New Innovative Partnership To Manufacture Medical Supplies Locally — N.C. Legislature Provides Over $14 Million In Funding 

Textile Technology Center

DALLAS, N.C. — September 9, 2020 — A new and innovative partnership to provide better products for the medical community and potentially create new small business opportunities is underway.

Gaston College’s Textile Technology Center is partnering with the Manufacturing Solutions Center (MSC) at Catawba Valley Community College, the City of Conover, Gaston County, and the private sector to create a launch pad for prototyping and testing reusable personal protective equipment (PPE) products for entrepreneurs and existing manufacturers in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In support of this effort, the N.C. legislature today passed Bill 1105 Coronavirus Relief Act 3.0 (page 92), which provides $14.3 million in funding.

Manufacturing Solutions Center

The funding will be allocated for the following purposes:

  • The City of Conover will receive a $9,000,000 grant. Approximately $7,250,000 of this amount is allocated to construct a purpose-built facility to house testing labs, rapid prototyping, and a textile sourcing library. The Manufacturing Solutions Center (MSC) at Catawba Valley Community College, located in Conover, will receive $1,250,000 to develop a clean room upfit for their facilities, with $500,000 to be used for equipment, materials, and logistics for a rapid prototyping pilot line to create product and to train a workforce for U.S. manufacturers of PPE.
  • A $5,300,000 grant will go to Gaston County to construct an Incubator and Extrusion Center for Advanced Fibers for Gaston College’s Textile Technology Center. 
Dr. John Hauser

“I’m excited about this new initiative and the building of a new fiber innovation center,” said Dr. John Hauser, president of Gaston College. “Over the years, the Gaston College Textile Technology Center and Catawba Valley Community College’s Manufacturing Solutions Center, have always worked collaboratively on projects, but were limited by needing additional equipment, space, funding and other resources. Now we have an opportunity to expand our expertise to produce high-quality products to benefit our communities.”

“Our city and county partners are strongly behind this project,” continued Dr. Hauser. “They will assist us in building an incubator business that will provide a space and the resources to engage new entrepreneurs and small businesses to manufacture and distribute PPE products. This will mean growth of new businesses and jobs in our community.”

Dr. Garrett Hinshaw

Dr. Garrett Hinshaw, president of Catawba Valley Community College is looking forward to the expansion of the MSC facility and continuing the strong collaboration and partnership between the two centers. “The Manufacturing Solutions Center looks forward to working with Gaston College’s TTC in developing new, advanced fabrics that will better protect our medical and essential workers. This new funding will help us expand our operations and create more high demand, well-paying jobs in our region. This level of collaboration and partnership will serve as a model for the future so that we can better meet the needs of economic and workforce development by leveraging the strength of both Gaston College and Catawba Valley Community College.”

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals, and emergency care clinics in North Carolina and around the country have experienced shortages of vital PPE needed to care for critically ill patients infected by the coronavirus. Unfortunately, approximately 96 percent of all PPE supplies were manufactured outside the United States.

In addition, medical personnel and essential workers wearing masks — particularly N95 and cloth face masks — for long periods of time were now experiencing “maskne,” acne or other skin irritations from wearing the masks. A better-quality product needed be developed.

In response to this and related COVID-19 product needs, companies quickly turned to the Manufacturing Solutions Center and the Textile Technology Center for product research, testing, and development to produce diagnostic test kits and create fabrics for innovative Personal Protective Equipment such as advanced face mask coverings, shields, and protective gowns. But in order to develop and manufacture these better products, the two Centers discovered they needed additional space, more specialized equipment, and resources. The funding from Bill 1105 will help to meet those needs.

Sam Buff, Director for the Textile Technology Center, commented: “In the midst of our COVID response, Dr. Hinshaw and Dr. Hauser immediately recognized the need for a focus on advanced fiber research and development, and both have been instrumental in advancing the COVID response at our centers.”

Catawba Valley Community College’s Manufacturing Solutions Center and Gaston College’s Textile Technology Center continue to be leaders in textile development and manufacturing. Both provide a full range of solution-based services for the textile and manufacturing industries including:

  • Business Incubation Services;
  • Yarn & Short Staple Processing  ;
  • Fabric Formation & Extrusion  ;
  • Full range of Physical Lab Testing & Analysis; and
  • Customized Textile Training  .

Posted September 9, 2020

Source: Gaston College