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Officials break ground for Eastside Center for Advanced Manufacturing

Officials break ground for Eastside Center for Advanced Manufacturing

Despite gloomy, wet conditions, officials hailed Tuesday as a historic day in Marlboro County, breaking ground on the Eastside Center for Advanced Manufacturing.  The facility, which will be located in parts of the old Eastside High School building, will be used to help educate current workers in the county’s industries and prepare students for modern manufacturing jobs.

ECAM is a joint project of Northeastern Technical College, the Marlboro County Economic Development Partnership and the Marlboro County School District.

“We have been at this for quite awhile,” said Dr. Ron Bartley, president of NETC, in tracing the roots of the ECAM.  “It started about four years ago with a trip to Tennessee.”

A group from Marlboro County traveled by bus to see the Regional Center for Advanced Manufacturing in Kingsport, Tennessee.  That facility was the result of a joint project by manufacturing leaders, local and state government and the local community college.

The Marlboro County group determined to bring a similar facility to life in Bennettsville to be a service to existing businesses, a magnet for new ones and to help the people of Marlboro County prepare for a career in manufacturing.

The training curriculum will focus on process manufacturing, such as in the paper and pulp or food industries, instead of piece-part manufacturing.

Bartley said the new timeline for the project has the bidding process to take place in June with the first phase of the project being completed between October 1 and November 1.  Initially, it had been hoped that the training facility would be ready for the start of the fall semester in August.  However, state funding for the project was held up in the approval process until recently.

Bartley praised the county’s legislative delegation for their assistance in securing the necessary funding for the project.

“This facility will create opportunity for economic growth, individual growth and workforce growth,” said Dr. Helena Tillar, Superintendent of the Marlboro County School District.  “It will give those in the workforce a chance to retool and gain skills that can position them for advancement.”

She related that recent surveys of local industries showed that few of the more demanding technical jobs were held by local citizens.  Through ECAM, more Marlboro County residents will make themselves ready for those higher paying positions.
Ron King, executive director of the Marlboro County Economic Development Partnership, said that he was reminded of something he heard in a recent visit to Kitty Hawk, NC and the site of the Wright brother’s first flight.

“While it proved man could fly, it was also the death of the impossible,” he said.
King said that he hopes this project can be a springboard to bigger and better things for Marlboro County.  He closed the comments by listing all of the local industries and businesses that have contributed to the project.

The new logo and signage for ECAM was unveiled and those in attendance got to view one of the future classrooms set up with samples of training equipment.