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Archive for January, 2011

EFCA, Still Breathing?

About a year ago we wrote about the crippling impact that Healthcare Reform, Cap & Trade and the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) were having on a business’ ability to interpret what costs they might encounter and plan for.  The uncertainty led to little business movement outside of layoffs and consolidations.  As companies position for incremental employment growth and capital investments in machinery and equipment, the threat of EFCA spoiling North Carolina’s recovering economy still looms.

It’s not common to hear EFCA referred to anymore, and initially that seems like a good thing – let the deceptively named bill, and the threat to one of North Carolina’s most significant competitive advantages, go away.  As quiet as EFCA has been, we decided to ask Representative Shuler, Senator Burr, and Senator Hagan for a statement on EFCA, and the chance we’ll see the legislation, or a version of it, reappear.  Here are the statement responses we received.

Senator Hagan:
“For the 112th Congress, my No. 1 priority is jobs, jobs, jobs for North Carolinians. I don’t believe the House or Senate will focus on EFCA in this Congress or that there is sufficient support for this legislation.”

Senator Burr:
“I oppose the Employee Free Choice Act because I believe the secret ballot is a cornerstone of our democracy and should be preserved in the workplace.” 

Representative Shuler:
“I did not sponsor the Employee Free Choice Act in the last Congress, and it did not come to the floor for a vote. As of today, it has not been reintroduced for the 112th Congress. If it is reintroduced, I do not expect it to be brought to the House floor for a vote. I am hopeful that employers and employees can work together to find common ground that benefits both groups. Only by joining together can we rebuild our economy, create jobs in Western North Carolina, and strengthen the middle class.”

During the process of trying to collect current information about EFCA, we have learned that this issue may still be alive but likely moving from the Capitol (legislation) to the White House (regulation) for placement.  Many of the components of EFCA could be incorporated into administrative regulation through the Labor Department and the National Labor Relations Board.

We will need to continue to monitor EFCA as if it is legislation, ensuring that North Carolina’s status and crown as the nation’s least-unionized state is not compromised.

2011 Industrial Executives Forum

The HCPED Industrial Executives Forum Planning Committee has lined up great speakers on three very different issues.  Clark Gillespy, Vice President of Economic Development, Business Development & Territorial Strategies with Duke Energy will present the utility’s planned merger with Progress Energy and the impact this may have on Henderson County. 

Our second speaker will be John Franklin of Volvo Logistics North America who founded the WNC Transportation Alliance after studying logistics alliance advantages in his degree studies.  John will speak on the Alliance’s efforts to connect manufacturing and distribution transportation operations to more efficiently manage transportation assets, increase fleet utilization and combat the expenses associated with deadhead miles.  John will present data showing Henderson County companies transport patterns in aggregate form, and will present a collaboration opportunity to connect businesses that can align patterns and increase efficiencies.

Dr. Jerry McGee, President of Wingate University, will be our closing speaker.  Dr. McGee will introduce Wingate University to our community, present Wingate’s academic offerings and history, and discuss their decision to grow by developing the Hendersonville Campus.  Dr. McGee will also present Wingate’s presence in terms of our ability to attract and retain young talent in Henderson County.

Please RSVP to attend the Industrial Executives Forum on Thursday, March 24th from 8:30-11:30am. The forum is open to HCPED members and manufacturers in Henderson County.

Industry Profile: API South Inc.

Autronic Plastics (API) was founded in Westbury, New York in 1953 as a small yet advanced plastic molding company. In the mid-90’s Michael Lax President & CEO began evaluating the need to expand the company’s footprint to better capture the organization’s growing customer base. In 1997-1998 API Solutions initiated a thorough site selection process designed to identify communities which fit the company’s workforce and logistics needs. As a result of this search the Asheville MSA was identified as a finalist for the expansion opportunity. After visiting the community and exploring several potential business locations the company launched API South in Fletcher, NC.  

According to Operating Manager, Barry Ledford the community was selected for several reasons 1) access to a quality workforce with an established background in plastics manufacturing, 2) competitive tax rates and 3) access to a growing customer base in the southeast. Since expanding to Fletcher nearly 12 years ago API South has grown, investing in new machinery equipment and employing upwards of 20 workers.

In addition to local workforce development opportunities, API South has established a unique partnership with Western Carolina University’s Center for Rapid Product Realization in Cullowhee, NC.  “My first visit to the University was intended to last a single afternoon. However, after meeting with members of the University’s faculty I extended my visit well into the evening,” said Ledford. Over the past twelve years API South has utilized the research and development capabilities to maximize the company’s ability to fulfill customer demands.

The University has also provided unique “opportunities to give back to the community.” For example, in anticipation of a winter open house several years ago API South worked with students at WCU to create a small gift for potential students and their families. In an effort to make light of a particularly harsh winter, students designed a mold for an ice scraper. API South worked with the University to mass produce the product, even dying the plastic piece to the exact school colors, Catamount purple.

API South’s Fletcher location was chosen for its logistical advantages as well. During busy periods API South is responsible for numerous shipments of freight each day. Fulfilling customer orders in an expedited manner is of critical importance. “Missing deadlines is simply not acceptable in our line of work.” The Fletcher location has proven to be an excellent distribution point. With close access to I-26, I-40, and I-85 the location gives API the ability to serve multiple markets in surrounding states including South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and Virginia without the concern of excessive travel times.

Looking Forward

In September of 2010, the HCPED asked 134 manufacturers five questions focused on developing a local perspective on what 2011 and 2012 might bring for our economy.  Forty-one complete responses contributed to the data below.  Click on thumbnails to zoom into the survey responses.