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Dean: Elberta Crate going strong

The building blocks are in place for Decatur County to expand its workforce with a program aimed at moving students toward engineering and technology career fields, a speaker at Thursday’s Chamber of Commerce breakfast said.

Also at the breakfast, Tim Dean, operations manager for Elberta Crate and Box Company, said the company has been in business in Bainbridge since 1905, and that it is still going strong.

Dean said Elberta hired 50 new persons last year and looks to hire an additional 15 persons this year, as well as invest more than $100,000 in improves at the company.

The Bainbridge plant manufacturers 17 million crates year, and the local plant provides wire-bound crates to farmers all the way from South Carolina into Florida and west to Texas, Dean said. The company also has a manufacturing plant in North Carolina that produces 8 million crates a year, which serves fresh-produce farmers north up to Rhode Island and to Ohio.

In fact, Elberta Crate and Box Company is the world’s largest wire-bound crate manufacturer in the world.

Georgia Tech program

Hortense Jackson, the project director of Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute, told chamber members about the STEM Workforce Development program, which is designed to increase public interest in and understanding of science, technology, engineering and math.

While members of the Youth Leadership class were attending the breakfast prior to touring local industries, Jackson said Decatur County has a good foundation to improve its workforce.

But her focus is to improve the skills gap that exists between industries that are looking to locate in the state and this area, and the skills of the potential workforce.

The STEM program is individualized to each county and that recommendations are made based on the county’s strengths. For example, she said with the county’s strong agriculture economy, the STEM program would try to help develop students’ interest in becoming engineers or technicians that are tied to agriculture.

To facilitate this, Jackson said the program is taking students on field trips or do other activities that would stimulate their interest in engineering and technology. The students are exposed to a robotics program or STEM takes youngsters who never been out of their county to Atlanta to visit the CNN headquarters.

STEM is also working with teachers to improve the curriculum and to get them excited about teaching science, technology and math.