The Gaston County Board of Commissioners and Gaston College are working in partnership to transfer $5.3 million in funding for the addition of a new Fiber Innovation Center on the college’s Kimbrell Campus in Belmont, N.C.
The new Fiber Innovation Center (FIC) will be a facility expansion of the Kimbrell Campus and be a resource of the Manufacturing & Textile Innovation Network (MTIN), a partnership between Gaston College’s Textile Technology Center and Catawba Valley Community College’s Manufacturing Solutions Center. The MTIN partnership, announced on December 15, 2020, was formed to develop a regional workforce focused on advanced materials and textile testing development. The collaboration also affords better support to each Center’s clients in the textile and manufacturing industries, expands services to other related industries, and provides opportunities for research and development.
The Fiber Innovation Center will provide a state-of-the-art facility to develop and test advanced fibers for the advanced materials industry for products such as crucial personal protective equipment, smart textiles for the defense sector, and many other proprietary products developed by national and international clients of the MTIN.
The FIC will be the only facility in North America open to industry that will house the entire range of advanced fiber development capabilities where scientists can start with an idea, move to small-scale trials and work up to a commercially viable product ready for production. Through growing local and regional support from the textile industry, the college expects the Kimbrell Campus will become a world-class Fiber Innovation Center.
In addition to providing support for the textile and manufacturing industries, the new Fiber Innovation Center will enable Gaston College to expand its Academic and Industry Training programs. The College will offer a two-year Associate in Applied Science (AAS) degree in Textile Technology and in Cybersecurity, a Career Now program which gives a pathway to the AAS degrees to high school students, participation in the Apprenticeship 321 program that allows Textile Technology Technician students to earn apprenticeship hours with industry and college credits toward their AAS in Textile Technology, STEM courses for traditional college and high school students to earn college credits toward career pathways in textile technology and cybersecurity, and other industry-related educational opportunities.
After the initial design work for the Fiber Innovation Center is completed, the college, with assistance from the state construction office, and approval of the Gaston College Board of Trustees, will engage a contractor for the project. The construction of the project expansion is expected to begin by summer.