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Join us on January 20, 2011 as the NC Museum of History accepts \"Made in NC\" items into their collection.

Thanks to All Who Helped Us “Make It Real”

October 22, 2010

IES Executive Director Terri Helmlinger Ratcliff

It’s hard to believe it’s been three weeks since the Manufacturing Makes It Real tour!

This week I went to Washington, D.C., to meet with the Education Council of the Manufacturing Institute, and had the chance to talk to them about the tour. I showed them a video montage of photos from the tour, and thanked them for their sponsorship (if you came out to see us, their “Dream It, Do It” logo was on the side of the trailer).

I know I won’t have the chance to get around to every company, every organization, and every person who helped us make the Manufacturing Makes It Real tour a success, so let me just say that I am truly grateful to everyone who helped us carry out this huge project.

  • If you sponsored us or partnered with us, thanks for making the whole tour possible.
  • If you hosted us at your factory, thanks for everything you did — decorations, food, special guests — to welcome us and make us feel at home.
  • If you donated or loaned us one of your “Made in NC” products, thanks for letting us show off your work. North Carolinians make a spectacular array of quality products!
  • If you came to one of our tour stops, whether you got up on stage and spoke or encouraged the presenters or just walked through the trailer, thank you for coming out to show your support for manufacturing.
  • If you helped spread the word about the tour, on your blog or at your meetings, don’t stop now! Because …

NEWS FLASH:  We intend to stay “on tour” for a few more weeks!

The positive reaction we’ve gotten tells us we’ve tapped into a powerful dynamic with this tour, and we’re going to continue spreading the word about the great products made by great people in our great state.  Our “mobile museum” of “Made in NC” products recently traveled to Workforce Development Board Conference in Greensboro, and it is still available for your perusal. So if you wanted to participate in the tour but couldn’t, because of business commitments or foul weather or for whatever reason, you have several chances:

  • The display will be open to the public on the NC State University Centennial Campus from noon to 2:00 PM on November 3, 10, 17, 24 and December 1, 2010.
  • Also, the display is scheduled to be at the Community College Conference at Blue Ridge Community College on December 7-9.

Again, to everyone who helped:  THANK YOU!  I hope you feel well represented by what we did on the tour, and that you’re as proud as I am of manufacturing in North Carolina. Because manufacturing really does “Make It Real”!


Making It Real … a Tour Recap

October 19, 2010

[Cross-posted, with slight editing, from the Beyond Lean blog. Originally posted there on 10/08/10.]

Because I’ve driven across the country several times, from one Air Force assignment to the next, I sometimes think in terms of the nation as a whole and forget just how big some states are. When I helped the NC State University Industrial Extension Service (IES) conduct the “Manufacturing Makes It Real” tour, covering over 1100 miles in 5 days, I realized very quickly that North Carolina is a pretty big state.

The central message of the tour was that manufacturing — the actual production of durable and consumer goods — matters to all of us, because it is the source of almost everything we have and almost everything we do. As Dr. Terri Helmlinger Ratcliff, IES Executive Director, wrote before the tour, “Manufacturing makes the difference between imagination and reality in ways that make modern life possible.” Invention creates new products, but manufacturing brings them into all our lives.

To spread the message about how much manufacturing matters, we went to every region of North Carolina: the piedmont, the mountains, and along the coast. As we traveled, we held rallies where manufacturers showed off their products and praised their workers. The host sites made the rallies truly “local” events: some had employees sing the National Anthem, some invited Junior ROTC or other school groups to perform, and one invited the local area’s apple orchards to bring some of their products for attendees to sample. Local, State, and even Federal elected officials attended various events, which usually included plant tours to show off the host sites’ capabilities in more detail.

Our convoy included a tractor-trailer with dozens of different “Made in NC” items that showed off the diversity of products made throughout the state. At each rally, people lined up to walk through the trailer to see their handiwork as well as others’. Many people expressed surprise at the variety of products made in the state: “from tortilla chips to microchips,” as IES Deputy Director Dr. David Boulay said.

