Statewide manufacturing competition recognizes “Coolest Thing Made in NC”

RALEIGH — Despite a multitude of economic setbacks this year due to the coronavirus, North Carolina’s manufacturing sector continues to play a major role in the state’s overall prosperity and its competitive advantage. Two weeks ago, Gov. Roy Cooper officially opened Manufacturing Week across North Carolina. According to the North Carolina Department of Commerce, the state has the seventh largest manufacturing economy in the United States with manufacturers contributing $100.1 billion to local GDP. Their figures show that for every $1.00 spent in manufacturing, $1.82 is generated for the economy. In 2019, this sector generated over 9,600 new jobs with investments totaling around $3.58 billion, and as many as 69% of economic development projects were related to manufacturing.

Although the state’s furniture manufacturers have certainly seen jobs move offshore due to increasing globalization and international trade, the state continues to produce a wide range of goods including pharmaceuticals, aircraft and automotive components, chemicals, and transportation equipment. In response to COVID-19, the industry has spent the better part of the last year producing and donating Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and testing kits, and biomanufacturers have provided resources, research and development treatments, and detection tools to combat the pandemic.

As a result, the NC Chamber launched a new competition this year called the “Coolest Thing Made in NC” contest. Old Dominion Freight Line, Inc. of Thomasville partnered with the Chamber and the North Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NCMEP) to present the competition to celebrate the manufacturing sector’s impact and innovation. Old Dominion’s Senior VP of Sales, Greg Plemmons says they had the idea because as a less-than-truckload carrier, they see many unique and innovative products shipped on their trucks every day.

The Chamber initially received entries from over 70 nominees and invited the public to cast its votes through social media and online. The range of these homegrown businesses hail from locations across the state making everything from barbeque sauce, to T-shirts, to Clorox toilet wands, to Bojangles Spicy Cajun Fried Chicken. After two rounds of voting and 50,000 votes the top four finalists were Greensboro’s HondaJet Elite, Nashville’s George’s BBQ Sauce, Sanford’s Cat® 299D3 XE Compact Track Loader (CTL), and High Point’s Thomas Built Buses Saf-T-Liner® C2 Jouley™ Electric Bus. On October 2nd, Thomas Built Buses was crowned this year’s winner. Jackie Abou-Rizk who heads up the environmental department at Thomas Built Buses nominated the Saf-T-Liner C2 Jouley all electric bus to the contest.

As we always say at the NC Chamber: what’s made in North Carolina makes North Carolina.”
NC Chamber President and CEO Gary Salamido

The new C2 Jouley is emissions-free, noise pollution-free, and fossil fuel-free making it ideal for in-town routes. It is the result of a joint commitment between TBB and Daimler Trucks North America to providing sustainable transportation solutions. Thomas Built Buses is a subsidiary of Daimler Trucks North America, a Daimler company. The bus includes specialized battery packaging for increased safety, can reach speeds of up to 65 mph and has an operating range of up to 135 miles. It charges in 2-3 hours at a Daimler charging station.

Founded in 1916 and headquartered in High Point, and all painted the iconic “National School Bus Glossy Yellow,” Thomas Built Buses are a well-known sight to teachers, parents and students across the nation. Since the first Thomas Built bus rolled off the assembly line, the company has been focused on delivering the smartest and most innovative buses it can come up with.

Mario DiFoggio, Manager of Direct Sales and Marketing for Thomas Built Buses says one of the best parts of the Coolest Thing Made in NC contest was seeing how broad the manufacturing base is in North Carolina. “It is quite eye opening to see everything from pickles to jets and electric school buses. It is quite an honor to have won this contest amid some very worthy competitors. North Carolina really does make some of the coolest products and we are proud to have called North Carolina our home for over 100 years.”

Chamber President and CEO Gary Salamido says the contest made clear that North Carolinians understand the significance of the state’s manufacturing community. “As we always say at the NC Chamber: what’s made in North Carolina makes North Carolina. When our lives were brought to a near standstill by COVID-19, manufacturers heroically and swiftly pivoted to produce the personal protective equipment needed to keep our state’s people and businesses healthy. We are grateful to the entire manufacturing community – the backbone of our state’s economy for more than a century,” Salamido adds.