Georgia Tech uses grant to support state flooring industry

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Drive into northwest Georgia and you’ll see one of the state’s main manufacturers – the flooring and carpet industry.

Business here has thrived more than half a century and while there was job loss during the recession, companies are hiring once again. These jobs require new skills and training as employees will be called on to use different equipment and advanced know-how.

Beyond the issue of a skilled workforce, companies must prepare for what the scene will be like in five, 10, even 20 years. These issues vary from new markets to advanced innovation to recycling technology, said Leigh Hopkins, a project manager with Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute.

The institute, which advises businesses on how to succeed and thrive, is working with industry and community leaders through a federal grant received from the U.S. Economic Development Administration.

The “Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership” awards were designed to accelerate the resurgence of manufacturing and create jobs.

Georgia Tech is working with the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission to develop a comprehensive strategy focused on advanced manufacturing in the carpet and flooring industries in the region. They will apply for “manufacturing communities” designation from the Economic Development Administration in mid-March, Hopkins said.

“This is one of Georgia’s true clusters and it needs attention and support,” Hopkins said. “A stronger floor covering industry will help employers, the community and the entire state.”

In recent months IVC US, Shaw Industries Group, and other manufacturers have announced plans to expand operations by creating new jobs, building new plants or expanding existing ones.

Peter Sigmon, vice president of innovation for Shaw Industries, is part of the partnership group established under the grant. Their work represents a coordinated effort by industry, academia and government, he said.

"We hope for an agreed upon, long-term plan that integrates targeted investments in workforce training, infrastructure, research and other key assets that will help the industry continue to thrive in northwest Georgia," he said.

Brian Anderson, president of the Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce, said the partnership group is approaching the issues from a regional perspective, which will allow them to be more successful.

“We are thinking bigger than we normally would if we were all working by ourselves,” Anderson said. “This is an opportunity for us to leverage all our resources and look at our workforce and industry needs in a transformative way.” 

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