What automation means for economic development

Karen Fite Automation GaMEP

GaMEP Director Karen Fite (standing), moderates the Automation Panel at the 51st Annual Basic Economic Development Course. (Photo: Péralte C. Paul)



The word and what it represents is driving a lot of discussion about what that means for manufacturers and for those in economic development tasked with bringing industry — and jobs — to their communities.


But automation is not the boogeyman people think it is, said Mark Ligler, vice president of Factory Automation Systems. The Atlanta-based company is a systems integration resource for many of the top manufacturers in the United States and supports them in programmable controller and drive systems, robot integration, and information solutions.


“Automation is not a job killer,” Ligler said. “It’s a job creator and it’s keeping people here employed.”


Ligler made his remarks as part of a panel discussion, “What Automation means for Your Community” at the 51st annual Basic Economic Development Course (BEDC) held Feb. 27 through March 2.


The interactive professional development course is produced by the Georgia Tech’s Center for Economic Development Research (CEDR) and offered in partnership with the International Economic Development Council (IEDC). It provides seasoned economic development professionals and those new to the field with the core fundamentals of business attraction, workforce development, retention and expansion, and entrepreneur and small business challenges, as well as transformative trends in the industry.


Basic Economic Development Course

Sixty-five economic development professionals from across the country attended Georgia Tech’s Basic Economic Development Course at the Georgia Tech Global Learning Center. (Photo: Special)

The 2018 BEDC theme — “Automation and Economic Development” — centered on how that is changing a number of industries and drove the panel discussions and other events for the 65 attendees who came from across the country.


“The research tells us that in roughly 60 percent of current occupations that at least a third of tasks performed in those jobs could be automated,” said Karen Fite, director of the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP).


A federally funded program at Georgia Tech, GaMEP works with manufacturers in the state to increase their competitiveness and efficiency and boost productivity.


Fite, who moderated the panel, said the question for those in economic development and manufacturers is to understand how automation will affect business and industry and how to best prepare for the jobs and skills it will require.


It was a sentiment echoed by other panelists, which included Josh Benton, executive director of the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development; Tom Sammon, a GaMEP project manager specializing on implementing Lean manufacturing practices and helping companies develop capital equipment applications, and John Fluker, president and chief sales officer of Grenzebach Corp. in Newnan, Ga.


“Automation, when you look at it from a longterm perspective, is all about competitiveness,” Fluker said.


“Competitiveness and demographics are driving automation,” he said, adding the technologies behind it are helping create a new landscape with jobs that demand new skills.


“It’s not a job killer,” he said. “It’s a skills changer.”

Chick-fil-A Opens Innovation Center in Tech Square

Chick-fil-A innovation center ribbon cutting

Georgia Tech welcomed Chick-fil-A the newest company to open an innovation center at Tech Square. The quick service restaurant chain’s center is at the Biltmore building.

Chick-fil-A invented the chicken sandwich and now the company is continuing to innovate through a new center in Georgia Tech’s Technology Square.

The company opened a technology innovation satellite office Wednesday at the historic Biltmore. The Technology Innovation Center, part of the company’s long-standing partnership with the Institute, emphasizes Chick-fil-A’s commitment to innovation.

“This new facility will provide a dedicated space for Chick-fil-A to collaborate with the bright minds of Georgia Tech and develop technology solutions that will benefit our customers,” said Chick-fil-A’s Chief Information Officer Mike Erbrick. “Our founder Truett Cathy was a true innovator, and the Technology Innovation Center is one of the ways we’re continuing his legacy.”

FULL STORY @ Georgia Tech News Center.

Southeastern Trade Adjustment Assistance Center receives $1.3 million in federal funds

Funding supports international competitiveness.

Darren Green photo.

Darren Green, owner of The Old Wood Co., in Asheville, North, Carolina, sought SETAAC’s assistance to help his company better compete with low-cost foreign imports. (Photo credit: Travis Bell)

The U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) has awarded $13.3 million in federal funds to support 11 Trade Adjustment Assistance Centers (TAACs), including the Southeastern Trade Adjustment Assistance Center (SETAAC) at Georgia Tech, which will receive $1.3 million.


TAACs work to support a wide range of technical, planning, and business recovery projects that help companies and the communities that depend on them adapt to international competition and diversify their economies.