I like to think the individual rallies were like “county fairs” for manufacturing, and we were pleased at the number of companies that attended, even though we didn’t have blue ribbons to award. And considering the weather we had — record levels of rain along the coast, making us travel on nearly-flooded roads* — we were very fortunate to make it to each stop and hold each rally on time.

The most memorable rally for me was held at Scott Health & Safety in Monroe (east of Charlotte). The Monroe Fire Department had set up two ladder trucks and suspended a huge U.S. flag to help the companies demonstrate their “Made in the USA” pride. That pride-of-workmanship theme was repeated at every stop, but the Monroe event was special to me because I relied on Scott Air Pak breathing gear when I worked disaster response in the Air Force. Their workmanship can literally mean the difference between life and death in dangerous situations. (I wrote more about the Scott Health & Safety rally on the tour blog).

All week long, from companies big and small and representing many different industry sectors, we heard stories of continuous improvement through lean and Six Sigma, expanded markets through ISO certification, and risk-taking through entrepreneurial ventures and new product development. Company leaders admitted to a lot of belt-tightening and uncertainty in the last couple of years, but seemed pleased that people were paying attention to the good work they do.

The tour ended with a final rally at the NC Legislative Building in Raleigh, where NC State Chancellor Randy Woodson symbolically presented the truckload of products to NC Secretary of Commerce Keith Crisco. The speakers at the final rally, along with the companies that sponsored and participated in the “Manufacturing Makes It Real” tour, testified that manufacturing is alive and well in North Carolina. We are all committed to keeping it that way.


*Not complaining! We needed the rain to counteract the summer’s drought.

PolyChem Alloy: What a Feeling

October 18, 2010

This post was written by Kristy Marsh, IES Regional Manager for the Hickory area


The rain kept coming on the afternoon of September 27th but fortunately, so did the people.  I was pleasantly surprised at the turn out we had at the MMIR rally at PolyChem Alloy.  As I made the opening remarks, it was an amazing feeling to look out over the crowd and see all the familiar faces that had been so generous in helping me plan quite possibly one of the largest events I had ever taken part in.  The students from the Harper School of Performing Arts were very impressive to be so young.  They kicked off the ceremonies with a few short performances and then IES Deputy Director Dave Boulay took over to make some remarks about the importance of manufacturing and to introduce Chak, President of PolyChem.  I found the remarks Chak made regarding success and determination were very inspirational and it was touching that he allowed his young daughter Tasz to stand up on stage with him as he spoke.

After Chak was done speaking, the manufacturers began coming on stage one by one to give their presentations.  As I watched each one come up and speak so enthusiastically about their company and product, I felt an immense feeling of pride as I knew I’d had a part in bringing this day to fruition for them.  Once the main ceremony was over, I made my way out to the truck to see it for the first time.  I must say, despite how hard I had worked to bring the Lenoir rally together, I was more impressed with the displays inside the truck than anything else.  We had talked for months about how everything was going to be set up in there and I’m not really sure what I expected it to look like but when I saw it for the first time I was amazed at how awesome it looked!  If you didn’t get to see it, that’s a shame because in my opinion, it really was one of the highlights.

So now that it is over, I’m scrambling to gather data and do reports and make presentations to those who weren’t able to attend.  I’ve had several people ask me if this is something we intend to do each year and truthfully I can’t answer that.  The tour may or may not be back next year but I do know one thing:  manufacturing in North Carolina is here to stay.

PCB Piezotronics: Support from All Levels

October 18, 2010

This post was written by Rex Raiford, IES Regional Manager for the Northeastern Region


The stage was set at the PCB Piezotronics parking lot for our final “Manufacturing Makes it Real” site rally, but tropical storm wind and rain sent everyone inside. Fortunately, PCB has a large cafeteria room and attendees gathered there for the Northeast Region manufacturing celebration. Allen Gang, Plant Manager at host site PCB, welcomed everyone to the Halifax, NC facility and described how his New York-based company was drawn to the region and has prospered here even in recent difficult economic times. Spirits of the other local manufacturers were not dampened by the rain outside as  several area companies gave brief histories of how they got started and displayed products made at their facilities.

