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MSC a major resource

February 21, 2012

In the late 1990s, Twin City Knitting needed a pick-me-up.

Twin City President Fran Davis says when manufacturing jobs and production started transferring to China and other countries, the company needed help launching new products and working out the kinks in some of its existing products.

It resourced the Hosiery Technology Center, something now widely known as the Manufacturing Solutions Center (MSC)

“The technical center saved our banana,” Davis said.

Now, after surviving the area’s great manufacturing lull and a recent pick-up in business, Twin City Knitting is celebrating its 50th year of business.

Davis was one of the many manufacturers on hand Tuesday to celebrate the groundbreaking of the new MSC location at Conover Station.

“What they are bringing are customers, resources — things that create jobs,” Davis said. “I know that’s what y’all want to hear, but that’s what they are bringing.”

The MSC helps companies around the world address issues, problems and concerns with their different products. Lab technicians use state-of-the-art technology to test, develop and make recommendations for products that usually go to market.

It was once a testing lab specifically designed for the hosiery and textile industry, but the MSC has since expanded to work with plastics, metals and paper.

From 2001-09, the MSC helped create or save 1,034 jobs, while having an economic impact of about $105,213,995.

The center helps a host of companies in 46 states and around the world, but also assists companies locally in Hickory, Monroe, Conover, Ashe County, Monroe and Clayton.

“It’s a huge resource to us, and other companies around the state and country,” Davis said.

The MSC is currently located at Catawba Valley Community College’s East Campus, but it will relocate to a planned 30,000-square-foot building in Conover Station.

The larger building will give MSC’s 25 full- and part-time employees more space, said Dan St. Louis, MSC’s executive director.

“I can’t say enough about our employees,” St. Louis said. “They all come out of manufacturing and understand when there’s a problem, you have to get it solved.”

Monica Wise is one of those workers.

Wise, a testing lab technician, said the new center will bring more opportunities to solve problems efficiently.

“A manufacturer will come in and say, ‘We have this problem and we don’t know how to fix it,’” she said. “We work to find the root of the problem and find out how to help them solve it, too.”

She and other technicians at MSC utilize several different types of testing to identify the cause of an issue. Like most of the MSC workers, she has a background in manufacturing.

“The new center will be bigger so we can hopefully have more people,” she said.

“Right now, there is testing equipment also that we don’t have space for.”

According to City Manager Donald Duncan, Conover plans to lease the new MSC building to CVCC. The college will provide the space for MSC.

The city is financing the project mostly through about $2.5 million in grants from the U.S. and N.C. departments of commerce. The lowest bid for the building is about $2.7 million, according to the city.

For more information on the MSC, visit manufacturingsolutionscenter.org or conoverstation.com.

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