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Manufacturing priorities set for East Coast leader

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(The Center Square) – A new report names four priorities for growing North Carolina’s manufacturing industry.

The Department of Commerce and the North Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership at N.C. State University published the findings this week, coinciding with Monday and Tuesday’s North Carolina Manufacturing Conference in Durham.

Adoption of industry 4.0 technologies, development of a skilled workforce, support for growth and scale-up of small manufacturers and strengthening supply chains were identified in the analysis.

The state is the leader on the East Coast and among the Southeast. With more than 10,000 manufacturing firms, North Carolina is sixth nationally in contribution to the gross domestic product.

“From advanced manufacturing to biomanufacturing, North Carolina offers a diverse and highly skilled workforce of more than 472,000,” said Machelle Baker Sanders, secretary of the Commerce Department.

She said the state needs to expand “work-based learning opportunities” to secure its spot in competition with other states. It is also imperative to support the needs of employers.

Phil Mintz, executive director of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, said the conference itself opens the door for dialogue between companies, exhibitors and participants. There’s great focus on innovation, technology and improvements.

The report describes adoption of industry 4.0 technologies as “better enabling North Carolina manufacturers to overcome financial, technological, and capacity barriers to embrace new technologies.” Suggestions include technology investments, initiating public-private innovation hubs and enhancing “cybersecurity education” and support.

Workforce development, the report says, is bolstered by the state “fostering partnerships between educational institutions and the manufacturing industry, enhancing technical education, and expanding apprenticeship and work-based learning opportunities.” Often, community colleges style course offerings to partner with new manufacturing companies.

Small and medium-sized enterprises, the report says, are pivotal to a supportive ecosystem.

On supply chains, the report encourages manufacturers to “source materials and services within North Carolina,” and to enhance supply chain visibility and collaboration.

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