NCGrowth, an affiliated center of the Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute for Private Enterprise, hosted its annual summer showcase in Sanford, N.C., on Friday, Sept. 7.
The event kicked off with a tour of the Central Carolina Community College Howard James Innovation Center. The center, which offers students customized industry skills training, houses a simulated work environment along with a fully outfitted welding lab, instrumentation lab and additional classroom space.
“Our students learn about the importance of quality and the importance of safety,” said tour lead Cathy Swindell, the center’s director of industry services. “If you’ve got those two things down, then production and cost take care of themselves.”
Following the tour, roughly 50 participants gathered for lunch at the nearby Center for Workforce Innovation and enjoyed catering by Alpaca, a North Carolina-based restaurant with locations in Durham, Cary, Raleigh and Sanford, as well as locally made Tastin’ Jamaican salsa.
Lunchtime presentations included a brief overview of Sanford’s rich history by Bob Joyce, economic development executive director for the Sanford Area Growth Alliance, as well as a number of North Carolina companies and local government agencies that have received assistance through NCGrowth’s network of faculty experts, staff and MBA student analysts.
Participants concluded the day with a tour of Mertek Solutions given by Jerry Pedley, its president. Mertek, which designs and builds custom manufacturing assembly and test equipment, employs 50 staff members, incorporates robotics to maximize its efficiency and recently was named Small Business of the Year by Business North Carolina magazine.
Pedley said that while many people believe robotics are a threat to manufacturing jobs, their use in fact is helping to “create more, better and higher paying jobs” across the field.