Charlotte-based Snyder’s-Lance is finishing a $73 million upgrade to its advanced manufacturing, and thanks to a state grant, the company is retraining about 160 workers at Central Piedmont Community College.
The company and the college discussed their arrangement Tuesday at CPCC’s Advanced Technology Center. The N.C. Department of Commerce gave Snyder’s-Lance a grant of $201,124 to pay for the retraining.
The program will run through December 2015 and includes training in the advanced electrical, mechanical and robotic systems that Snyder’s-Lance has at its South Boulevard plant.
“They’re going through a very comprehensive training project,” said Snyder’s-Lance CEO Carl Lee Jr. “We’ve got to step up. The technology is state-of-the-art. It really requires a different kind of comprehension.”
The company is making Cape Cod chips and its Lance snack crackers at the new plant, Lee said. The new technology includes upgrades to every part of the production line, with new kettles, automated packaging and five robotic machines to put snacks on pallets. Lee said the upgrades are about three-quarters complete.
Lonnie Fairwell, 60, is an electrician with Snyder’s-Lance who is taking the training. Asked how much new technology has changed his job has changed over his career, Fairwell said, “Wow, a lot.”
“A lot of us really enjoy this,” he said of the curriculum. “It’s going to help us all.”
CPCC officials are pushing for $210 million worth of bonds to expand, and they said the bonds would allow them to offer more advanced manufacturing training.
In recent decades, North Carolina has seen the wide-scale closure of textile mills and furniture companies, once mainstays of the middle class manufacturing economy. But the region can benefit now from more advanced manufacturing jobs going forward, said Chris Paynter, dean of CPCC’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Futures Institute
“This is light years ahead of textiles,” he said.
Portillo: 704-358-5041; Twitter: @ESPortillo
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