Business

April 2, 2014

Study looking at ways to bring more manufacturing to area

— Technology is changing every part of the economy, including manufacturing. Advanced machinery and manufacturing processes require workers with new and advanced skills.

Now, the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission has partnered with Georgia Tech to develop a plan to make sure that workers in the region have the skills they need to compete in the 21st century and that the region can attract advanced manufacturing. The commission provides planning and other services for 15 counties in northwest Georgia, including Whitfield and Murray.

Georgia Tech and the regional commission have received an Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration. The grant is for $85,000, with Georgia Tech matching $75,000 and the commission matching $10,000. Northwest Georgia was just one of 26 areas across the nation to receive the grant.

“The premise behind the grants is that (business) clusters are more successful at growing and creating jobs than isolated businesses,” said Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce President Brian Anderson, a member of the regional commission’s board. “To test that, they wanted to invest in places where these clusters exist. In our case, it’s a floorcovering cluster. But it can be an automobile cluster or any sort of manufacturing cluster.”

Georgia Tech and the commission are working together to develop a long-range plan for the area to attract more advanced manufacturing.

“Advanced manufacturing is any manufacturing process that utilizes a high level of skills,” said Leigh Hopkins, a project manger with Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute.

Those working on the report, which is expected to be completed sometime in June, are talking to business executives and others in the area to determine what the area’s strengths and weaknesses are in terms of attracting and maintaining advanced manufacturing. The goal is to develop a strategy to attract more advanced manufacturing and to find the resources to implement that strategy by, for instance, gaining more federal grants.

Anderson points to plans by private industry and by Georgia Northwestern Technical College, Dalton State College and others that could help local workers acquire new skills needed by manufacturers.

“It makes sense to ask how could we accelerate education attainment and skill set development if we had more resources. Could we leverage state, local and regional money and get some federal grants to take it to the next level?” he said. “Over the next few months, we can put together a plan that says here are the resources we already plan to invest, if we could leverage that against this much more money we could reach this outcome.”

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