Partnership helps grow CVCC’s Manufacturing Solutions Center, local industry
Catawba Valley Community College’s Manufacturing Solutions Center (MSC) through a unique partnership between Gaston College’s Textile Technology Center (TTC), the city of Conover and Gaston County will help provide better products for the medical community and create small business opportunities.
HICKORY, N.C. — Catawba Valley Community College’s Manufacturing Solutions Center (MSC) through a unique partnership between Gaston College’s Textile Technology Center (TTC), the city of Conover and Gaston County will help provide better products for the medical community and create small business opportunities.
This partnership involving public and private sectors will serve as a launch pad for prototyping and testing reusable personal protective equipment (PPE) products for entrepreneurs and existing manufacturers in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Manufacturing Solutions Center looks forward to working with Gaston College’s TTC in developing new, advanced fabrics that will better protect our medical and essential workers,” said CVCC President Dr. Garrett Hinshaw. “This new funding will help us expand our operations and create more high-demand, well-paying jobs in our region. This level of collaboration and partnership will serve as a model for the future so that we can better meet the needs of economic and workforce development by leveraging the strength of both Gaston College and Catawba Valley Community College.”
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals and emergency care clinics in North Carolina and around the country have experienced shortages of vital PPE needed to care for critically ill patients infected by the coronavirus. Unfortunately, approximately 96 percent of all PPE supplies were manufactured outside the U.S.
In addition, medical personnel and essential workers wearing masks – particularly N95 and cloth face masks – for long periods of time were experiencing mask acne or other skin irritations from wearing the masks. With that problem came the need for a better-quality product to be developed.
Due to this immediate response and the need for other related COVID-19 product needs, companies quickly turned to the Manufacturing Solutions Center and the Textile Technology Center for product research, testing and development to produce diagnostic test kits and create fabrics for innovative Personal Protective Equipment such as advanced face mask coverings, shields and protective gowns.
But in order to develop and manufacture these better products, the two Centers discovered they needed additional space, more specialized equipment and resources. The funding from Bill 1105 Coronavirus Relief Act 3.0 will help to meet those needs.
“We are on the threshold of creating a nearly vertical manufacturing cluster and installing the core capability in the Catawba Valley,” said Rep. Jay Adams, a proponent for Bill 1105. “The pandemic, hopefully, will end soon, but the ability to produce these products will be here at home, not in the hands of our adversaries. If needed, we will have the ability to produce high-quality PPE to suppress whatever medical threat might emerge. Furthermore, these research and development capabilities will likely allow us to design PPE equipment and items that will evolve into products we cannot imagine presently. We, in the Catawba Valley, are innovators, we don’t just make things, we make better things! What we see today is just the beginning.”
Sen. H. Dean Proctor was also involved with Adams, Rep. Mitchell Setzer and Rep. Jason Saine in helping push this partnership opportunity forward.
“This was a grand slam for Catawba County,” Proctor said. “I’m not sure we’ll ever get one as big as this. I’m just pleased to be a part of it. There were a lot of people involved in it and contributed to it. I think it’ll make a big difference for many years to come. It’s important that we bring the PPE production back to the United States. I think this is the first start on it. This should provide a road to the future for PPE manufacturers in the United States.”
A total of $14.3 million has been allocated for the effort from Bill 1105 (The Coronavirus Relief Act. 3.0), including $9 million to the city of Conover. Of that total, $7.25 million will be allocated to construct a purpose-built facility to house testing labs, provide rapid prototyping and a textile sourcing library.
The remaining $1.75 million will be used to develop a cleaning room uplift for the facilities at the MSC and equipment, materials and logistics for a rapid prototyping pilot line to create product and to train a workforce for U.S. manufacturers of PPE.
“I think one of the things that COVID did was shine some light on the destruction of manufacturing in the United States over that last couple of decades and how we have outsourced and relied on so many other countries for resources. This continued partnership with the PPE will help correct some of that problem by bringing those resources and jobs back home,” said Kyle Hayman, Mayor Pro Tem for the city of Conover. “Locally, we’re going to have a lot of companies that will take advantage of this opportunity with the Manufacturing Solutions Center expanding their testing and research. It’s going to help these companies develop new products, more products and be able to develop them and get them on the marketplace quicker. This could be game-changing not only locally, but nationally as well.”
A $5.3 million grant will also go to Gaston County to construct an Incubator and Extrusion Center for Advanced Fibers for Gaston College’s Textile Technology Center.
“I’m excited about this new initiative and the building of a new fiber innovation center,” said Dr. John Hauser, president of Gaston College. “Over the years, the Gaston College Textile Technology Center and Catawba Valley Community College’s Manufacturing Solutions Center have always worked collaboratively on projects, but were limited by needing additional equipment, space, funding and other resources. Now, we have an opportunity to expand our expertise to produce high-quality products to benefit our communities. Our city and county partners are strongly behind this project. They will assist us in building an incubator business that will provide a space and the resources to engage new entrepreneurs and small businesses to manufacture and distribute PPE products. This will mean growth of new businesses and jobs in our community.”
Catawba Valley Community College’s Manufacturing Solutions Center and Gaston College’s Textile Technology Center continue to be leaders in textile development and manufacturing.
Both provide a full range of solution-based services for the textile and manufacturing industries including Business Incubation Services, Yarn & Short Staple Processing, Fabric Formation & Extrusion, Full range of Physical Lab Testing & Analysis and Customized Textile Training.
For more information about CVCC’s Manufacturing Solutions Center, please call Linda York at 828-327-7000, ext. 4242 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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