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Gowdy Statement: Hearing on "Reviving Our Economy: The Role of Higher Education in Job Growth and Development"
As prepared for delivery.

Thank you to Clemson University’s I-CAR for hosting this Higher Education Subcommittee field hearing in the 4th District of South Carolina today. I-CAR is a solid model of how partnerships between institutions of higher education and the community they serve can spark tremendous job growth and economic development. I-CAR has generated nearly $250 million in new investments, with another $500 million currently in development, and has announced the creation of more than 2,300 new high wage jobs.

And finally, thank you to our distinguished panel of witnesses. I look forward to hearing your insights.

The Fourth District has seen a distinctive shift in the economic drivers at play in our area - now boasting one of the largest concentrations of high-skilled manufacturing in the country, with almost 20% of employees in the District working in the manufacturing industry and more than 140 auto-related companies calling our area home. Milliken, a specialty chemical and fabrics company located in Spartanburg, holds over 2200 patents and is also the home to the largest textile research center in the world. The region is also one of the top five metros in the world for engineering talent per capita. The location of industry leaders in the Upstate such as BMW, GE, Michelin and Lockheed Martin presents wonderful employment opportunities to workers in our District - but with those opportunities also come requirements of targeted training and high-level experience.

As employers’ needs have changed, so have the offerings of the institutions of higher learning in our district. Employers are working with our area technical schools to engage in curriculum planning and matriculation – employers like Jason Premo, co-owner of ADEX Machining. I recently visited ADEX, a company that produces parts for the aerospace, defense and energy-power generation industries. Jason told me how he utilized South Carolina’s apprenticeship system and worked with Greenville Tech’s established machine tool technology program to cultivate workers with the high-level skills necessary to operate ADEX’s precision machining. Because of their effective use of resources, ADEX was chosen to participate in Boeing’s competitive mentor-protégé program, a partnership that will potentially allow ADEX to serve as a certified supplier to Boeing.

It is this sort of leveraging that has enabled the Upstate’s economy to respond to changing economic demands and become a hub of domestic and international business development and technological innovation.

The many technical schools, colleges and universities in the 4th District serve a myriad of interest. But their reach extends beyond just high school graduates.  Spartanburg Community College just received a large grant from the TIMKEN Foundation allowing them to purchase robotic tool kits and pilot a program in which engineers and college faculty will introduce elementary and middle school students in Cherokee County, part of Congressman Mick Mulvaney’s district, to robotics.  

USC Union offers a concurrent degree program for students from Union County High School and other area high schools to enroll for college credit, beginning in their junior year. Through their program, students can graduate from high school with 24 hours of college credit. In a state with a 59% high school graduation rate, it is essential to engage students early and educate them on the opportunities available after their high school careers. By increasing the number of students seeking higher education, we can begin the process of decreasing our unacceptable 10% unemployment rate.

We are here today to examine the successful relationships between higher ed and business and industry partners that have fueled job creation, with the hope of furthering these efforts and expanding their influence. The 4th Congressional District has the depth and breadth of resources to be not only a statewide or regional leader, but a national leader in economic development and job growth, and I hope to work with each of our witnesses today in this endeavor.

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