“The Trump administration is working every day to help America’s manufacturers, their workers, and their communities,” U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said in a statement. “This funding is one element of a government-wide effort to restore American jobs and strengthen U.S. manufacturing.”

Old Wood Co. workers

Employees of The Old Wood Co. in Asheville, North Carolina work on building a table. (Photo Credit: Travis Bell)


The announced grants are for the second year of a funding cycle that runs from 2016 to 2021.


SETAAC, a program of the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2), was established in 1974. In addition to serving Georgia, SETAAC works with companies in Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.


SETAAC provides up to $75,000 of matching funds for third-party consultants to help guide a client’s economic recovery. Eligible manufacturing firms contribute a matching share to create and implement their respective recovery plan.


In Fiscal Year 2017, SETAAC worked with 45 clients, including Darren Green of The Old Wood Co. in Asheville, North Carolina, and helped those firms generate more than $9.7 million in sales, and help save or create 143 jobs.

Gov. Deal announces launch of Georgia Defense Exchange

Gov. Nathan Deal announced the launch of the Georgia Defense Exchange (GDX), an interactive business development platform designed to assist Georgia businesses in finding new opportunities in Department of Defense (DOD) contracting.


“From the Bell Bomber Plant during WWII to the NSA and U.S. Army Cyber Command in Augusta today, Georgia enterprises enjoy a storied history of fulfilling contracts for national defense,” Deal said. “Last year alone, defense contracts executed in Georgia were valued at $6.4 billion. These contracts provide significant opportunities for Georgia businesses and drive new development in local communities across the state. The GDX platform will allow us to equip companies with the tools they need to be competitive in acquiring DOD contracts while ensuring that this long-standing tradition continues in Georgia.”


GDX offers Georgia’s defense contracting community a one-stop data research and collaboration platform. The platform was designed to support and engage businesses across a wide variety of industry sectors with its rich data visualizations, interactive dashboards, real-time DOD data and business-to-business communication tools. GDX will open new opportunities for both traditionally defense-related businesses and service-oriented companies with no experience in defense contracting.


Lockheed Martin, Meggitt, General Dynamics, and Northrop Grumman account for some of the largest defense contracts in Georgia. Additionally, more than $3 billion of Georgia’s defense contracts are related to services for facility maintenance, science and engineering, equipment and construction.


To develop GDX, the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD) collaborated with The Simple VUE, an Atlanta-based full-service information technology and data analytics consulting firm, and the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC), a federally funded program that helps Georgia businesses identify, compete for, and win government contracts in order to sustain and grow their businesses.


GDEcD and GTPAC began collaborating on the project in September of 2016. A unit of the Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2), Georgia Tech’s chief economic development arm, GTPAC provided its research data and advised on the creation of an economic development model for the aerospace and defense industries, said Chuck Schadl, EI2‘s group manager of government contracting services, which includes GTPAC and the Contracting Academy at Georgia Tech.


GTPAC staff also arranged for several Georgia defense contractors to provide focus group feedback on the GDX tool, make suggestions, and comment on its utility.


“We pride ourselves on maintaining the best business environment in the nation, and providing top-notch resources for our citizens,” said GDEcD Commissioner Pat Wilson. “GDX levels the playing field, giving small businesses in Georgia the chance to know about and respond to the many defense contracting opportunities that are available. I am confident that all Georgia companies will benefit tremendously from GDX, and that our state will increase its competitive advantage in this sector.”

Minority business enterprise manufacturers to meet in Atlanta August 15-16 for second annual National MBE Manufacturers Summit

Networking MBDA Summit 2016

Attendees of the inaugural National MBE Manufacturers Summit in Atlanta in 2016 discuss issues affecting minority business enterprises. (FILE PHOTO)

More than 250 minority business enterprise (MBE) manufacturers from across the country will be in Atlanta August 15 and 16 for the second annual National MBE Manufacturers Summit 2017.


The Summit, which is hosted by the Atlanta Minority Business Development Agency’s (MBDA) Advanced Manufacturing Center at the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Global Learning Center, brings together world-class leaders in manufacturing and is the premier event that brings industry peers together, facilitates networking and procurement opportunities, and highlights innovation.


