High-tech “Fab Lab” Comes to Virginia’s Patrick Henry Community College

A view of the Patrick Henry Community College Fab Lab in Martinsville, VaPatrick Henry Community College (PHCC) began offering tours of its Fab Lab this summer. The Fab Lab is short for digital fabrication laboratory, which gives students and local businesses access to 3D design and prototyping equipment to create new products and inventions.

The Fab Lab concept originated at MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms. In November 2011, PHCC, the New College Institute and Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corporation sponsored a two-week visit from the Mobile Fab Lab of the Carolinas. During that time the lab received more than 300 visits from interested students and community members.

Working with the same partners, PHCC was able to obtain funding from the Virginia Community College System to purchase equipment and establish its own Fab Lab.

Located at the The Artisan Center in Martinsville, the 1600-square-foot Fab Lab houses a Roland MDX 20 mini mill, Roland CAMM-1 Servo GX-24 vinyl cutter, Stratasys uPrint SE Plus FDM 3D printer, Morgan Industries Morgan Press G-100T Injection Molder, Formech 686 Vacuum Former, Universal Laser 4.60, Routermate 4’ x 4’ CNC router and Torchmate 2’ x 4’ CNC plasma cutter.

The 10 Dell workstations in the lab offer open source software, which allows entrepreneurs and students to seamlessly continue their work at home or in other locations.

The Fab Lab has generated a lot of interest among students and business partners in the community. Lab Coordinator Matthew Wade estimates the lab has seen more than 100 visitors since its soft launch in April.

The lab will host a grand-opening event this fall to coincide with its first class, a basic manufacturing class that will teach students and entrepreneurs how to use the equipment in the lab to bring their ideas to life.

“Inventors can create designs with our software, use the vinyl cutter and CNC mill to fabricate and carve out a circuit board, and then utilize our 3D printer to produce a working model of their new product idea,” said PHCC Lab Coordinator Matthew Wade.

The PHCC Fab Lab is another example of the cutting-edge technology available at Virginia’s colleges and universities, helping prepare a strong pipeline of technically-skilled workers. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s recent Enterprising States study, Virginia is the No. 1 state in STEM job concentration and has the No. 1 share of high-tech businesses.

from YesVirginia.org Business Blog

Institute of Advanced Learning and Research Launches First Company - Dan River Plants

The Institute of Advanced Learning and Research (IALR) recently announced its first commercial spin-off, Dan River Plants, LLC.

Dan River Plants uses micropropagation technology to create, clone and grow plants at a rapid rate. The technology was developed through collaboration between IALR’s Institute for Sustainable and Renewable Resources and Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. 

Micropropagation utilizes plant tissue cultures to grow identical plants by an order of magnitude, yielding rapid and reliable results. The company is producing both decorative plants, such as lilies, roses and azaleas, as well as biofuel crops.

Dan River Plants plans to invest $1.3 million and create 27 new jobs to establish a facility at Ringgold East Industrial Park in Pittsylvania County, Va.

IALR was established in 2000 through partnerships among Virginia Tech, Averett University, Danville Community College, Pittsylvania County, City of Danville, Future of the Piedmont Foundation, Tobacco Indemnification Commission and the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The center uniquely operates as a research and development facility, education leader, business incubator and conference center.

IALR has strategically positioned itself to capitalize on the expertise found in Southern Virginia. The center focuses on four main areas of research, including sustainable and renewable resources, analytical chemistry, polymers and composites, and vehicle research.

YesVirginia.org's Business Blog has previously blogged on some of IALR’s programs, including its STEM Mobile Learning Lab and the Virginia Polymer Coalition.

IALR is yet another example of the innovative research and collaboration with universities that supports Virginia businesses, from start-up to late stage.

from YesVirginia Business Blog

Danville Community College plays vital role in recruiting industry

A display of custom wheels that will soon be made in Danville by Macerata Wheels. All they had was 10 minutes. Danville Community College President Carlyle Ramsey and Danville Public Schools Superintendent Sue Davis got into an SUV with a couple of business prospects in town seeing if they could bring some of their business to the Dan River Region.

Ramsey and Davis only had face time with the prospects in the car ride to the site where the business could potentially be located. In a 10-minute time frame Ramsey and Davis had to discuss local education and how they were working together on workforce training.

"We hit them with everything we had," said Ramsey, who declined to say which business it was.

