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Workforce Forward forum to feature manufacturing trendsetters panel

The Southern Virginia Higher Education Center will be hosting the Workforce Forward 2012 forum on Sept. 20 at The Prizery in South Boston. The theme of the forum is “Virginia Manufacturing: Back to the Future?” 

This event will contain three facilitated panel discussions that will cover three topics: manufacturing trendsetters, emerging manufacturing opportunities and educational trendsetters.   

The panelists of the manufacturing trendsetters panel are manufacturing practitioners who, in spite of national and regional economic challenges, are leading manufacturing organizations that are not just surviving but thriving in their respective market segments, according to Dr. Nettie Simon-Owens, SVHEC director of Workforce Services. 

These panelists include Angela Lewis, president of Lindstrand, USA, Ken Morgan, chairman of Morgan Lumber Company, Inc., and Rita Cox, president of Presto Products Company. 

Leigh Cockram, director of the Southern Virginia Regional Alliance, will facilitate the panel discussion.

By raising awareness of the reemerging manufacturing sector and spotlighting the new educational approaches required to bridge the manufacturing workforce skills gap, Workforce Forward 2012 forum seeks to help Southern Virginia position itself to capitalize on these opportunities. With a panel that has people from different positions and experience, the Workforce Forward 2012 forum will provide an enriching experience for those in attendance.

Panelist Lewis, president of Lindstrand, USA, Inc., headquartered in South Boston, has extensive experience with airships, aerostats and lighter-than-air industries. She has been an integral part of the Lindstrand Group for almost 30 years. 

The company’s mission is “to bring a breath of fresh air to the design and manufacture of lighter-than-air vehicles using new technologies,” Lewis said.

Under Lewis’ leadership, Lindstrand is a 2011 recipient of the Tayloe Murphy Resilience Award for the manufacturing and wholesale sector. Lindstrand is currently working closely with government departments to develop a new range of these dirigibles that will be deployed in countries such as Afghanistan. 

Ken Morgan, another manufacturing trendsetters panelist, is chairman of the board of Morgan Lumber, Inc. 

Morgan Lumber is located in Red Oak and is a manufacturer of southern yellow pine. He has served as the past president of the board of directors of Halifax Regional Health System and presently, serves as a member of the board. Morgan is also the past chairman of the board of Virginia Forest Products Association and past president of the board of the Virginia Forestry Association. Morgan Lumber is a 2010 recipient of the Tayloe Murphy Resilience Award.

Rita Cox is the president of Presto Products, Inc. headquartered in Appleton, Wisconsin. Presto Products is a division of Reynolds Packaging Company. Presto Products’ South Boston facility is included in her responsibilities. Before obtaining her current position, she was vice president of manufacturing and was highly instrumental in implementing lean manufacturing principles to establish a competitive advantage.

Panel facilitator Leigh Cockram, director of the Southern Virginia Regional Alliance, lives in Collinsville. The Southern Virginia Regional Alliance is the state's newest regional economic development organization and is a marketing partnership between Halifax, Henry, Patrick and Pittsylvania counties and the cities of Martinsville and Danville. Cockram’s responsibilities include developing marketing materials, such as brochures and print mail items; establishing the office; promoting the region through traveling, hosting consultants and other efforts; and other things geared to creating jobs.

The Workforce Forward 2012 forum is sponsored by American National Bank, Mid-Atlantic Broadband Cooperative, American Wood Finishing Institute (AWFI) located at Riverstone Technology Park, First Piedmont/Davenport Energy and the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Revitalization Commission. 

For more information on all of the panelists, go to http://www.svhec.org/index.php/speakers or contact Dr. Nettie Simon-Owens, SVHEC director of Workforce Services, at 434-572-5477. The early bird registration rate of $40 per person ends Aug. 31. 

“This is “a don’t miss” event that will greatly impact Southern Virginia so make sure to sign up today,” Simon-Owens said.