BMW Group, Enhanced Capital, FORCAM, Grady Health System, Ingersoll Rand, Novant Health, Siemens, and WestRock are Summit sponsors.


Among the highlights for attendees of the 2017 Summit:

  • One-on-one fast pitch meetings with corporations and original equipment manufacturers.
  • Experiencing the most cutting-edge technologies through on-site “innovation pods.”
  • High-level exposure for companies participating in the second annual “Poster Walk Competition.”


Featured speakers include:


“We are building on the success of last year’s inaugural program, and a critical focus of this effort is innovation because it remains a key issue, according to our MBE manufacturers,” said Donna Ennis, Atlanta MBDA Advanced Manufacturing Center director. “Our Summit is designed to facilitate critical one-on-one meetings between our attendees and corporations, as well as provide the opportunity for our MBE attendees to network with one another.”


The Atlanta MBDA Advanced Manufacturing Center is a program of the Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2), Georgia Tech’s chief economic development and business outreach arm. A sister program to the Atlanta MBDA Business Center, the Atlanta MBDA Advanced Manufacturing Center was created via a grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce MBDA awarded to Georgia Tech in 2016.


One of four such centers across the country, Tech will receive $1.25 million over a five-year period to operate the Center, which is charged with providing targeted assistance to MBE manufacturers. The funding is designed to help identify, screen, promote, and refer MBEs to specialized advanced manufacturing programs, and provide technical and business development services and assist with access to capital, opportunities and markets.


According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2012 Survey of Business Owners, the number of minority-owned manufacturers increased 30 percent between 2007 and 2012 to nearly 107,000. These firms generated $80 billion in annual revenue in 2012. More than 25,000 minority manufacturers employ almost 332,000 workers.

The Summit is an outgrowth of the Atlanta MBDA Business Center’s Connecting Advanced Manufacturing Program (CAMP), which is now the Atlanta MBDA Advanced Manufacturing Center, Ennis said. “The vision behind CAMP and what led to us creating the Summit is to connect MBE manufacturers in the ecosystem to business opportunities, research, innovation, funding, and critical information they need to grow and thrive as businesses,” she said.


To register for the Summit and for more information, please visit mbemanufacturersummit.com.


About the Atlanta MBDA Advanced Manufacturing Center:

Focused on building a national ecosystem of minority business enterprise (MBE) manufacturers, partners, and stakeholders, the Atlanta MBDA Advanced Manufacturing Center creates expansion opportunities for MBE manufacturers by facilitating their growth through innovation and technology, training and education, as well as advocating inclusiveness with corporate suppliers.


About the Atlanta MBDA Business Center:

As part of a national network of 42 centers, the Atlanta MBDA Business Center helps minority business enterprises access capital, increase profitability, create jobs, and become sustainable. It is part of Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2), the nation’s largest and most comprehensive university-based program of business and industry assistance, technology commercialization, and economic development. For more information, please visit mbdabusinesscenter-atlanta.org.

EI2 Study Will Focus on County’s Needs

Surveys and interviews are soon to take place as part of a project that could help organizations better invest their money in Cherokee County.

The county is being studied by Georgia Tech for the Regional Data Mapping Pilot Project. The goal of the project is to gauge the needs of the county to see how the organizations could better serve the residents.

Cherokee is one of four counties being studied along with Butts, Clayton and Rockdale. The counties were selected based on their wide range of demographic, cultural and economic characteristics. The organizations involved with the project are the Annie Casey Foundation, Atlanta Community Food Bank, Families First, Kaiser Permanente, The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta and the United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta.

Associate Project Manager Jason Chernock of Georgia Tech EI2 said interviews are being set up with county leaders to get their input.

“It will help our clients understand what gaps in service there are so they can make investments,” he said. He hopes to have all surveys collected and interviews completed within the next few weeks.

To read the full article, click here.

Life Science Jobs Coming to Thomaston

It’s not as sexy, say, as stem-cell research or nano-technology, but Georgia added an animal products factory Wednesday to its growing life-science portfolio.  Smyrna-based Animal Health & Sciences Inc. will invest $9.1 million and hire 100 people in Thomaston, about an hour south of Atlanta. They’ll make chemicals for shampoos, powders and aerosols to keep pests off dogs, cats and horses.

