News Column

NC Group Seeks to Boost Aerospace, Automotive Projects

March 12, 2013

North Carolina's Eastern Region Development Commission will assist in strengthening aerospace and automotive manufacturing in six counties.

NCER is partnering with the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center, NCSU Industrial Extension Service and the N.C. Small Business & Technology Development Center to offer specialized support to current and new businesses with the aid of a federal grant.

The Obama administration recently announced 12 projects awarded Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator grants for the purpose of spurring job creation, accelerating innovation and expanding economic growth. The Rural Center received a $715,000 grant on behalf of the North Carolina consortium to promote development of the automotive and aerospace industries in eastern North Carolina.

"This project is a great opportunity to assist smaller to mid-size firms find new ways to enter the supply chains of these growing regional clusters. It is also important to assist entrepreneurs in the region. The Eastern Region will be an essential partner to this being a successful project," remarked Jason Gray, director for the Office of Research & Innovation, N.C. Rural Economic Development Center.

The Region was awarded a $125,000 Innovation Grant by the Rural Center to assist the three entities with a long-term project to further develop a comprehensive network of industry support services. The focus will be on enhancing the aerospace and automotive manufacturing supply chain in Edgecombe, Greene, Lenoir, Pitt, Wayne and Wilson counties.

The specific counties were targeted based upon a review of several economic indicators by the consortium. These two industrial clusters/sectors have experience growth in the region during the past three years. The arrival of Spirit AeroSystems at the Global TransPark, combined with the presence of the Navy's Fleet Readiness Center East on board MCAS Cherry Point, serve as two key drivers of the region's aerospace industry. The automotive sector contains major parts suppliers from the U.S., Japan, and Europe and are typically involved in exporting as well as serving the domestic market.

This team will identify assistance needs in the first six months of the project. During this phase, NCER will convene automotive and aerospace advisory groups for the purpose of gaining an understanding of industry-related issues and opportunities. NCER will also assist in a SWOT analysis and identification of companies within the respective clusters.

The second phase of the project will be carried out over the next 12 months, following the needs assessment period and will implement recommendations and findings by each advisory group. The consortium will provide free advisory and technical services to companies to improve efficiency of their operations, improved logistics/supply chains, and potentially assist with expansion of export opportunities. One major focal area will include identification and linkage between workforce development leaders and programs related to Career Readiness Certification and STEM which directly meet the needs of target industries. NCER will also partner with strategic allies to develop an entrepreneurial network to highlight opportunities and provide support to would-be entrepreneurs and micro companies and assist communities with concepts on how to develop entrepreneurial support programs.

Additionally, NCER will engage in business recruitment as well as expansion marketing to promote development of the automotive and aerospace clusters and companies. Involvement in domestic (and international) events and development of relevant promotional material that highlights the regional supply chain and assets will be the primary means of marketing.

North Carolina's Eastern Region is a regional economic development agency serving 13 counties from I-95 to the coast.



Source: (c)2013 The Wilson Daily Times (Wilson, N.C.)Distributed by MCT Information Services