NW Georgia named U.S. Department of Commerce manufacturing community
by Jason Lowrey
Jun 05, 2014 | 1609 views | 0 0 comments | 27 27 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The northwest Georgia region has been named one of 12 areas designated a manufacturing community partner by the U.S. Department of Commerce. The designation will net the area part of a $1.3 billion pool of economic development assistance financing from 11 different federal agencies.

The Northwest Georgia Regional Commission worked with Georgia Tech to make the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership application. The decision to apply, said NWGRC Director of Regional Planning David Howerin, came from a concern about supporting the carpet industry.

“Kind of where this started from at one of our regional council meetings back last year, Brian Anderson with ... Whitfield County Chamber of Commerce was expressing a concern that the floor covering industry is not able to get enough skilled employees in what they call mechatronic, and at the same time we saw an announcement come out of the U.S. Department of Commerce that regions could apply for funding to prepare a manufacturing strategy,” Howerin said. “So we contacted the Enterprise Innovation Institute and they agreed to participate with us.

“... So we started on the strategy this past fall. I guess, at the first of this year, the department of commerce came out with this Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership, kind of the next stage of this whole thing. That’s when Georgia Tech and Northwest Georgia Regional Commission decided to apply for the designation in the manufacturing community. The main reason was it was going to give us access to federal investments.”

According to a U.S. Department of Commerce press release, each designated community will have a liaison at each of the 11 participating agencies to help them “navigate federal resources.” The 11 agencies are: Appalachian Regional Commission, Delta Regional Authority, Environmental Protection Agency, National Science Foundation, Small Business Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, U.S. Department of Labor and U.S. Department of Transportation.

Howerin said he did not know the amount of funds the region would get, or how much Bartow County may expect to receive.

“Well, we don’t know yet. Where we are, we’re partnering with Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute. They are preparing [a] mass manufacturing strategy for us, which part of that will be identifying specific projects that we want to implement in northwest Georgia for advanced manufacturing. We expect that strategy to be ready late this summer and from that point the leaders in the region and stakeholders will decide which projects we want to pursue and then we’ll be working with the various federal agencies that may have funding available for that,” he said.

A presentation available on the U.S. Department of Commerce website details part of the application from the northwest Georgia region. Georgia Northwestern Technical College, “will provide training and professional education to fill over 500 vacant jobs in the region,” according to the document. GNTC also will partner with industry associations and area colleges and academies to address the need for skilled employees.

The Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership and Georgia Tech Manufacturing Institute will “capitalize on the opportunity to make the industry more sustainable by locating suppliers closer to their customers and increasing the purchase of materials such as dyes, resins and petroleum-based products from within the region.”

Plans also call for research and innovation work with the Georgia Center of Innovation for Manufacturing, Georgia Tech Institute for Materials and Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute exploring innovations in materials, technology and adoption of technology.

The document also details the areas of work on infrastructure and site development, trade and international investment and operational improvements and capital access for operational improvement.

Among the partners listed in the presentation are Beaulieu of America, J + J Flooring Group, Mohawk Industries and Shaw Industries Inc. Other manufacturers may become involved later, Howerin said.

“The reason for that is, northwest Georgia has a cluster of floor covering industry in this region that makes the region highly — the floor covering industry is highly concentrated in northwest Georgia more than any other place in the states,” he said. “So that was our starting point, was to build on the strong points. Of course, eventually it will reach out, we hope, to other manufacturing in the region also.”

Howerin believed region officials and business leaders could begin making decisions on which projects to finance before the end of the year.

“I would say beginning this fall. I think at that point in time we’ll have an idea of a strategy. Of course what I say by strategy is a specific project we want to implement,” he said.