“A lot of people don’t realize how much of an animal health presence we have here in Georgia,” said Charles Craig, president of Georgia Bio, a nonprofit that promotes the bio-tech industry. The announcement “is just another example of Georgia’s attractiveness as a destination for bio-science industry development.”

The state’s life-science industry – bio-engineered medicines, foods, fuels and agricultural products — produces an annual economic impact of $16 billion, according to the Selig Center at the University of Georgia. More than 60,000 people, either directly or indirectly, work in the industry.

The University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, Emory and other universities, as well as the Centers for Disease Control, perform ground-breaking bio-tech research. The U.S. Department of Agriculture runs a research center in Athens.

To read the entire article, click here.


Luring Manufacturers to the Coast

The Georgia Tech campus in Savannah was a key incentive for Firth Rixson, a manufacturer of forged metal products.

Firth Rixson Limited, a provider of highly engineered forged metal products, recently announced its expansion to Midway in Liberty County, citing the new location’s proximity to Georgia Tech Savannah as a significant incentive. The 200,000-square-foot facility will provide components for the aerospace industry, and will create at least 200 local jobs.

In Midway, Firth Rixon Forgings will have convenient access to the pipeline of talented graduates and research expertise at Georgia Tech’s Savannah campus. Ranked among the top 10 public universities in the United States by U.S. News & World Report, Georgia Tech is an active partner to aerospace and other industries, providing them a competitive advantage in the global marketplace.

Working with Georgia Tech’s Strategic Partners Office, Firth Rixson officials learned about a broad range of resources and expertise at Georgia Tech, in collaboration with the Intellectual Capital Partnership Program (ICAPP) of the University System of Georgia. Strategic Partners Officer Greg King provided information to the company about Georgia Tech’s capabilities in industrial and systems engineering, management, metallurgy and materials, tribology, advanced manufacturing, and aerospace structures.

In addition, Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute will assist the company through its statewide network of field staff with expertise in process improvement, production design, sustainability and automation.

“The Strategic Partners Office at Georgia Tech will link Firth Rixson to campus resources, applying faculty know-how, specialized facilities and student talent to such goals as university talent acquisition, product development and improved manufacturing systems,” said King. “We can help the company identify the appropriate resources and make the right connections to develop a collaborative partnership that meets its needs.”

Firth Rixson’s Midway operation will be known as Firth Rixson Forgings LLC, and will be the company’s largest greenfield investment. The new facility will also become Firth Rixson’s fourth closed die forging facility. The majority of the more than 200 anticipated jobs will be filled from the local community, with hiring for human resources positions beginning immediately.

“One of the many benefits of locating in coastal Georgia is the opportunity to establish a lasting relationship with Georgia Tech. Our vice president of human resources, Jeff Hughes, and vice president of technology, Dave Hebert, have already engaged Georgia Tech’s Ralph Mobley, director of career services and Cynthia Jordin, associate director, in preliminary planning meetings,” said Andy Blanda, manager of mergers and acquisitions for Firth Rixson Limited. “We will soon be in contact with Yvette Upton, director of outreach and student affairs at the Savannah campus, as well. Together, we are looking forward to building a robust process for the identification of talented students at Georgia Tech, and the development of solid employment candidates for Firth Rixson.”

The aerospace industry plays a significant role in Georgia’s economy, and provides more than 80,000 jobs for aircraft manufacturers and aerospace suppliers.

“The coastal Georgia region has been successfully attracting world-class manufacturing companies to establish a presence in the region. The combination of synergies with other companies, the breadth of higher education opportunities and the outstanding quality of life make coastal Georgia a very competitive option,” said David Frost, director of Georgia Tech Savannah and a Georgia Tech vice provost. “The opportunities for close collaboration with Georgia Tech Savannah in hiring intern, co-op and permanent engineers, as well as the ability to leverage the continuing education and research capabilities of the institution, are important considerations for many companies.”


About Firth Rixson Limited

Headquartered in Sheffield, UK, Firth Rixson serves customers worldwide in market sectors such as aerospace, defense, power generation, transportation, petrochemical, medical and general industrial. Firth Rixson owns 11 operating facilities in North America, Europe and Asia. Firth Rixson Limited (www.firthrixson.com) is owned by Oak Hill Capital Partners (www.oakhillcapital.com).

