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Executives join forum on manufacturing

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Top-level executives from some of South Carolina’s largest and most influential companies are coming together in Greenville on Oct. 9 for a forum on how higher education can best partner with industry to meet the needs of advanced manufacturers.

Clemson University President James P. Clements will host the 45-minute forum at Greenville ONE at 6 p.m.

The forum is intended as an important step in an ongoing conversation between the higher education community and advanced manufacturers, according to a university news release  

Six confirmed panelists are:

Clements said the number of high-level executives who have agreed to participate underscores the importance of higher education to the success of advanced manufacturing.

“Higher education plays an important role in moving new technologies to the marketplace and in creating a well-qualified workforce,” he said in the news release. “This forum provides a great opportunity to establish a dialogue with some of the state’s most influential advanced-manufacturing leaders. We look forward to continuing an important conversation that will ultimately lead to new and improved programs, helping promote job creation and economic growth.”

For states along the Interstate 85 corridor, manufacturing is a cornerstone of a combined $1.9-trillion regional economy, accounting for more than 1.57 million jobs in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, according to the National Association of Manufacturers.

South Carolina alone has 239,500 manufacturing jobs, which is 11.7% of nonfarm employment, according to the association.

The Oct. 9 forum is the latest in a series of Clemson efforts to support and accelerate advanced manufacturing, according to the news release. The organizing force behind those efforts is the Clemson University Center for Advanced Manufacturing, led by director Mark Johnson.

The Vehicle Assembly Center, an assembly line built for research, opened last spring as part of the Center for Advanced Manufacturing. Clemson officials announced last month they have received $3 million from the National Science Foundation to start a graduate education program in advanced manufacturing across the campus.

The forum will help clarify a plan for more action at Clemson and beyond, Johnson said in the news release. Johnson also is the Thomas F. Hash ‘69 SmartState Endowed Chair in Sustainable Development in the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences.

“This forum is a critical step,” he said in the news release. “After the forum, the private sector partners and educational institutions will work together to build on this framework to ensure the region is successful in advanced manufacturing for years to come. Our homework assignment will be to build cooperation between companies, colleges, universities and government working toward a shared goal — a stronger, more prosperous advanced manufacturing community.”

Nikolaos “Nick” Rigas, vice president for strategic initiatives and executive director of the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research, said in the news release that the forum builds on a long history of successful public-private partnerships in South Carolina.

“Our state continues to attract industries whose competitive advantage is based on advanced manufacturing technology, and the existing advanced manufacturers in our state are continuing to expand,” Rigas said. “One of the keys to their success and remaining globally competitive is the higher education community listening to the needs of industry and then creating the research-and-education programs that companies need to thrive. CU-ICAR and Deep Orange are excellent examples of this concept in action.”

The forum is called “A Vision for Advanced Manufacturing in the Region 1.0: A Framework for Competitive Growth.”

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