In 2020, The Gadsden Etowah Industrial Development Authority (IDA) added advanced manufacturing as a Targeted Industry. While advanced manufacturing is not an Industrial Sector unto itself, we believed it was integral and essential to our five other targeted industries.
Advanced manufacturing has grown considerably in the past decade to accommodate the growing demand for technology and precision machinery in a variety of different industries. Manufacturing has always been an essential part of Gadsden and Etowah County and remains the second largest employer in the county. Automotive and other manufacturing industries are expected to continue as the largest growing sectors for new employment in the coming years. Gadsden will need a trained and multiskilled workforce to meet these expectations. Luckily, Gadsden has been at the forefront of preparing its workforce for these new and emerging roles. Gadsden State Community College has moved to provide this high-quality training to the East Broad campus in Gadsden. The newly announced Advanced Manufacturing Center (AMC) will create a dedicated space for training education and events surrounding the development of advanced manufacturing in Etowah County. AMC was announced in July of 2022 and, when completed, will lend a 50,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility to house both classrooms and workshop spaces that allow students to gain hands-on experience with advanced manufacturing processes.
Programs like AMC and the Alabama Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (FAME) allow students to gain these skills while working simultaneously, giving them real-life skills and a technical understanding of cutting-edge machinery.
FAME was a predecessor to the AMC and paved the way for a greater focus on advanced manufacturing. FAME is an excellent example of a successful collaboration between Gadsden State, East AlabamaWorks, and industry partners in the area to incorporate both hands-on training in a facility and technical education in the classroom. AMC will join FAME in providing this high-quality education to its students in Gadsden.
With 1,084 students currently enrolled in the workforce development program, creating this new complex and focusing on skill training is expected to increase enrollment in the workforce development program and the college. At an event for the announcement of AMC, Gadsden State Community College President Dr. Kathy Murphy said, "We want to excite students by letting them come into a state-of-the-art building with that modern technology and aesthetic to learn about these trades and be involved." Dean of the workforce development program Alan Smith went on to say, "Based on the feedback from our community partners, we chose to focus on the jobs currently in high demand with high wages for our facility, which includes things such as precision machinery and robotics; however, everything we are adding is removable and (we) have room for expansion in the future if job market needs change over the next few years or in generations to come."
In addition to our local training programs, organizations across Alabama support local industry partners and provide various services related to advanced manufacturing. These organizations work together to create a network that discovers new opportunities for workers and innovation in different industries.
A collection of organizations support this advanced manufacturing network. Alabama Industrial Development Training (AIDT) is one of the premier organizations in Alabama that provides technical training and other services to industrial partners across the state. The Advanced Manufacturing Innovation and Integration Center (AMIIC) has worked with education and industry partners in north Alabama to provide additional training in specialized fields and innovate on methods inside the advanced manufacturing industry.
Another organization focused on advanced manufacturing, specifically in the defense industry, is the Alabama Defense Advanced Manufacturing Community (ADAMC). The ADAMC works with 22 different counties, including Etowah, to support and grow the defense sector in Alabama. The defense industry has always maintained a foothold in Alabama, and with new industrial practices and advanced manufacturing, it will entice further development and new projects in the region.
Advanced manufacturing is constantly changing, and there is always room for improvement. For this reason, programs must be available that assess improvement and innovation opportunities. The Alabama Technology Network (ATN) has a rich history of serving industry partners in the state by providing training and engineering services that keep industries on the cutting edge. Organizations like Made In Alabama and AlabamaWorks administer a program that oversees economic development and technical training over the entire state. These programs support the state and local industry employers with assessment and analysis tools to find different insights and areas of opportunity within their respective sectors.
This vast array of resources allows Gadsden, Alabama, to create a thriving ecosystem that continues to bring innovation and cutting-edge technology into the manufacturing industry.
- Manufacturing is the #2 largest employer in Etowah County
- Gadsden State Community College is constructing a 50,000 square foot facility for advanced manufacturing education that will be complete in 2026
- Gadsden State’s workforce development program has 1,084 students
- 50,000 students graduate high school each year in Alabama
- From 2005-2021, the Alabama Technology Network (ATN) has been a part of over 15,000 new or retained jobs
- ATN has contributed to over 2,500 new or retained jobs in 2021 alone