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May 10, 2012

Triad Visit Gives Bank Leaders Close View of Economy

Richmond Fed officials touring Guilford Technical Community College.

By Jim Strader

Steve Baum had a good life — a job as a golf pro at a country club, a wife and child, a college education. Then came the recession and the luxury business was hit hard, putting him out of work.

"With everything going on, it was extremely hard for a golf pro to find work," Baum said at a roundtable discussion between Guilford Technical Community College students and graduates and representatives of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. “I wanted to go back to school, find a way to work with my hands, but I didn’t know how to do it."

Baum was among a group of about 10 students and former students who talked about their educational experiences with Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker and Sally Green, the Bank's chief operating officer, as they and other Bank officials learned about the workforce development programs Guilford Tech runs in collaboration with employers in North Carolina's Piedmont Triad.


Jeff Lacker, center, and Sally Green talk with students and faculty at Guilford Technical Community College.

The May 8 discussion was part of a regional economic forum the Bank organized as a way to get a first-hand look at economic conditions in this part of the Fifth Federal Reserve District. In addition to discussing workforce development issues, Bank leaders met with executives in the furniture industry, a group of entrepreneurs in the life sciences, toured aviation facilities and visited a nanotechnology research and education center.

Lacker also gave a speech in Greensboro to area business leaders and spoke about the visit in a YouTube video.

Baum, the former golf pro, said he enrolled at Guilford Tech and found work at Machine Specialties Inc., one of the Triad employers that work with the school to help match students and jobs. "I'd gone to college and did what I thought you were supposed to do," Baum said. "But then I got blindsided. I had a mortgage, a wife, a child. It’s interesting how you perceive education when you're young and how you see it when it's life and death."


Richmond Fed officials hear about avionics training at Guilford Technical Community College.

Carmen Jackson was a teacher who lost her job — "When you're the last one in, you're the first one out" – before attending Guilford Tech and finding a new career in welding and construction management. Starting pay as a welder equals what she figures she'd have earned five or six years into a teaching career, she said. In her new job, "I can go worldwide."

Others around the table talked about finding new prospects through the college programs after losing jobs, falling behind the skills needed in their fields or deciding, as one said, that education was the way to a better life.

Regional economic forums, like the visit to the Triad, enhance the Richmond Fed's connection to communities throughout the Fifth District by fostering mutually beneficial relationships and giving Bank leaders the opportunity to tell people about who we are and what we do.

To learn more about workforce development in the Fifth District, view Lacker's Greensboro speech.

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Jim Strader
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