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The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) has awarded the South Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership (SCMEP) an initial $50,000 grant to assist small manufacturers in six Upstate counties in penetrating the composites market.
SCMEP – a non-profit organisation – will match grant funds with an additional $58,487, bringing the total outlay to $108,487. Through all three phases of this initiative, SCMEP estimates it can assist up to 25 manufacturing companies through technology advancement, customer and market connections, workforce development, and process improvements.
“”Composites represent the fastest growing segment of manufacturing, with global growth rates reaching as much as 105 percent in recent years,”” says John Irion, SCMEP president. “”In contrast to this growing trend, South Carolina currently lists just one engineered resin manufacturer and a handful of composites manufacturers. With the low relative investment in setting up a composites manufacturing facility, we know we can help Upstate companies become competitive and successful in this market.””
The three-phase initiative, to be conducted over three years, will include the following services:
Phase One – Identification of candidates who can be transformed into composites manufacturing companies, and creation of a steering committee comprised of large original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), small manufacturers in the six-county region, technology and business partners, and industry groups;
Phase Two – Assessment and discovery at individual facilities followed by technical assistance as necessary; and
Phase Three – Implementation of new technologies within existing small plastics manufacturing facilities to produce new, state-of-the- industry composites manufacturers.
The high-strength composites targeted in this initiative are continuous fibre-reinforced plastics.
In a 1999 ARC grant provided to SCMEP to help plastics companies in South Carolina, SCMEP was able to assist 41 companies who reported a measurable economic impact of $724,000. Manufacturers realized this impact in the form of reduced inventory, reduced production costs, and labour cost savings through the implementation of more efficient manufacturing processes.
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