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Work continues on training center

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Rosario Padilla of East Coast Glass works on window weatherproofing on March 7 at the new Center for Innovation building at Edgecombe Community College.

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BY JOHN H. WALKER
Staff Writer

Thursday, March 14, 2019

TARBORO — Mike Starling, dean of business, industry & technology at Edgecombe Community College, gets a broad smile on his face when he talks about the impending industrial growth in Edgecombe County.

"Absolutely, it's an exciting time to be here," he said. "Neither the college nor eastern North Carolina has seen the growth we're going to see."

Starling was talking about more than 1,000 jobs coming as part of the arrival of Triangle Tire and Corning over the next 18-24 months — and he has been down this road before.

"I was at Johnston Community College (in Smithfield) when the medical-related boom hit," Starling said. "It was amazing as to how the growth came."

At ECC, Starling is over all of the industrial-related programs as well as the curriculum and the training programs. He is currently overseeing the construction of the Center for Innovation, which will house all of the industrial-related programs under one roof as well as providing training facilities for industry-specific positions, such as with Triangle or Corning.

"The new building is a chance for us to expand and upgrade most of our equipment as we move closer (to industry arrival)," he said. "It is more significant because of our activity in the county and we need to be current (with equipment)."

The new center on the campus will be similar to one to be constructed at the Kingsboro industrial site and funded by the Golden LEAF foundation.

"Probably 80 percent of the two sites will have the same type of equipment, but the Kingsboro site will be more like company-specific equipment. There will be big, roll-up doors where Triangle can move their equipment in and offer specific training," he said.

Starling said ground will be broken at that site in the near future.

While there will be similarities between the two training sites, Starling said the on-campus site will offer a two-year degree for manufacturing type jobs, such as industrial maintenance.

"It will be for someone looking for more than an entry level-type job," he said. "Most everyone who is successful in this program is going to get an interview."

Starling said the pressure to "get it right" is overwhelming.

"There has never been the pressure on our workforce they are getting ready to face,” he said. “We know we have plenty of people, but we need to have the skill set."

Starling said the two-year program will be a designed 96-hour introduction to manufacturing-type class that will be rolled out in April.

"Both companies have good training systems and this program (at ECC) will parallel theirs," he said.

Starling said timing is the key to the entire project.

"When we finish our first class, they (Triangle or Corning) better be hiring,He said. “You don't want someone to finish the program and then have to sit around without a job and wait on them to hire. That wouldn't be good, because they would tell their friends to skip the program because they got nothing from it."

Starling said high school seniors will be targeted for the program and that one of the advantages will be that by taking the prep class, they could earn credits toward their college degree.

"We'll start that probably next spring, thinking that by training the young people, we are developing a local workforce of people who will buy or build homes and create growth," he said.

Starling said based on his Johnston County experience, he knows a number of workers will be hired away from other businesses, so those businesses will be hiring.

"People may be willing to drive for a year or two, but then you start to see them settle down here and you see more and more growth and development,” he said. “When companies of this size come, the standard of living starts moving up."

Starling said suppliers for both Triangle and Corning will want to be near the local facilities, so that means additional growth and jobs.

"Triangle only exists in China today," Starling said. "Every supplier they have is in China and they want to be in the United States (near Triangle). More growth will come."

He said the Kingsboro site, which was planned many years ago, "is really an ideal site. You have the railroad (CSX) line, I-95 and U.S. 64 — on the way to becoming I-87 — and we're halfway between Wilmington and Norfolk and with all that, I think the biggest thing we gain is an interstate,” he said.

"We've had the land forever, and we've just been waiting to get this one big company to locate and for us to do it right — which we will — and growth is going to come."

And when it does, Starling said ECC will help deliver a workforce ready for job-specific training.

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