In addition to the manufacturing companies, we were pleased that this event was supported by local elected officials and leadership from both local and regional Economic Development organizations. Northeast Economic Developers hosted a dinner for the traveling tour group the night before the event and breakfast the next morning at the rally. Following the presentations, PCB employees showed visitors around their plant while the newly collected manufactured items were loaded up in the truck along with other previously donated NC products.

The tour truck, bus, and other vehicles pulled out of the PCB Piezotronics parking lot, heading for home and the procession from Carter-Finley Stadium to the NC Legislative Building. Many thanks to all the companies, sponsors, and visitors who participated in this celebration of manufacturing in the northeast region!

Flow Sciences: Rain But No Damp Spirits

October 18, 2010

This post was written by Alex Reed, IES Regional Manager for the Wilmington area


Scratch one off the bucket list.  If you ever wanted to experience the power of Mother Nature with Jim Cantore from the Weather Channel, then the MMIR stop at Flow Sciences in Leland was the place to be.  While sitting in the hotel room Wednesday night I saw Cantore reporting from downtown Wilmington, whipped by rain and wind, claiming that the area will break a 4 day rain record of 23 inches!  All that rain did not dampen the spirit of all who came to Flow Sciences.  Due to the weather, all activities were moved indoors.  The MMIR trailer backed up to a warehouse dock door that was easily accessible.

The team from Flow Sciences had 6 of their local suppliers set up tables and display what they make.  You could sense the pride each one of them have in their companies as they stepped to the microphone to share their stories.  The owner of Flow Sciences, Ray Ryan compared his journey to that of Bill Gates.  He said comically that they both started their companies in their homes, Ray at his dining room table.  Ray was quick to point out the comparisons end there.  He was thankful of the support of Brunswick Community College and Industrial Extension Service.

Rally in Raleigh: Pictures

October 13, 2010

A few pictures from the Rally in Raleigh on 10/1.  We were all riding in the convoy, so we don’t have any great pictures of us convoying down Hillsborough Street.

Convoy lining up at Carter Finley

Caterpillar machinery in convoy


The tire made by the Lt. Governor





ArvinMeritor: Elevating the Visibility of Manufacturing in Western NC

October 8, 2010

This post was written by Andrew Tate, President and CEO of Henderson County Partnership for Economic Development


Manufacturing leaders and their friends and allies gathered at ArvinMeritor in Fletcher, NC the morning of Tuesday, September 28th.  The commercial truck axle manufacturing plant was an early stop on the Manufacturing Makes It Real Tour, organized by NC State University’s Industrial Extension Service.  It turns out that manufacturers have a lot of friends.  Even in the midst of a multi-decade transition from a labor to knowledge intensive workforce, we all seem to still want to be a country and a state that makes something.  There is considerable household and political value in making a product, and the jobs and investment that come with it – and there is considerable pride in doing it here and not somewhere else.

Manufacturers account for some 47,000 jobs in the AdvantageWest region, just over 13% of the total workforce.  The wages associated with those jobs pay 22% higher than the region’s average wage for all sectors, and makes up 16% of the total AdvantageWest public and private sector payroll.  Our region is vested in this employment sector, and we are responsible to maintain and enhance an environment that supports its growth and success.  ArvinMeritor’s Operations VP, Chris Snodgrass, remarked that 50% of the commercial truck axles on the road today were made at the facility in Henderson County.  That plant celebrated 25 years in business summer before last, and our goal is to make sure we are celebrating with them for their 50th anniversary as well.

Watching the manufacturing representatives present the products they make to the audience and the tour was kind of like a business version of show and tell.  It was interesting to have a better understanding of what is made here, and also to get a feel for the workforce talent in the region that sees these products from design to reality.  In western NC, manufacturing can have a visibility challenge, partly due to the topography and partly due to the clustering of industrial areas in planning efforts.  The Manufacturing Makes It Real Tour was the best example I have seen to elevate the visibility of this important employment sector – a celebration of what North Carolina makes and those who make it.