(CONOVER) – One North Carolina town is becoming a magnet for manufacturers seeking to develop new ideas and better ways to get their products to market. The Manufacturing Solutions Center in downtown Conover opened an expanded location Thursday.
The MSC is a manufacturing business accelerator and high-tech testing lab under the umbrella of Catawba Valley Community College (CVCC) in Hickory, N.C.
Unlike a traditional business incubator that offers office space and training, the MSC creates prototypes, develops products for the marketplace, connects business owners with manufacturers, markets products and establishes distribution pathways. Simultaneously, inventors and entrepreneurs learn how to operate and sustain a successful business.
MSC staff member say they are receiving an average of 10-12 inquiries daily from all over the world. To better accommodate them, the MSC increased its space from 6,000 sq. ft. to 30,000 sq. ft. with a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Dept. of Commerce Economic Development Agency.
The project was an effort by community leaders to combat high unemployment, due to the loss of traditional jobs in textiles and furniture that led to a unemployment in the city of upwards of 14 percent and a loss of 34,000 jobs.
“We had the talent pool already here. We just needed to find opportunities for our citizens to secure work,” said Conover Mayor Lee Moritz, Jr.
The City of Conover received $6.5 million worth of grants to build Conover Station, which includes access to the research and development library at NC State University in Raleigh.
“Our approach is that entrepreneurs will bring and mature their ideas at the MSC campus and eventually form their own company which they will locate here,” said Moritz.
Officials in Washington, DC took notice. The Conover Station plan with the MSC has become the benchmark for forming public and private economic development partnerships through the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration (EDA).
Conover City Manager Donald Duncan outlined the partnership included grants from the EDA, Housing and Urban Development, (HUD), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the EPA Brownfield program, Golden L.E.A.F. (Long Term Economic Advancement Foundation), North Carolina Parks and Recreation Trust Fund, U.S. Federal Highway Administration and the North Carolina Department of Transportation.
Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Matt Erskine said, “Where you move the needle in manufacturing, you move the needle in the overall economy. In America, We are seeing a resurgence of manufacturing in America because of our entrepreneurial spirit, innovation, research and development, our training and workforce, our ability to deliver and our desire to work with the customer.”
MSC Executive Director Dan St. Louis added that even though American made products may cost more, they are in demand overseas because of the better quality and faster delivery time. Internationally, companies are sending representatives to the United States to ensure their products are actually being made here.
CVCC President Dr. Garrett D. Hinshaw said, "The Manufacturing Solutions Center is another prime example of excellence for manufacturing in the United States. The combination of an innovative facility and experts across manufacturing sectors will create, maintain, and improve jobs throughout the country. We are proud to partner with the City of Conover to move our vision forward and meet the needs of our global economy."