SEABROOK SAYS: Here is a refreshing look at Small Business in Gaston County. You should be pleased to conclude that small business is good for the owners and good for the community. We would all do well to support our small business. NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO?
In Gaston County’s industrial heyday, textile manufacturing was KING. A strong, supporting industry was metal working and machine shops. These locally-owned shops machined and provided replacement parts for all types of production equipment. From replacement shafts, collars, bearing housings, spindles, motor mounts, etc., the textile mills relied on this group of small businesses to keep their machinery running so they could meet their customers shipping requirements. This group of shop owners and their employees also provided an avenue for the design, development, and manufacture of new parts and equipment as technologies evolved.
In the early to mid-1980’s, textiles started migrating out of Gaston County and the USA. As the textile customers left, our community of small business owners were left with little or no business. However through ingenuity, the will to continue providing jobs while meeting customer needs, and by embracing the newest in technologies many shops were creative and sought business in other sectors of the economy. Industrial machinery manufacturing, metalworking machinery manufacturing, engines, turbines, power transmission equipment manufacturing, general purpose machinery manufacturing, and motor vehicle parts manufacturing were all potential replacements for the lost textile business. An English language proverb “Necessity is the Mother of Invention” is certainly apropos for the county’s machine shops.
What is the Impact of Small Business on Gaston County?
The Small Business Administration has indicated that businesses with fewer than 500 employees can be considered a small business. Certainly there are quite a few small businesses in the county. In fact, the most recent Gaston County Business Statistics indicate there are 2,980 small business firms employing 29,923 with an annual payroll of $987.8 Million with an estimated revenue of $4.97 Billion. Of these 2,980 small businesses, there are 49 machine shops in Gaston County employing 3,108 individuals. As these 49 shops grow and find new segments to provide products and services for, you may ask what is being done to support this growth.
What is being done in Gaston County?
Recognizing the importance of manufacturing as a crucial component to the growth of the region, both local and regional economic planners have identified advanced manufacturing as a key sector to target. Also, the renovation of Gaston College’s PTI building and the construction of a Center for Advanced Manufacturing (CAM) have received strong financial support from local, state, and federal funders. Gaston County has allocated $3.3 million in county bond funding. The Golden LEAF Foundation has contributed $500,000 towards the renovation of the PTI building and the United States Economic Development Administration has preliminarily allocated $1.5 million in support of the project.
Combined, these two projects will offer training in Computer Integrated Machining and a second Computer Numerical Control (CNC) lab as well as a Center for Advanced Welding to include orbital and plasma arc welding. The CAM will house many of the more advanced or technology-rich industrial training programs the college offers. In addition to meeting rooms, offices, and classrooms, designated laboratory/ training spaces will include: Advanced Manufacturing (cross-training and demonstration lab), Mechatronics, Robotics, Computer-Aided Design (CAD), Specialized Processing (Chemicals and Plastics), Industrial Instrumentation, Nuclear Technologies, Alternative Energy (a photovoltaic array and geothermal heating/cooling system will be incorporated into CAM.) Once these two projects are completed, Gaston County and its base of small businesses, particularly the machine shops, will be in a better position to meet the growing and diverse needs of business and industry.
What can you do?
Continue to support our local business owners by buying their products and services and referring your friends, business associates, and neighbors to also support our local small businesses. But, do not stop there! Encourage the existing small business owners to look at alternative avenues of revenue that may enhance their existing products and services, or, in some cases, may totally help the small business owner set a new course to a more profitable business that will hire even more of our citizens.
Director of Gaston College’s Small Business Center