get involved in HDCI, please contact Candice McKie, Project Manager, at 404-385-2053. Please check the Floor360 event calendar for the next HDCI meeting!


Floor360 Partners Gear Up for National Manufacturing Day!

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mfgday2National Manufacturing Day is Friday, October 6th, and Floor360 partners are gearing up to host “MFG Day” events in Northwest Georgia!

On Thursday, October 5th, the Northwest Georgia College & Career Academy (NWGCCA), Shaw Industries, and Sumo Robot League (a Georgia Tech student-formed non-profit company) are partnering to host a robotics competition for high school students. Students design and build robots to compete in fully autonomous sumo wrestling. Each match motivates students to learn and understand the principles of S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), preparing them for the future by fostering an interest in these critical disciplines and an understanding of how they are practiced. Throughout the competition, students will have the opportunity to build electrical circuits, design and 3D print adaptive components, and code sensor-based autonomous response algorithms using the actual C++ programming language.

On Wednesday, October 18th, the Alliance for Innovation and Sustainability (AIS) will be hosting middle and high school science teachers from around the Northwest Georgia region to discuss manufacturing and career opportunities for students. This event will present educators with manufacturing-related programming available at Georgia Northwestern Technical College and Dalton State College, as well as a panel of representatives to discuss the region’s workforce. The day will conclude with tours of manufacturing facilities from some of the region’s top employers.

If you’re participating in MFG Day, don’t forget to register your event here so we can help promote the Northwest Georgia region!


Engineered Floors to buy ‘substantially all’ of Beaulieu Group’s operating assets

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From Dalton Daily Citizen

Since its founding in 2009 by Robert E. "Bob" Shaw, Engineered Floors has risen rapidly in the flooring industry, and the company took another step forward Wednesday with announced plans to buy many of the operating assets of Beaulieu Group LLC.
Since its founding in 2009 by Robert E. “Bob” Shaw, Engineered Floors has risen rapidly in the flooring industry, and the company took another step forward Wednesday with announced plans to buy many of the operating assets of Beaulieu Group LLC.

With Wednesday morning’s announcement of Engineered Floors’ plans to buy “substantially all of the operating assets of Beaulieu Group LLC,” an industry insider said that in less than a decade Engineered Floors has entrenched itself clearly in the “big three.”

Ken Ryan, senior editor with Floor Covering News, said while Shaw Industries and Mohawk Industries are still at the top, Dalton-based Engineered Floors is now on their heels.

“It really is amazing how Engineered Floors has risen since 2009 to be such a major player in such a short time,” Ryan said. “Now, to talk about the big three, it is Shaw, Mohawk and Engineered Floors, and there is now no doubt about that.”

Engineered Floors, founded by Robert E. “Bob” Shaw — who was the co-founder and longtime head of Shaw Industries leading up to its sale to Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway in 2001 — said it had “reached a letter of intent agreement in principle to purchase substantially all of the operating assets of Beaulieu Group LLC,” which filed for bankruptcy in July.

“The transaction will be contingent upon approvals through the bankruptcy court and due diligence processes,” the statement said. “Pending governmental approvals, the transaction is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2017.”

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Georgia’s rural schools face big problems with money, transportation, more

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From Athens Banner-Herald


A recent report noted a multitude of issues facing Georgia’s rural schools

The state ranks sixth in the nation on a priority list developed by a group called The Rural School and Community Trust.

The Trust’s latest “Why Rural Matters” report noted Georgia’s high rural poverty rate, high transportation expenses and low graduation rates and test scores.

Mississippi topped the list of states whose rural schools face the greatest unmet needs, followed by Arizona, Alabama, South Carolina, South Dakota, then Georgia, followed by Nevada, Florida, Oklahoma and Alaska.

The report is one more indication of the woes facing Georgia’s rural communities. Many have been losing population in recent years and are classified as economically distressed. A committee of the state Legislature has been holding meetings around the state to hear ideas about what to do about rural Georgia’s crisis.

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