After 20 years at the helm of DCC, pitching what the school does and how it can benefit industry has become a crucial part of the job as the market in the region has changed over the years.

Workforce development and training have been words thrown around by politicians and regional leaders in every facet of the community. In order to bring industry and develop the economy of an area, there must be workers and programs in place to serve their needs — the two go hand in hand.

While community college systems will usually play some sort of role in industry, DCC has tried to do more than just be another factor.

"With a prospect you've got to dazzle them with what they see," said Ramsey. "We get them to the lab immediately. You have to walk in that lab and have them say 'wow.' That is what happened with Macerata."

On March 18, Macerata Wheels announced its intention to hire 101 local workers over the next three years to manufacture custom wheel rims for cars and motorcycles, with plans to expand into other accessories in the future.

DCC was not the only factor in this development, but it played enough of a role that the announcement was made on the school's campus.

Ramsey said Macerata made two trips to DCC, both confidential at the time. The first was a trip to view the machining facility on DCC's main campus. Ramsey was out of town, but Vice President of Academic and Student Services Chris Ezell helped host the hour-long visit, where Macerata CEO Mike Farless was given a tour of the machining lab and the drafting and design lab next door where students study for certifications in machining, assembling and designing — exactly what the wheel-manufacturing company was looking for.

"We were really impressed," Farless told the Register & Bee on March 18, who added that anyone who completes the two-year program at DCC will be considered for a job at Macerata earning about $40,000 a year.

"If they want a unique wheel, we can build it, construct it and design it," said Ramsey. This is something that can take design firms weeks, but DCC can do in-house in a faster time frame.

The quickness with which a community college can produce programs and make class changes is something that sets them apart for four-year universities.

"The DCC president has to work fast," said Ramsey. "That is the difference between us and the universities."

People in business and economic development, he said, cannot wait years for changes and hesitation. And since community colleges churn out students with certificates and degrees in typically two years or less that makes for a constantly evolving student population and easier to add and change programs in place. The school also gives more degrees in manufacturing and technical fields, which transition faster to many company needs than the four year liberal arts degrees.

Adding extra incentive to recruiting Macerata — and the approximately 40 other companies in the country employing DCC's machining students — is the $3.7 million expansion of the program, which didn't happen overnight.

Included in part of Gov. Bob McDonnell's budget, local delegates Danny Marshall, R-Danville, and Don Merricks, R-Pittsylvania County and state Sen. Frank Ruff, R-Clarksville, lobbied hard to secure the funds. Ramsey and his staff passed out materials to legislators, and the money made it through the General Assembly.

"It's a great program they have there," said Merricks. "When you look at DCC, Carlyle has been one of the best cheerleaders this area has had ... It's one of several spokes when you look at industries that have come."

"I believe in the next three years, beginning now, this is going to enable economic development to use a much more robust training strategy," said Ramsey.

While the future looks bright, Ramsey still remembers the end of the 1990s when the region was being hammered with manufacturing losses and the school had to recalibrate the direction they were taking with the rest of the region. Then the chambers of commerce merged, broadband was delivered, the Regional Center for Advanced Technology and Training and the Institute were built near the Danville Expressway. A new plan was taking shape. In 1992, about 45 percent of local jobs were in manufacturing — now that number is less than 25 percent.

Five months after Ramsey joined DCC he provided some of the school's information to a local community leader actively trying to recruit a business, whom Ramsey preferred not to identify for this story. When he asked the person if there was anything DCC could do to help them, they told him they took the prospect on a "windshield drive-by" of the school — something that has always stuck with him.

The next day Ramsey met with several administrators on his staff and said if people are just driving by their school then they are not being taken seriously in economic development and the school needs to change its image in this area. Since then one of the goals of the school is to be an indispensable factor for recruiting business.

"It's about all of these people," said Ramsey, looking at a map of Danville, Pittsylvania County and Halifax County, the three areas where most DCC students hail from.

"This is your world," Ramsey tells people applying to work as DCC faculty. "These people are depending on you."

From GoDanRiver.com - by Tiffany Holland for the Danville Register & Bee. Denice Thibodeau contributed to this story.

