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Lincoln County Receives First Golden LEAF Grant

Lincoln County, NC-Announced today at Lincoln Economic Development Association’s (LEDA) annual meeting, Lincoln County Schools, through collaboration with the Industrial Manager’s Association of Lincoln County and LEDA’s Existing Business Program, is receiving a $200,000 grant from the Golden LEAF Foundation of North Carolina; the first ever to be awarded in Lincoln County. Johnathan Rhyne, local attorney and Chairman of the Golden LEAF Board of Directors made the surprise announcement to the 60 attendees of the annual meeting, including: school system representatives, IMA members, city and county officials and supporters of LEDA.

The purpose of the grant is to support the Lincoln County Schools’ “Manufacturing: A Future that Works” program, which builds a foundation to develop the skills of the Lincoln County labor force to meet the needs of local business and industry. Golden LEAF funds will be applied toward equipment for the new Advanced Manufacturing programs offered at all four high schools and the Lincoln County School of Technology. The new advanced manufacturing program is designed to address industry needs in workforce and to prepare students for career opportunities upon graduation from high school specifically in advanced manufacturing.

As the baby boomer workforce (approximately 30%) begins retiring within the next three to five years and an increasing emphasis is placed on workforce preparedness by new industry prospects, LEDA has been facilitating the relationship between the school system and industry leaders to address this increasing concern. Determining the time is now to prepare for their future employees, the IMA leadership worked with vendors to develop a program, one of the first of its kind offered to high school students within the state, to teach students the important skills of system fundamentals, motors, fluid power and mechatronics/mechanical systems; all recognized by any manufacturer and can be transferred to many future career and educational opportunities.

Realizing not all students will pursue a four year university education, the IMA worked with then CTE Director, Sheryl Nixon, to develop a program that will prepare students to be hirable and operator ready upon graduation from high school. Even more importantly, it is hoped students having completed the courses will want to pursue a two-year associate’s degree in a related field of study where the greater need is to be expected.

“The Golden LEAF Foundation is pleased to make its first direct grant in rural Lincoln County,” said Dan Gerlach, Golden LEAF President. “This project will not only build the talent, knowledge and skills of our youth but will also help manufacturers, some of our largest private-sector employers, with qualified workers. Lincoln County Schools will use Golden LEAF funds to purchase equipment to focus on preparing a pipeline of workers to fill these good-paying advanced manufacturing jobs in the surrounding area.”

Johnathan Rhyne stated, “Golden LEAF is delighted to partner with the Lincoln County Schools on this most worthy project.  There is nothing more important than developing the skills that our students will need to be successful in the future.”

David Lee with Robert Bosch Tool Corporation and Chairman of the IMA said, “The IMA is pleased to hear the Golden LEAF Foundation has elected to support this collaboration in Lincoln County. This grant will assist in creating the path for today’s students to secure excellent paying jobs locally and to keep manufacturing in the US competitive with global competition.”

“The IMA could not be more excited about the Golden Leaf grant award to Lincoln County.  Their support of our vision to launch a Mechatronics Operator curriculum in our county high school system will result in a work force ready pipeline of advanced manufacturing operators for years to come,” said Michael Geis, VP Logistics with Blum Inc.

“There is an imminent threat of jobs going unfilled in Lincoln County as individuals retire. Over 20% of Lincoln County citizens are employed by the manufacturing sector and it is the sector with the highest level of earnings too. The particular jobs this curriculum addresses are critical to our industries wellbeing. Without the individuals with necessary skills to assume these positions, our industries suffer and Lincoln County loses its competitive edge when trying to recruit new industry,” states Kara Brown with Lincoln Economic Development Association. “This program, with Golden LEAF’s support, is vital to future economic development in Lincoln County.”