Going strong at 30: RTP will double workforce

RTP celebrated its 30th anniversary yesterday with good news: president Hugh Miller said the thermoplastic products company will double its local workforce by the end of the year or early 2015.

Miller, a third-generation owner of the Minnesota-based industry, said that while RTP has been busy this year, "you're going to get a lot busier, " turning to plant manager Tom Ginther.

Miller offered the upbeat assessment as employees, suppliers, community leaders and customers gathered for a luncheon celebration at the Sinai industrial park facility.

The company has purchased two new machines that will lead to a doubling of the current 12-member staff. One of the machines, Miller said, is currently producing all the company's specialized products in Germany, but that will change by year's end after the new machine is installed at the Sinai plant.

"We make the pellets from which nearly everything you touch contains some of our material," Miller said. One of the company's major customers is the Dupont company which he described as being "our bread and butter and what has kept up going through the economic slowdown."

In addition to celebrating 30 years in town, Miller also pointed to the company's safety record of 3,966 days without a reportable accident.

Miller, who flew in from his Winona, Minn., home, praised the work ethic of his local employees. "They're good people," he said, "who work very hard."

The company has 12 manufacturing plants in the United States, Europe and Asia plus sales representatives throughout the world. RTP Company engineers develop thermoplastic compounds in over 60 different engineering resin systems for applications requiring color, conductive, elastomeric, flame retardant, high temperature, structural and wear resistant properties.

from SoVaNow.com

Siemens donating $2B in software to 7 Virginia colleges

Siemens donation to 7 in Virginia aims to promote manufacturing careers

These seven universities or colleges will receive computer software from Siemens Corp. with the value of the in-kind software donations.

Southern Virginia Higher Education Center: $33 million, in addition to a $94 million in-kind software grant last fall, to expand the center's use of Siemens software to support digital manufacturing.

Thomas Nelson Community College: $954.7 million to develop a center of excellence specifically for marine engineering to address workforce development issues and concerns for area employers.

New River Community College: $64.3 million for Siemens software to be used in the school's new advanced automation fabrication lab.

Old Dominion University: $746 million for further expansion of ODU and the Virginia Community College System's workforce training programs to benefit the maritime industry, especially Huntington Ingalls Industries and the U.S. Department of Defense,

Virginia Commonwealth University: $230.9 million for programs in manufacturing and logistics through the school of engineering in partnership with the school of business.

Virginia State University: $105.6 million to support six programs — manufacturing engineering, computer engineering, computer science, electronics engineering technology, logistics technology and mechanical engineering technology.

ECPI University's Virginia Beach campus: $130.3 million for its engineering technology department to bolster existing workforce skills development through the Virginia Industry Foundation and the Virginia Community College System.

siemensOne of the world's largest engineering and electronics companies is donating more than $2 billion worth of its computer software to seven Virginia universities and community colleges to help train students for high-tech, manufacturing-related careers.

Siemens Corp. is expected to announce the donation today during a meeting of business and government officials in Prince George County. That event will focus on the future of advanced manufacturing in Virginia.

The company is donating its own product lifecycle management — or PLM — software, which Siemens and the company's clients use to design, develop and manufacture products in industries including automotive, aerospace, consumer products, medical devices, electronics, shipbuilding and apparel.

Siemens, based in Germany but with operations all over the world, has made similar donations of its software to other colleges, universities and vocational high schools around the world. In April, it announced a donation of more than $600 million in software to colleges and high schools in Massachusetts.

"The purpose of our global academic program is to make sure that there is a pipeline of students that are educated in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math)," said Bill Boswell, senior director of partner strategy at Siemens PLM Software.

"We have an aging workforce in the world today," he said. "The baby boomers are hitting retirement age. If you look at what companies need to do just to keep up with retiring workers ... there is a huge need for people with these advanced skills."

Siemens said about 77,000 of its customers globally use the software. The companies in Virginia that use it include Newport News Shipbuilding, Rolls-Royce, Northrop Grumman, and NASA Langley.

In the classroom, students can use the software in assignments and research related to computer-aided design, engineering simulation, industrial design, digital manufacturing and manufacturing management.

The recipients of the software include Virginia Commonwealth University, which plans to start using the tools this fall in nuclear and mechanical engineering classes. The software also will be useful in biomedical, electrical and computer engineering, and as the school focuses on developing its pharmaceutical engineering program, said Franklin Bost, the engineering school's executive associate dean.

"It is going to give us more advantages in a hands-on approach to engineering," said Charles Cartin, an assistant professor of engineering at VCU. "It will give the students a more realistic approach to what engineering is all about. When they finish here, they will be better prepared for jobs."