Business of Art & Design Program Launches Student to Job at National Tire Research Center

Skills acquired in SVHEC's Business of Art & Design program lead to Jeffrey Owen being hired by National Tire Research Center.Jeffrey Owen came to the Business of Art & Design program at the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center (SVHEC) because he wanted to learn how to design webpages. He soon found that the program, with tracks in Digital Art & Design and Product Design & Development, offered him so much more. Two years later, Owen holds two certificates, has completed an internship in the R&D Center for Advanced Manufacturing & Energy Efficiency, and has been hired at the new National Tire Research Center.

Owen entered the Business of Art & Design program as a Digital Art & Design (DA&D) student in 2009. He took courses in computer graphics, design, and multimedia, and went on to earn a Career Studies Certificate. Because students in the DA&D program work closely with students in the Product Design & Development (PD&D) program, Owen was exposed to the PD&D curriculum that teaches students how to develop a product from a concept to a beautifully designed, manufactured piece. After experiencing some initial success, and discovering a hidden talent for design, he decided to try the other side of the Business of Art & Design, "While I was in the DA&D program I realized that I could design and that I had a mind for it so I decided to try PD&D next," Owen stated.

As he expected, the Product Design & Development program gave Owen the ability to create the products he was imagining. What he didn't expect was the strong foundation in problem-solving and teamwork that he gained. "I would run into a problem and the program taught me not to give up but to work through it. I also learned how to work on teams and that teamwork equals success," Owen stated.

The skills he gained in the Product Design & Development program not only helped him earn another certificate, but also led to him working as an intern in the SVHEC's R&D Center for Advanced Manufacturing & Energy Efficiency (R&D CAMEE). "Working in the R&D Center was a positive experience. I worked on a lot of great projects, and the experience really helped build up the skills I'd learned. My problem-solving abilities went through the roof when I became an intern," Owen said.

As an intern, Owen got hands-on experience operating sophisticated advanced manufacturing equipment and was introduced to several computer-aided design (CAD) software programs. His experiences in the Business of Art & Design and R&D CAMEE prepared him for his current position as a shop technician at the National Tire Research Center. "At the National Tire Research Center I use the skills I gained in teamwork, problem solving, materials and sciences. I'm able to work with metal and rubber, and when a tire has unique movement I can understand it and what it's doing. I'm also able to use my Digital Art & Design skills to make updates to our website," Owen said.

"The NTRC was in full launch mode when Jeffrey came onboard.  Jeffrey became a contributor to our success day one. He has a wide variety of skills that can be applied in many areas of our business. He takes on projects and take true ownership until completion.  I believe that reflects well on the program we recruited him from," said Frank Della Pia, Executive Director of the National Tire Research Center.

Owen's is capable and confident, and has a bright future ahead. He attributes much of his success to his experiences at the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center. "Going through the BA&D program and the internship at the R&D Center had a great impact on where I am today. From understanding problems and situations I might not have learned to giving me a mind of understanding that if there's a problem you don't have to freak out," he said. "The BA&D program gave me a great deal because I could see myself doing graphic design and video, but I also found that I'm a hands on guy and I like to work with my hands. I'd recommend the program to someone who's not sure of what they want to do in life or to anyone who wants to be hands-on."

The Business of Art & Design program is offered in partnership with Danville Community College. Enrollment in Digital Art & Design and Product Design & Development is now open. Grants are available to assist with tuition, and qualified individuals may receive 100% tuition assistance. For more information visit www.svhec.org, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or call 434-572-5441 and toll free 1-800-283-0098 ext 5441.

Distribution Center to Open in Gretna

Malouf Fine Linens is bringing a bedding and linen distribution center to Pittsylvania County. The company plans to move to the old TECHMA USA property in Gretna by mid-February.

The bedding manufacturer makes luxury bedsheets, Sleep Tite mattresses and pillow protectors.

MPI Group, LLC, which will lease the property at 202 E. Gretna Road to Malouf, bought the 80,000-square-foot former TECHMA building and the 37 acres of land it sits on for $322,000.

The Gretna facility will serve as a distribution center for customers in the South, Northeast and the Great Lakes region, Erickson said.

Martinsville-Henry County Approve New Shell Building

Henry County and Martinsville will help finance construction of a 75,000-square-foot shell building — which could be doubled in size — in the Patriot Centre at Beaver Creek industrial park.

New shell building will be completed by the end of 2013

The shell be located on Lot 8; a 17 acre site with an 11.4 acre graded pad. The building will be a concrete tilt up similar to the last two shell buildings Martinsville-Henry County has built and sold in recent years.

