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Letter to the Editor

Manufacturing’s Continued Relevance in South Carolina

web posted April 12, 2008
Dear Editor,
In the Courts of Conventional Wisdom, the evolution of the American manufacturing industry sometimes suggests decline and, certainly, anxieties are fueled when factory doors are closed and workers face the challenge of re-entering the job market. However, we at the Silver Crescent Foundation recognize that manufacturing remains a vital sector of the South Carolina economy, and continues to foster economic strength, provide jobs, and fuel a higher standard of living for our state’s citizens.
In South Carolina, our ability to capitalize on the opportunities afforded by the dynamic manufacturing industry, which is increasingly innovative and changing at an increasing rate, will depend upon our abilities to evolve and adapt in keeping with the challenges of this emerging environment. This forces us to break free of our “conventional” thinking about manufacturing, and further requires us to become more innovative and proactive in preparing current and future workers to successfully meet the demands of the manufacturing world.

The greatest need now cited by CEOs and economists is for highly trained and motivated people to bring creativity, skill, and innovation to the new world of manufacturing. Most workforce development initiatives however, address the needs of current workers and tend to focus on near-term pay back. Developing the future workforce that possesses the discipline, culture and skills necessary to successfully compete in the new world of manufacturing will require engaging the next generation youth at an early age.

The Silver Crescent Foundation is dedicated to addressing the needs of our future workforce pipeline by supporting programs that capture the imaginations of our young people and foster a desire to become the designers, engineers and manufacturing leaders of tomorrow. The foundation draws on more than 30 years of experience in supporting education, engineering and technology development in South Carolina.
Our programs are designed to foster a culture of creativity and innovation among young people, while simultaneously helping them understand the rewards of applying those skills to engineering and manufacturing applications. As young people come to understand ways engineering innovation betters people’s lives, and as they grasp the connections between manufacturing vitality and personal economic success, their interest in these areas will only grow.

The Foundation collaborates with a number of other nonprofit organizations, business leaders, institutions of higher learning and public school systems to accomplish this goal. We also strive to lead the discussion among stakeholders addressing the future of manufacturing in the region. Our intent is to attract, organize and cultivate collaboration among the state’s most innovative manufacturing leaders as we promote the business case for why manufacturing will remain a cornerstone of South Carolina’s economy in the future.

South Carolina continues to attract and retain a large number of manufacturing jobs and investment. In fact, the South Carolina Department of Commerce recently reported another record-breaking year for job creation and investment as numerous world-renowned businesses chose to site new operations or expand existing ones in South Carolina.

World-class companies like Adidas, Carolina Fabrication, Cytec Carbon Fibers, DuPont, Eastman Chemical, Starbucks, and National Choice Bakery are just a few of the businesses that will continue to provide opportunities for South Carolinians looking to enhance their quality of life through jobs in manufacturing.

South Carolina’s global companies manufacture products consumed not only by South Carolinians but also by consumers around the world. BMW X-5s are made only in Greer, but are driven throughout the world. Aiken is home to Kimberly-Clark’s largest North American manufacturing operations for its globally-consumed personal care products, such as Huggies® diapers and Kleenex® tissues. And in North Charleston, fuselages are being made for Boeing’s newest airplane, the 787 Dreamliner, which will carry passengers around the globe.

While the products are vastly different, these companies rely on cutting-edge technology and a knowledgeable workforce to be competitive. If companies are going to continue to choose South Carolina for their manufacturing operations, it is imperative that we keep the pipeline full of capable and engaged workers. That’s what makes our work to encourage the next generation to pursue careers in engineering, technology and manufacturing so important.

On Monday, May 5th, the Silver Crescent Foundation, along with the South Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership, will host the 13th annual Salute to Manufacturing at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center. We will pay tribute to those manufacturing companies that find value in achieving success in the marketplace, in their community and in the hands and hearts of their employees.

We will also recognize students that participate in the South Carolina Design Challenge – a program that gives students in grades 1 – 12 an opportunity to learn about the role of manufacturing and engineering in South Carolina. Competitors create graphic designs portraying a dynamic, positive image of manufacturing and engineering in their local communities and throughout the state.

By participating in the Design Challenge, these young people begin to realize the importance of the industry and become aware of career opportunities within manufacturing, technology and engineering. The winning students receive scholarships and their schools receive monetary awards.

No other sector contributes more – whether it’s job creation, high wages, tax payments or community support than the more than 4,800 manufacturers that are the economic backbone of our state. And making sure that South Carolina has the pipeline of engaged and creative professionals ready to lead us into the next generation is paramount to our state’s ongoing economic growth and prosperity.

Tony M. Smith
Tony Smith is President of the Silver Crescent Foundation.
For more information, visit http://www.SalutetoManufacturing.org


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