GREENVILLE, SC — Greenville Technical College (GTC) joined with Clemson University, Greenville County Schools, manufacturers, economic development leaders, officials from state and local government and the community to celebrate opening of the Gene Haas Center for Manufacturing Innovation (CMI) with a ribbon cutting ceremony today. Speakers included Dr. Keith Miller, president of Greenville Technical College, Pete Selleck, chairman and president of Michelin North America, Dr. Randy Collins, executive director of academic initiatives in the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences at Clemson University, and Peter Zierhut, vice president of Haas Automation.

The number one goal for the CMI is to increase the number of skilled workers for manufacturing in order to close the skills gap that has hampered the progress of many Upstate employers. The U.S. is the world's largest manufacturing economy and in South Carolina, manufacturing helps to drive the economy, with $28.90 billion in manufactured goods exported in 2014. Manufacturing in Greenville County is an economic powerhouse, first in gross regional product, first in total payroll for all industries, and third in number of individuals employed in the private sector.

The result of that strength is opportunity for those with the right skills. The average salary of manufacturing workers with an associate degree in Greenville County is $63,936. Yet despite the opportunities, as workers retire in record numbers, there are too few younger workers to replace them.

Two challenges exist. The first is a perception among young adults and their parents of manufacturing as taking place on the old shop floor. The CMI will showcase the robotics and electronics used in manufacturing today and the extremely high skill level required to be part of the workforce. The facility is designed to allow visitors to see the process from above as they cross the GE Bridge to Learning. Hands-on activities will engage visitors of all ages.

A second challenge is to meet the needs of older adults who are changing careers. Some of these individuals will need to brush up on skills as they return to the classroom. The Center for Manufacturing Innovation will offer contextualized learning so that adult learners can improve in the basics as they are immersed in the manufacturing curriculum. Many of these students will continue to work as they gain new job skills, and a modularized curriculum will meet their needs, allowing them to stop out as required and to re-enter easily.

CMI brings many firsts to advanced manufacturing education. The involvement of Clemson University (CU) as a partner, which is designed to bridge the gap between the education of the technician and the education of the engineer, is the first of its kind between a technical college and a research university in the U.S. This is not a shared location for separate offerings; instead, educational offerings will be integrated.

A Manufacturing Honors College, which will allow GTC and CU students to work together to solve real world manufacturing challenges, is also a first. An additive manufacturing partnership with Renishaw at a technical college is another groundbreaking effort, and the open manufacturing lab for education, training, and industry collaboration is unlike anything else in South Carolina. This campus is a first for Greenville Technical College with its focus on one sector of the economy and contains the college's first precision metrology lab.

With CMI, Greenville Technical College has forged a stronger relationship with Greenville County Schools in order to expose more students to the opportunities available in manufacturing. Coursework starting in K-12 will transfer or transition to GTC and then to Clemson so that all levels of education in Greenville County are coming together to impact economic success.

CMI is a reflection of the strong partnership between the college and manufacturers. In fact, the idea originated with employer needs. Around 2010, as the economy showed signs of improvement, advanced manufacturing employers voiced concerns about finding an adequate supply of skilled workers in order to take advantage of opportunities. The idea for the CMI grew out of these discussions. Greenville County Council supported the initiative by approving $25 million in bonds to build the campus, and state government provided additional support for equipment.

Companies have donated equipment and funds to ensure that what is taught at the CMI will meet their needs. Donors include the Gene Haas Foundation, which provided $2 million for scholarships and equipment. In recognition of this gift, the building has been named in honor of Gene Haas.

Dollie and Melvin Younts donated $1 million to create two entrances to the Center for Manufacturing Innovation, expected to be complete in November. These entrances and the main drive on the campus, which allow access to growth and success, bear their names.

GE Power donated $500,000 to create a bridge to learning, coming later this fall to the main entrance of the Gene Haas Center for Manufacturing Innovation. Here, students, parents, and members of the community will be able to catch the excitement of manufacturing by looking down on the high bay space and by using touch screens and interactive technology to see how things are made.

Additional donors include 3M Greenville, Bank of America, Bosch Rexroth and the Bosch Community Fund, Duke Energy Foundation, The Graham Foundation, Hubbell Lighting, John I. Smith Charities, Jennie Johnson, Master Gage & Tool, Meyer Tool, Michelin, Piedmont Natural Gas, ProfilGate, Cliff Rosen, ScanSource, Dick Stofan, T&S Brass & Bronze, and Wells Fargo.

Programs will be offered in a variety of formats, from continuing education workshops and shorter certificate programs to two-year associate degrees and beyond. Offerings will include Machine Tool Technology, CNC, Robotics, and Mechatronics. Additive manufacturing will be incorporated into the curriculum for Machine Tool Technology and CNC students and will also be offered through continuing education classes for working engineers and technicians.

The facility was designed by LS3P and constructed by Rodgers Builders.

"Using traditional methods to increase the pipeline of qualified workers for advanced manufacturing just won't work," said Dr. Keith Miller, president of Greenville Technical College. "In Greenville County, we are taking a new approach with the Center for Manufacturing Innovation, breaking traditions and innovating to close the skills gap. I am grateful to see this strong and concerted effort by educators, employers, government, and other leaders. I know that the Upstate and South Carolina will benefit."