Virginia Governor Ralph Northam joined Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson and his Arkansas contingency of state officials and business leaders as they toured the precision machining workforce program at the IALR. Business leaders in Arkansas have identified the partnership between Danville Community College, the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research and K-12 public schools in the region as a Gold Standard Workforce Development Model.

Governor Hutchinson and his delegation later toured George Washington High School and Danville Community College, as well as the Regional Center for Advanced Technology and Training. Local leaders joined both Governors and their delegation for discussion of the key aspects of the workforce program that attracted the contingency to the region. 

Troy Simpson, Director of Advanced Manufacturing at Danville Community College explained that the 3rd year capstone high precision manufacturing program is the first of its type in the USA. The industry led program replicates a real world advanced manufacturing factory where it develops future manufacturing leaders.

The program has 100% job placement for students who can earn two degrees and nine national certifications. In conjunction with the program Simpson and cohorts have developed a metrology (dimensional inspection) program and became the first college in the US to award American Society of Quality national certifications to graduates. 

Governor Northam addressed the critical nature of manufacturing and commended the Dan River Region’s precision machining program for bringing needed skills to jobs. The governors join the ranks of media representatives from national journals who have toured the center as well as business prospects from across the nation, industrial trainees from thirteen states, and companies from Canada, Japan, and Europe. 

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (left) and Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson (right) toured the Gene Haas Center and met with industry leaders.

On March 7th, the Southern Piedmont Technology Council’s Innovation STARS Awards Banquet partnered with the two day Southern Virginia STEM-H Summit at IALR to promote the extraordinary achievements of our region’s educational and industrial leaders. An address by NASA astronaut Leland Melvin punctuated both events.

A former wide receiver for the Detroit Lions, Leland Melvin is an engineer and NASA astronaut who helped build part of the International Space Station, worked at NASA Langley Research and as head of NASA Education, and helped develop the nation’s 5-year STEM education plan.  Melvin was also on the recent TV series Child Genius and BattleBots.

The STEM-H Summit began the festivities with approximately 360 students and educators participating from 8 school districts and 4 private schools. The 13 student workshops were pre-selected to maximize exposure for a student exploring interest in a particular STEM-H field, while the 17 educators’ workshops introduced useful STEM-H tools to take back to their classrooms. On the first day, the students’ exploratory sessions covered fields from coding to nursing to drones to engineering and more, while educators were treated to two panel discussions and workshops in robotics, nurse simulations, avatars and others on the second day. 

With 200 of the area’s most influential in attendance for Wednesday evening’s Awards Banquet, SPTC recognized the Tech Council’s 20 years of advocating the importance of investing in technological fields in both the public and private sectors to meet the adapting demands of economic development in the region.

The Innovation STARS Awards highlighted area industries who go above and beyond to promote the Southern Piedmont Technology Council’s mission to advance technology in the region. The Southern Virginia STEM-H Education & Industry Achievement Awards highlighted innovation and dedication to STEM-H education in our region.

Congratulations to all the educational and industrial Innovation STARS Award and STEM-H Education & Industry Achievement Award winners! Their work is inspiring and motivating the next generation.

left to right: Jill Collins, Tommie Evans, Jacob Taylor, Joan Hendrix (STEM-H Educator of the Year Award Recipient), Ashley Cox, Joel Bunn (Community Champion for STEM-H Education Award Recipient), Phyllis Meade (Innovative STEM-H Program of the Year for Henry County Public Schools STEM Program)

left to right: Anthony Putorek (Microsoft Data Center), Edison Hudson (Panaceutics), Leland Melvin, Samantha Smith-Herndon (Institute for Advanced Learning and Research), Anna Crawley (Noblis), and Troy Simpson (Danville Community College)

February 26th‘s reception kicked off the two-day Industrial Hemp Summit at the IALR with more than 150 people attending from at least 10 states and several foreign countries.

Tuesday’s session featured classes and discussions on the uses for hemp from clothing, automobile panels, building materials, to food or animal feed. Jason Amatucci, founder of Virginia Industrial Hemp Coalition in Nellysford, said chickens fed hemp produce better quality eggs, cost less and reduce the need for antibiotics.

Hosted by IALR, Halifax County Agricultural Development, and sponsored by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the event explored the potential for the heavily-regulated agricultural commodity that many look to as a replacement for the downsized tobacco markets.

The entrepreneurial summit focused on assessing potential opportunities for developing the United States’ industrial hemp industry, with a specific focus on building the supply chain for this emerging industry and developing markets for industrial hemp fiber and food. 

The summit also highlighted current innovation in the industry, as well as exploring solutions for resolving resource and infrastructure needs to move the industry forward and the legislative and regulatory changes that are needed to allow the hemp industry to flourish.




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