On Thursday, Feb. 28, the Guilford County Economic Development Alliance (GCEDA) got out of its same old, same old, dull conference room in Colfax – where it’s met religiously for years – and instead had an active walking and talking tour/meeting to take in the grandeur of the massive facility they see as key to the county’s future – the Guilford Technical Community College (GTCC) Center for Advanced Manufacturing at 6012 W. Gate City Blvd.

That center began operating last fall and, in recent months, more and more programs have come online there.  The visit by GCEDA illustrates a focal point of economic development leaders in Guilford County these days: the immense importance of workforce development when it comes to luring new business to the area.

GTCC spent years – and $35 million – planning, building and developing the Center for Advanced Manufacturing, and now the center expected to help create a workforce of skilled labor needed to support the kind of jobs area leaders want to attract, such as those in aircraft and automobile manufacturing.

GTCC Dean of Industrial, Construction and Transportation Technologies Randy Gunter led the tour and answered questions for the group of elected officials, staff and economic development leaders from Greensboro, High Point and Guilford County – the three local governments that joined together nearly four years ago to form GCEDA.

High Point Economic Development Corp. President Loren Hill, who, along with Greensboro Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Brent Christensen, leads GCEDA’s staff, said on Thursday that GCEDA has gotten a very positive response from the recruitment prospects who’ve seen the facility so far.

“We’ve taken clients and site selection consultants through already and they’re glad to know we have it,” he said.

Hill said that advanced manufacturing, as opposed to traditional manufacturing, generally calls for the use of more modern tools and machinery as well as computer-aided processes.

Hill added that, in some cases, companies work with GTCC to tailor classes at the center to help meet their specific future needs.

“Every client is different,” Hill said.

The center includes about 157,000 square feet of instructional labs, classrooms, offices and shop spaces and it’s equipped with state of the art welding and computer-integrated machining tools.  Long-term plans call for the center to expand to 380,00 square feet of useable space.