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Fenner Dunlop Advanced R&D Facility and CART at BSC Work Together for Economic Development (w/photo)

  • Created
    Tuesday, May 05 2009
  • Created by
    Jim Nelson/Media Relations - (304) 327-4103


Marketing leader Fenner Dunlop Americas understands that education-led economic development is a powerful thing. In April 2008 they signed a contract with the Center for Applied Research and Technology, Inc., (CART) at Bluefield State College in West Virginia. Geographically, Bluefield, WV and VA, provides an excellent access point to the active coal mining industry in the region, many of whom are Fenner Dunlop customers.  The synergies that exist here provide an obvious advantage to research and development.

“Divisional Director, David Hurd, and I decided we needed an electronic base to develop one of the systems we had,” explained Mick Twigger, Senior Electrical Engineer with Fenner Dunlop. “I talked to Bruce Mutter, CEO and Chair of CART, and then to Jim Spencer, Tazewell County, Virginia, Administrator, who directed us to the Bluestone
Business and Technology Center.”

“The College, CART, and Fenner Dunlop have always enjoyed close working relationships with the coal industry,” said Bruce Mutter. “So it was only natural we should meet Mick through one of our graduates, Mark Myers, and form this deeper partnership.” Myers, currently a Systems Development Engineer with Fenner Dunlop, was hired several years ago by Mick when he observed his work ethic and skills as an intern on another project. Fenner Dunlop recognizes the importance of practical experience and the use of technical knowledge gained by a 4-year degree in a real world environment. The original intent of the partnership was to provide a place for applied research and technology development, education and student training while encouraging entrepreneurial enthusiasm. Fenner Dunlop assigned one Senior intern project — build a working scale model conveyor for MINExpo 2008 in Las Vegas, NV — demonstrating the benefit of the partnership with CART.

For business to be successful there must be a talented workforce that can adapt to meet not only current but anticipated demands of industry. In today’s workforce, mini-careers are common as are those who want to transition from a related industry into this field.  James Craig, Brett Butler, and Elizabeth Hawkins graduate respectively in 2009, 2010, and 2009. Craig, already a licensed electrician and Butler have both assisted with CAD drawing documentation. Hawkins also worked on Fenner Dunlop drawings during the fall semester. “These students have the initial start on several aspects of Engineering,” Twigger said. “With a one-on-one relationship with either Mark Myers or me, they are taught skills from the technical world that will be required to apply themselves in the real world of Industrial Engineering.”

“Fenner Dunlop could be doing research anywhere in the world and be associated with a larger university,” said Jim Spencer. However, for several reasons they chose a rural community. First and foremost, this community of 42,000 has a built-in knowledge base.  Second, human capital is supported by a solid infrastructure. Tazewell County operates a business incubator and serves as a conduit for information between business and support services to find expansion capital and training sources. Third is the affordability of the region.

“CART contracts with companies and agencies for applied research solutions in fields such as mining, architectural, civil, electrical, mechanical, and computer science,” Mutter added. “Interns gain valuable experience and do receive course credits and have been paid as they develop invaluable experience. One of the advantages of our small college is that this process works rather seamlessly.” Fenner Dunlop Americas recommends to suitable students that they apply for jobs with them that will be made available as the market improves and expands. Because they are already trained they will be in an excellent position to be hired although they must also obtain all the qualifications required by any particular position. Mutter stressed, “It is essential for students to rely on lessons learned in class or lab for application at the Fenner Dunlop R&D facility. Working in a real-world setting also teaches safety skills and builds confidence; indispensable traits for an Engineering Technology graduate.”

Fenner Dunlop Americas’ three core company principles are demonstrated daily in this region. Research and development provides for excellence in product quality and customer service. Membership in Bluefield Chamber of Commerce, involvement with Friends of Coal and the Eastern Coal Council, as well as local charitable giving, confirms
their loyalty to and support of community. Also, locating R&D facilities in a nontraditional area shows Fenner Dunlop’s firm commitment to the entire workforce wherever it may be found.

The Bluefield site will grow to become a production site for the belt monitoring systems and R&D will spread its scope of work to include new belt condition systems, belt weighing systems , and more. “Our partnership with Bluefield State College and CART has given Fenner Dunlop the opportunity to accelerate the research and development of important technology soon to be available to the mining industry,” states Twigger.  “We are ideally positioned to contribute to the education of our future mining engineers while offering our customers the safest, most reliable electronic systems in the industry.”