know edgeNC MFGCON 2024 Recap: Insights, Opportunities, and Growth for Manufacturing Industry

William McKee

The North Carolina Manufacturing Conference (NC MFGCON) 2024, held from May 13-14 in Durham, NC, marked its ninth year with a significant milestone: the largest attendance to date, drawing nearly 450 manufacturing professionals and industry leaders. As the state's premier manufacturing event, NC MFGCON continues to be a powerful platform for networking, knowledge sharing, and showcasing the latest advancements in manufacturing.

During the event, we engaged in meaningful interactions that opened doors for potential partnerships, client referrals, and the exchange of valuable resources—benefiting our manufacturing and industrial clients significantly. Moreover, we explored opportunities to leverage state and federal grant funds, enhancing our capacity to support business growth and innovation.

Event Overview

Background and Growth

In its nine years, NC MFGCON has grown from a small gathering of enthusiasts to a major event on the manufacturing calendar. This year’s conference was particularly notable not just for its size, but for the diverse array of exhibitors, insightful sessions, and valuable networking opportunities it offered.

Attendee and Exhibitor Highlights

With approximately 450 attendees, the 2024 event saw representation from a wide array of sectors within the manufacturing industry. Among the 50 exhibitors, there were automation solutions, software systems, AI solutions, marketing agencies, CPAs, ERP and IT solutions, audiovisual integrators, security, and more.

These exhibitors showcased innovative solutions and services tailored to the unique needs of manufacturers, fostering connections and sparking conversations that could lead to future collaborations.

Key Takeaways

Industry Challenges

Conversations with various industry professionals highlighted ongoing challenges within the manufacturing sector:

  • Labor Shortage and Automation: The shortage of skilled labor continues to drive the need for automation solutions.
  • Changing Regulations: Adapting to evolving regulations remains a critical concern for manufacturers.
  • Near-shoring: The trend towards near-shoring is gaining momentum as companies seek to mitigate supply chain risks by moving production closer to home for efficiency and control.
  • Digital Transformation: The shift towards electronic records, custom software, and AI is accelerating, helping to speed up the time from order to delivery.
  • Sales and Business Development: Effective sales and business development strategies are crucial for navigating the competitive landscape.

Key Interactions and Meetings

The event was an incredible opportunity to engage with various manufacturers, service providers, and government agencies that support US manufacturing. See below for services and funding available for eligible businesses.

We had valuable discussions with various industry representatives, highlighting key areas such as the importance of marketing, challenges in dealer network marketing, interest in potential partnerships, the need for CRM or ERP systems, and scheduling future meetings.

The Role of the NC Manufacturing Extension Program (NCMEP)

During the 2-day event, we met many members of the NC Manufacturing Extension Program (NCMEP) and learned about the role it plays in supporting the growth and sustainability of manufacturers across North Carolina. As a collaborative network of partners, NCMEP leverages a wide array of resources and expertise to deliver comprehensive services tailored to the specific needs of manufacturers.

The program's strength lies in its robust partnership network, which includes industry stakeholders, academic institutions, and government entities. Key partners such as North Carolina State University Industry Expansion Solutions, the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina (EDPNC), The Polymers Center, the Manufacturing Solutions Center, and the North Carolina Community College System bring specialized knowledge and resources, amplifying NCMEP's impact on the manufacturing sector.

Opportunities for Manufacturers

Manufacturers can tap into a wealth of opportunities through the NCMEP and its extensive network. By leveraging the expertise and resources offered by partners such as academic institutions and economic development organizations, companies can enhance their competitiveness and drive innovation. Access to specialized knowledge in areas like automation, digital transformation, and regulatory compliance can help manufacturers overcome industry challenges and streamline their operations. Moreover, opportunities for collaboration and strategic partnerships facilitated by events like NC MFGCON provide manufacturers with avenues for growth, business development, and the exploration of new markets.

Economic Development Partnership

The Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina (EDPNC) offers the State Trade Expansion Program (STEP), also known as the N.C. Passport to Export, which provides grants to small businesses to enhance their global export capabilities. This program supports activities such as participation in foreign trade shows, marketing material development, and entry into new international markets. It prioritizes small businesses, including those owned by women, minorities, and veterans, particularly in rural areas. Funded in part by the U.S. Small Business Administration, this initiative is part of a national effort to increase exports and grow local businesses globally​ (NC Commerce)​​.

Southeastern Trade Adjustment Assistance Center

The SETAAC program, part of the Trade Adjustment Assistance for Firms (TAAF), aids U.S. manufacturers impacted by imports by providing federal matching funds up to $75,000 for projects enhancing global competitiveness. Administered by centers like the Southeastern Trade Adjustment Assistance Center at Georgia Tech, it supports initiatives in marketing, process improvement, and technology adoption. Eligible companies must show declines in sales and employment due to increased imports, with the aim of regaining competitiveness and offsetting import competition effects. For more detailed information on the SETAAC program and how to apply, you can visit their official website or contact them directly to see if your firm qualifies for assistance and begin the application process​ (SE Trade Adjustment)​​.

Consultative Services from NC Department of Labor

The North Carolina Department of Labor's Consultative Services Bureau provides a free health and safety survey program that targets both private and public sector employers, focusing particularly on small businesses and those in high-hazard industries. This comprehensive service includes on-site evaluations, recommendations for improvements, and assessments of existing safety programs to help businesses adhere to safety regulations and develop effective management systems. Offered services include technical assistance, ergonomic evaluations, air sampling, and noise measurements. The Bureau ensures confidentiality by not sharing consultation records with enforcement staff. Employers interested in enhancing workplace safety can contact the Bureau through their website or phone for more information or to request a consultation​ (NC Department of Labor)​​.


For our team, the NC MFGCON 2024 was a resounding success, offering valuable insights, fostering connections, and highlighting the dynamic nature of the manufacturing industry. For manufacturers and businesses in the industrial sector, events like these are essential for staying ahead of trends, learning from peers, and discovering innovative solutions to common challenges.

As we look forward to the next edition of NC MFGCON, we are excited about the potential collaborations and opportunities that lie ahead. If you attended the conference or are interested in learning more about how we can support your manufacturing business, don't hesitate to reach out. Let's continue the conversation and explore how we can work together to drive the industry forward.

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William McKee

As a managing partner of Knowmad, William creates sustainable growth for the agency by leading its future vision, driving new revenue, and empowering team member productivity and well-being.


NC MFGCON 2024 Recap: Insights, Opportunities, and Growth for Manufacturing Industry

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