Asheville is Creating Opportunities

Technology drives manufacturing growth in Asheville.

By
Bill Lewis
On Friday, June 26, 2020 - 04:09
asheville

Tech-driven manufacturers are investing in the Asheville region, creating career opportunities for new and current employees. They’re also diversifying the economy, making products ranging from satellite antennas and automotive components to jet engine parts and air-handling units.

Haakon Industries, a world leader in custom air-handling units for large institutional construction projects, chose Asheville as the location of a manufacturing plant to serve customers throughout the country.

GE Aviation expanded capacity at its Asheville production facility to meet growing demand for components that are a key part of revolutionary new aircraft engines.

AvL Technologies, a producer of innovative satellite communications antennas and positioners, has steadily expanded its Asheville headquarters.

Reich LLC, a leading international manufacturer of turned parts, ball bearings, components for fuel injection systems and other automotive parts, is growing in Arden.

asheville
GE Aviation

Deep Pool of Talent

Haakon was attracted by the deep pool of skilled workers in the Asheville region.

The company announced an investment of almost $20 million in its new facility and expects to create up to 160 jobs during the initial five years of operations. The plant is located at Enka Commerce Park, next to Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College (A-B Tech), which has a workforce training partnership with Haakon.

GE Aviation has invested more than $231 million at its Asheville operations to meet demand for ceramic matrix composite (CMC) aircraft engine components. There now are more than 700 GE Aviation employees working in Asheville.

“Asheville’s highly skilled workforce is leading the pack. Our workforce has talent, and not just talent, but the right talent – people who are trained for and committed to building the future. Small enough to be personable, yet big enough to have all the amenities you want, Asheville’s a great place to call home. It’s quickly becoming one of our most desirable GE Aviation sites out of 90 diverse locations around the world,” says Allie Nash, GE Aviation’s lead business communications specialist.

The company has a workforce training agreement with A-B Tech, which has trained more than 280 new GE Aviation CMC employees since 2014.

GE Aviation’s high school apprentice program has trained more than 70 apprentices. Three out of four apprentices who launched their career at GE Aviation in Asheville are still there. Many have gone on to become engineers or take advantage of continuing education opportunities funded by GE.

“People are the fuel that powers our business. Our highly skilled workforce is critical to helping GE Aviation remain competitive domestically and globally. As the speed of change in manufacturing continues to accelerate, developing and investing in our team allows us to keep pace. We’re growing Asheville careers at every step along the way,” Nash says.

The CMC components made in Asheville improve jet engine efficiency, saving airlines millions of dollars in annual fuel costs.

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AvL Technologies

High-Value Jobs

Reich LLC established North American operations in the Arden-Asheville area to be close to its customers. The location has helped the company weather the ups and downs of its industry.

“We are growing again and have a workforce of approximately 125,” says Plant Manager Marco Straub.

Satellite antenna manufacturer AvL Technologies began in 1994 with one employee, founder Jim Oliver. The company now has 300 employees.

“Jim Oliver chose Asheville for the company because he loves Asheville and western North Carolina. He wanted to found and grow the company here and bring good jobs to the area by doing so,” says Krystal Dredge, the company’s marketing director.

AvL has shipped more than 30,000 antennas globally, and most are still in use today. The company can produce more than 100 antennas per week. With corporate headquarters in Asheville and a regional office located in the United Kingdom, AvL supports customers around the world.

“AvL’s very first antenna, a 1.8-meter antenna with serial No. 001, is still in operation today on a satellite news gathering truck in California. The antenna is now on its third truck as it has outworked and outlasted the first two trucks,” Dredge says.

If you'd like to learn more about the Asheville area, check out the latest edition of Livability: Asheville, NC

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bill Lewis is an award-winning business journalist whose work has appeared in publications across the United States.