In January, Archway Executive Committee member Don Cope and community volunteer David Aft teamed up to interview 10 local business and professional leaders to determine what innovation is currently occurring in the community. At a meeting with their issue work group on February 2, 2011, Don and David gave an exciting review of the interviews they have completed.
David Aft reported at the meeting that the duo’s findings went “far beyond what I expected to find.” While acknowledging the importance of the carpet industry, David noted that Dalton-Whitfield’s real story is its wealth of creativity and applied technologies. He reported, “We could be called the cutting edge manufacturing capital… or the innovation and applied technology capital of the world.”
Below are some of the highlights from the team’s interviews:
• Most wind turbines manufactured in the US are given a protective coating invented here in Dalton and produced locally. The protective sealers increase efficiency and the longevity of generating equipment.
• Dalton is home to a company that designs and builds industrial robotic equipment.
• Dalton-Whitfield is home to a testing laboratory that rivals Underwriters’ Laboratory. This facility connects Dalton to many businesses outside of the floor covering industry.
• The Carpet and Rug Institute has partnered with NASA and key floor covering companies to test and use space age, non-carbon lubricants and fuel additives. NASA has developed several key technologies to improve the functioning of space and extra-planetary equipment including non-hydrocarbon, water based lubrication technologies. These lubricants and special fuel additives are being tested by key local manufacturers. Results to date have demonstrated 10%-20% gains in mechanical efficiency – reducing power use and the economic shelf life of machinery. Fuel additives have shown to reduce wear and increase MPG in diesel engines – extending the life of tested engines while reducing fuel consumption.
• With a water shortage in most of Georgia, Dalton is the envy of the remainder of the state. Forward-thinking leaders have reduced the amount of water needed in carpet production.
• The “state-of-the-art” Dalton Utilities’ OptiLink fiber optics network is built throughout Dalton and is available to all industry, business, and residents.
• Dalton Utilities and Georgia Power have partnered for additional nuclear energy. Georgia’s largest solar panel generating project is under construction on Dalton Utilities’ land application site. This helps to make DU a “living laboratory” for green technology.
• Less publicized green initiatives locally include turning carpet into 2 x 4s and producing energy from waste.
• Technology in the carpet industry has led to more productivity with fewer employees. Don Cope noted at the meeting that this means better paying jobs for those who are willing and able to adapt. Young people can get a good education and find higher paying jobs right here.
• Our education systems have worked together to provide a better workforce. Our local school systems are working with Dalton State College and Georgia Northwestern Technical College and have created a partnership in concert with local industries to produce the necessary technically trained workforce needed into the community. Don Cope noted at the meeting that “[t]he capabilities of a local workforce to think critically, problem solve, and work with the latest in technology will help improve existing industries efficiency and support developing new advanced manufacturing businesses.”
• Hamilton Medical Center is one of the top hospitals in the region and is one of the few with an advanced stroke center. It is one of a select group of hospitals to use the da Vinci Surgical Robotic System. Robotic surgery benefits the patient by allowing smaller incisions, less pain, less blood loss and shorter recovery time. Hamilton’s surgical robot is the only one in the region to feature the latest in high definition 3-D imaging. Hamilton’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit was established in 2010. It is designed to provide the best care for premature, ill, or low birth-weight babies.
The group hopes to use information like the highlights noted above to market the community to outsiders as an innovative place of business. In addition, the group hopes to submit the information to the University System of Georgia for assistance in determining how our current initiatives can be a launching pad for diversification. The group’s goal is to find ways to better our community’s economic status without interfering with or revealing confidential, proprietary information.
Those present at the February 2nd meeting were divided into two-person groups. Each pair was given the assignment of interviewing additional local leaders in order to continue the research needed to complete the project. The duos are:
Carolyn Smith and Wayne Hise; Dustin Coker and Alex Stall; Elyse Cochran and Larry Johnson; David Aft and Don Cope; and Rand Riedrich and Bob Beavers.
The group’s next scheduled meeting has been set for 4 PM on Monday, February 28th in Dalton Utilities’ auditorium. Anyone interested in contributing to this initiative is invited to attend and participate.