Siemens calculated the value of the in-kind donations based on the commercial value of the software, Boswell said.

from the Richmond Times-Dispatch

South Boston taps Bedford official as next town manager

South Boston Town Council has selected Timothy L. Wilson as South Boston's next Town Manager. He will begin his new position on June 16 with an annual salary of $108,000.

He succeeds current Town Manager Ted Daniel, who is retiring at the end of June.

Originally from Newport News, Wilson is currently the Director of Community Development for Bedford County. He has served in this position since January 2011. Wilson has served in a variety of local government management positions, including Director of Planning and Development, Nags Head, N.C.; Director of Planning and Community Development, Middlesex County, Va.; Director of Planning for Brunswick County, Va., and as an Economic Development Planner with the Southside Planning District Commission in South Hill.

Wilson holds a bachelor's degree in Economics from Christopher Newport University, and has numerous urban and public planning certificates which include: Legal and Legislative Foundations of Planning from Virginia Commonwealth University, the Virginia Certified Board of Zoning Appeals Program and the Virginia Certified Planning Commissioners Program.

"With over 25 years of public service experience, Tim will complement our exceptional team of Town employees," said South Boston Mayor Ed Owens. "My fellow elected officials on Town Council and I look forward to Tim's leadership and professional guidance as he works with us, town departments, other local and state governmental organizations, and the community at-large to continue to make South Boston an evolving place where great things are happening."

Wilson was chosen after an extensive search that yielded 56 applicants, a field that was narrowed to three finalists. Following a second interview on May 12, Mayor Owens subsequently offered Wilson the position on behalf of a unanimous Town Council.

MBC Deploys Cyan SDN for Backhaul Rollout

Mid Atlantic Broadband Communities Corp., a wholesale open-access network transport provider, is using Cyan technology to provision backhaul connections to a greater number of mobile cell sites at a reduced cost compared with its previous solution.

MBC is a non-profit operation launched with government funds in 2004, with the mission of bringing rural Virginia online. It does this by leasing fiber to communications service providers that, in turn, provide connectivity to attract businesses and foster economic growth in under-served communities.

"What we find is that the Cyan platform allows us to lower the capex, reach more cell sites and tower sites, and get more business customers online," says Tad Deriso, MBC President and CEO.

MBC decided to use Cyan Inc. 's Blue Planet SDN Software, along with the vendor's Z-Series Packet-Optical Platform. MBC had a SONET/TDM transport network, which it needed to scale to provide mobile backhaul, easy network operation, and configure third-party devices.

MBC also wanted to prepare the network for next-generation carrier Ethernet: Cyan helps achieve that goal through its compliance with the Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF) Carrier Ethernet 2.0 (MEF CE 2.0) initiative.

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Made in America

made-in-usaNear the end of "American Made Movie," a 2013 film documentary on American manufacturing that's just now gaining wide release in the U.S., the conversation turns to the most quintessential of American-made products: the Stars and Stripes.

Are the flags that people buy at stores actually made in America?

In South Boston, most people may know the answer to this question. "American Made Movie" clues in the rest of the world — by paying a visit to South Boston's Annin Flagmakers plant and interviewing the company's president, Carter Beard.

In an 85-minute film that skips smartly from the industrial ruins of Detroit to the rising manufacturing centers of East Asia and back again to America's small towns to witness their struggles to secure a place in the global economy, it's the South Boston segment that brings the core message home:

Yes, U.S. manufacturing is worth saving, and there are many people working to do so — successfully.

Produced by documentary filmmakers Nathaniel McGill and Vincent Vittorio, "American Made Movie" had limited release in U.S. cities last year and earned general acclaim — with the Los Angeles Times praising it as "patriotic but not overly rah-rah, inspiring without an excess of feel-good calculation." This month, the movie became available for viewing via cable video-on-demand and digital platforms; it's going on the web in May, and it will be available through Netflix and Hulu in the fall.

"America Made Movie" touches on issues that will be familiar to anyone who runs a small business, or works in the field of economic development, or has ever felt the impact of the decline of domestic manufacturing — which is to say most of us. Its elegiac images of closed factories come from visits to Rust Belt cities and hollowed-out southern towns, although South Boston, in a cameo role, is assigned the task of undercutting the conventional wisdom.