About Enterprise Innovation Institute:
The Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute helps companies, entrepreneurs, economic developers and communities improve their competitiveness through the application of science, technology and innovation. It is one of the most comprehensive university-based programs of business and industry assistance, technology commercialization and economic development in the nation.

Research News & Publications Office
Enterprise Innovation Institute
Georgia Institute of Technology
75 Fifth Street, N.W., Suite 314
Atlanta, Georgia 30308 USA

Media Relations Contact: John Toon (404-894-6986); E-mail (email hidden; JavaScript is required).

Writer: Nancy Fullbright

Supporting NCR’s Move to Georgia

The Enterprise Innovation Institute collaborated with Georgia Tech’s School of Industrial and Systems Engineering to support development of the NCR Corporation’s advanced manufacturing facility in Columbus. Shown discussing the facility are Professor Dave Goldsman (right) and student Thomas Teyrasse.

Calibrating Economic Developers

A set of tools developed by Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute helps economic developers improve their organization’s performance through the use of quality management techniques. This service – dubbed the Calibration Program™ – leverages Georgia Tech expertise in such areas as strategic planning, budgeting, professional development, public relations and metrics.

“Since 1961, Georgia Tech has helped local governments, economic development organizations and companies make the right decisions to manage growth, create jobs, and increase benefits to those they serve,” said Joy Wilkins, manager of community innovation services at the Enterprise Innovation Institute. “With all of that experience, we began examining what successful organizations had in common and decided to build a self-assessment tool specifically for economic development organizations around those results.”

The Calibration Program enables economic development organizations to determine the need for change or to implement corrective action to resolve inefficiencies, make informed decisions regarding the setting of organizational priorities and develop and utilize key quality management tools for achieving ongoing operational excellence. According to Wilkins, the adoption of a quality management system can help economic development organizations maintain and achieve their missions, improve their ability to meet customer needs and boost public confidence in their performance.

To create national benchmarks for the program, the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) and the Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute launched a joint initiative in 2006 to benchmark excellence in quality management among economic development organizations, focusing on the practices by accredited economic development organizations (AEDOs) – that is, those recognized as being among the profession’s “best of the best.” This effort yielded several measures of enterprise excellence among the AEDOs, as well as opportunities for continual improvement on their pathway to ongoing excellence. It also helped to inform other economic development organizations about what it takes to be a high performance organization in economic development.

IEDC and Georgia Tech are again partnering to create up-to-date benchmarks during the first quarter of 2009. This 2009 effort not only surveys AEDOs according to the quality management indicators used during the 2006 effort, it also includes a few new measures relating to sustainability.

“IEDC strives to be at the forefront of economic development,” said Robin Roberts Krieger, past-chair of the International Economic Development Council. “Our important and timely partnership in launching the Calibration Program with Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute will empower our members to stay ahead of the curve, and provide one more resource for their success.”

The Calibration process begins with a self-assessment by organizational stakeholders who complete an online, confidential survey. A report summarizing results from this assessment is produced, along with comparisons to the national benchmarks and a gauge for areas needing corrective action.

“Through this program, we zero in on areas of strength and areas that can be improved upon,” explained Wilkins. “In other words, we can identify areas that need calibration and recommend specific improvement projects to help the economic development organization adopt, sustain or enhance its quality management system.”

The creation of the Calibration Program was made possible through seed funding provided by the Georgia Rural Economic Development Center at East Georgia College to pilot the program.

“I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t benefit from participating in the program,” said JoAnne Lewis of the Douglas-Coffee County Chamber of Commerce of her organization’s pilot experience. “It really gives you an avenue to look at where you are and where you need to go to improve.”

About Enterprise Innovation Institute:
The Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute helps companies, entrepreneurs, economic developers and communities improve their competitiveness through the application of science, technology and innovation. It is one of the most comprehensive university-based programs of business and industry assistance, technology commercialization and economic development in the nation.

Research News & Publications Office
Enterprise Innovation Institute
Georgia Institute of Technology
75 Fifth Street, N.W., Suite 314
Atlanta, Georgia 30308 USA

Media Relations Contact: John Toon (404-894-6986); E-mail (email hidden; JavaScript is required).

Writer: Nancy Fullbright