The timeline calls for the EDC to select an architectural/engineering firm in January; develop plans/bid documents in February and March; meet with local banks in February; and bid the project and select a contractor in April. Construction is to be under way around April or May, and it is to be completed around the end of 2013.

“Martinsville-Henry County’s shell building track record is positive,”  said, Mark Heath, President and CEO of the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corporation, mentioning Owens Corning, Mehler Inc., Masterbrand Cabinets, RTI International Metals and Commonwealth Laminating as companies that have moved into local shell buildings in the past.

Henry County and Martinsville have constructed two shell buildings under the revenue sharing system that involves the IDA and EDC, according to Henry County Administrator Tim Hall. One building was sold to RTI International Metals before construction was completed, and the last one was on the market for three years before it was sold to Commonwealth Laminating.

Faneuil Expands in Martinsville

Faneuil, Inc., has announced the expansion of its partnership with the City of Martinsville and the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corporation, signified by the company's investment of an additional $1 million in capital improvements and the creation of 100 new jobs for local residents.

A nationally recognized leader in technology-enabled in-person and automated service delivery, Faneuil [FAN-yuhl] provides business processing solutions for an extensive client portfolio that includes both commercial and government entities. Utilizing advanced applications and a team of more than 3,300 service professionals, Faneuil delivers broad outsourcing support to several complex, highly regulated industries ranging from transportation, utilities, government services, and healthcare, to technology services, education and financial services. Headquartered in Hampton Roads, Faneuil is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Harland Clarke Holdings Corporation, Inc.

Faneuil's business operations in Martinsville, which are based in The Clocktower at Commonwealth Centre, were initially established in April 2010 when the company announced the opening of a $2.4 million facility to serve as a virtual "Welcome Center" for customers of Dominion Virginia Power, a Faneuil business client. The Martinsville "Welcome Center" was the first initiative of its kind in the utility industry, assisting customers with utility connections, disconnections and transfers; documenting reports of outages and other emergencies, escalating those notifications when necessary; and responding to inquiries regarding bills, payment plans, e-billing, etc. The world class center incorporates state of the art technology to enhance customer satisfaction, with an emphasis on first call resolution. Faneuil further broadened its presence in Virginia less than a year later by opening a second customer care center on behalf of Dominion Virginia Power in South Boston. Together, the two centers assist 2.4 million customers and process more than 3 million transactions annually.

In Phase 2, which is expected to be completed in January 2013, Faneuil is investing an additional $1 million to renovate 12,800 square feet on the Centre's fourth floor in collaboration with the Martinsville-based Lester Group to support new client programs in the transportation, utility, and healthcare industries. The company also anticipates hiring an additional 100 employees to provide customer care for those new client programs.

"Building on the highly successful partnership we initially began three years ago with Dominion Virginia Power, we are pleased to be able to further expand our relationship with the City of Martinsville and the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corporation to provide additional employment opportunities for qualified area residents," noted Faneuil President and CEO Anna M. Van Buren.

"Though Faneuil has a national footprint, its corporate offices are here in Virginia, so it's especially exciting for us to be able to expand our presence right here in our home state," she added.

"Faneuil's success in Martinsville is a great story," said Mark Heath, president of the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corporation. "The substantial investment from the Lester Group to renovate the former Tultex facility was used to attract a new business from outside the community. The announcement today is another example of how investments of this type continue to make a difference as local companies expand and grow their businesses in Martinsville-Henry County. We are grateful to the Lester Group for their strong sense of community pride and support, and we appreciate Faneuil's continued commitment and confidence in our area."

"Faneuil's decision to expand in the City of Martinsville and hire an additional 100 employees reaffirms that we have a talented workforce and a highly responsive team of professionals in the City and EDC," noted Interim City Manager Leon Towarnicki. "It is exciting to see continued investment in our community, particularly in existing buildings, and to see innovative and adaptive re-uses occurring. Slowly but surely, the combined efforts of both the public and private sectors are making a significant impact in moving our community forward."

SHINE Systems & Technologies to establish a new Solutions Center in Martinsville

Their new Solutions Center will specialize in biometrics and Open Source Intelligence (OSINT), supporting law enforcement initially and then expanding to other areas based on their growing portfolio of needs in the Commonwealth and beyond. The specific location of the Center has not yet been disclosed due to the ongoing lease negotiations.