After posing the proverbial question — are American flags made in America? — the documentary cuts to an interview with Beard. (The segment was shot at Annin's New Jersey corporate office, where Beard works, although the film doesn't mention this fact.) Framed by snippets of the local plant shop floor, Beard recounts the company's long history of producing American flags since its founding in 1847. It was an Annin-made flag that draped the coffin of Abraham Lincoln, that flew atop the hill at Iwo Jima, that astronauts unfurled on the moon. Deep in the film, Beard touches on another signature event in U.S. history: the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

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IDA Receives New Grant: SVAMC improvements and Natural Gas reach extended

The Halifax County Industrial Development Authority (IDA) has been awarded a grant by the United States Community Advancement and Improvement Program (USCAIP) for use on Phase III of the IDA's Southern Virginia Advanced Manufacturing Center (SVAMC) on Greens Folly Road. The $427,500 grant will used to improve and expand on-site utilities and infrastructure.

The IDA worked with the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP), which helped identify this grant opportunity for Halifax. "Investment by this USCAIP partner organization is significant for the development of the Southern Virginia Advanced Manufacturing Center," says Liz Povar, Vice-President of Business Expansion for VEDP. "The investment aligns with state, regional and local strategies and will add to the strength of Halifax County's business attraction and retention opportunities."

"The USCAIP grant provides benefits beyond its dollar value," says Matt Leonard, The IDA's Executive Director. "It will act as the required local match for the recently awarded $1,114,535 from the Tobacco Commission, relieving the County from having to make this match. It will also extend natural gas onto the site through an easement under the railroad, making natural gas available to the south and east side of the tracks for the first time." This includes South Boston, and some of the largest assets of the public school system, as well as many large private companies and residences.

Columbia Gas of Virginia Representative Jon Slaunwhite describes the collaboration with the IDA and importance of this extension, saying "We are committed to supporting the Halifax IDA in growing Virginia's economy. This project is an example of this collaboration and will allow Columbia Gas to expand our facilities and allow clean, reliable and domestic natural gas to support jobs and growth in the region."

Much of the grant monies previously received and spent to date have been used to replace the SVAMC's roofing and update the fire protection facilities. "We understand that work so far, while critical to stopping the facility's decline, is not highly visible work" says Leonard. "Over the next year and a half, Halifax citizens will see the building and grounds begin to transform, and our prospect industries will find a more ready site for them to consider."

Sniper aiming for jobs

TMI Autotech will build new car, SniperHalifax County and TMI Auto Tech, the maker of the Ariel Atom performance racing vehicle, are teaming up to create a new manufacturing niche for the area: the production of lightweight, high-strength woven carbon composites.

It's just the material needed for a new racing vehicle that TMI Auto Tech has on the drawing board — the TMI Sniper.

The Sniper, unlike the Atom, is a closed-body racer, said Matt Leonard, executive director of the Halifax County Industrial Development Authority, which has put in an $838,786 R&D grant request to the Virginia Tobacco Commission to launch the project. The market for the Sniper is a familiar one for the company: club racers, promotional vehicle purchasers, school car programs. The company is aiming to build 100 of the vehicles for international distribution over the next five years.

Starting price point: $135,000.

TMI Auto Tech is projecting it will almost double its current workforce by hiring 19 new workers to build the Sniper at its facility at the Virginia Motorsports Technology Park, part of Virginia International Raceway. Yet the IDA has aspirations of the Sniper project becoming a springboard for even more jobs.

"If [research] finds that right formula to create carbon fiber-based materials in a cost effective way, it could be broadened [for use] in more products and more jobs here," said Leonard. "We think this could be the start of us making these high performance materials."

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Destination Downtown, Town of South Boston receive awards for revitalization efforts

Destination Downtown wins awardsDestination Downtown South Boston and the Town of South Boston were presented with Virginia Main Street Milestone Achievement Awards for the dedication of over 20,000 volunteer hours to the revitalization of the downtown's historic commercial district and for creating an investment environment in the downtown that has fostered over 250 private investments.

The awards were presented Wednesday, March 19.

The organization also was awarded a Special Achievement Award for its leadership in partnering with the town and Rehab Development, Inc. in the conversion of the town's last standing tobacco warehouse into 27 new, market-rate apartments in the Main Street district. The awards were presented at Richmond's historic Hippodrome Theater.

At the ceremony that focused on the results of Main Street efforts, Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade Maurice Jones spoke to the audience of nearly 90 downtown revitalization volunteers and professionals from around the state about the visible results of their hard work.

"This year, you have been thinking outside of the box and using entrepreneurship as a keystone to successful downtown revitalization," said Secretary Jones. "With entrepreneur development strategies like business boot camps and even an Ideaspace, you are bringing new ventures and amazing growth to your downtowns."

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