Jeff Thomas, President of SHINE and a local Fieldale-Collinsville HS alumnus said, "Our company is dedicated to helping our customers enable their mission through innovative methodologies, value pricing, and unparalleled delivery; we are not just another consulting services company. Our new Martinsville operation will allow us to grow our service offerings and support our product launches. We see this step as vital to our growth, and I look forward to a growing presence in the area. Personally, I have an opportunity to give back to the area where I grew up."

"The potential opening of the SHINE Solutions Center in Martinsville-Henry County will add important business activity and employment opportunities to our area." said Mark Heath, President/CEO of the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corporation. "We anticipate that SHINE will find the labor they require and we are committed to assisting them in any way needed."

Initial hiring plans for SHINE require 7 to 10 immediate new hires, with at least an additional 25 employees within 2 years. The Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce will be assisting SHINE with a two-day job fair on January 21-22, at the Baymont Inn and Suites (formerly the Jameson Inn) located at 378 Commonwealth Blvd. Job fair hours are: Monday 8 am – 7 pm, and Tuesday from 8 am – 6 pm. Key open positions are: Office Manager, Administrators, Training Developers, Law Enforcement Trainers, Software Engineers, Business Analysts, and IT and Server Specialists. Resumes will be accepted prior to the job fair and should be sent to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. For more information about employment opportunities, please contact Kerri Turner at (434) 220-4717.

"The Chamber is excited to welcome SHINE our newest corporate citizen. Through our business services partnership with the Virginia Workforce Center, we are pleased to assist SHINE with their job fair and employee recruitment efforts which are a critical part of their success in our community" says Chamber President Amanda Witt.

2012 Workforce Development Services Chancellor's Awards presented by Virginia Community College System

SVCC recognized four instructors who have assisted the college in program development and support of the college in its success in serving Virginia's workforce community.

The 2012 Workforce Development Services Chancellor's Awards were presented recently by the Virginia Community College System in ceremonies held throughout the state. Southside Virginia Community College recognized four instructors who have assisted the college in program development and support of the college in its success in serving Virginia's workforce community.

Virginia's Community Colleges align education and economic development to extend workforce development courses, training and programs into the community. WDS prepares the emerging workforce by providing students with greater access to career options; serves employers through flexible and customized training; and, offers portable skills and credentials to the the incumbent and displaced workforce.

Shown at the awards ceremony are (front row, left to right) Natalie Coronas, Director of the Lake Country Advanced Knowledge Center, Joan Tuck, Associate Professor of Information Technology who received the Chancellor's award being recognized for her dedication teaching for Second Chances, a program for incarcerated men at Lunenburg Correctional, Charlene Pope, adjunct faculty, receiving the award for her work teaching ServeSafe training leading to workforce credentials for students, Vincent Brown, Associate Professor of Technology, recognized for his work with dual enrollment High Performance Technology as well as his dedication as a coach with the men's basketball team and his work with youth throughout Southside Virginia, and Jeff Grant, adjunct professor, who is a welding instructor who has been instrumental in the success of the program where students earn the Welding Career Studies Certificate and was also recognized for his dedication to his students and the program. Also attending the ceremony are (Back Row, L to R) Debra Smiley, Interim Director of Workforce Development and Continuing Education and Dennis Smith, Associate Professor, Director of Workforce Development, Men's Basketball Coach.

Manufacturing Skills Institute Launches in Halifax County

Manufacturing Skills InstituteSouth Boston has been chosen as the home of the new Manufacturing Skills Institute, a public-private partnership to develop skilled workers for advanced manufacturing companies that operate in the region and across Virginia.

The new MSI, a collaboration between the Virginia Manufacturers Association and ECPI University, will be housed at the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center, where government, education and business leaders gathered for Friday's announcement.

"This is unique and a gem,"said Brett Vassey, president and CEO of the Virginia Manufacturers Association, who said the new center will provide education and training which in turn will spur the creation of manufacturing jobs throughout the region.

The Manufacturing Skills Institute will operate in partnership with the SVHEC, the Modeling & Simulation Center of Excellence at Riverstone Energy Center, the National Center for Coatings Application, Research and Education (C-CARE) and the National Technology Transfer at the Research & Development Center for Advanced Manufacturing & Energy Efficiency (R&D CAMEE), located at the SVHEC Innovation Center.