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By Ken Elkins Charlotte Business Journal

If the Hickory area wants to continue its manufacturing and innovation heritage, leaders have to convince young people to pursue careers in those industries, companies have told its industry seekers.

Scott Millar, president of the Catawba County Economic Development Corp., believes economic development starts with having schools that can attract the county’s future workforce to STEM classes as the population of the Charlotte region grows.

“We want the things that cause that mother to move to Catawba County when she moves to the Charlotte region,” he says. “If we have the most innovative educational initiatives, people will choose Catawba County.”

Millar brought the members of the economic-development agency’s Committee of 100, a leaders steering group, to see the Betabox on Tuesday. 

Betabox: Mobile Prototyping Lab from Betabox on Vimeo.

Millar is speaking outside a Betabox setup at the N.C. Center for Engineering Technologies in Hickory. Within minutes, about a dozen students from the Discovery High School arrive to start manufacturing their own ideas in the shipping-container-sized classroom. 

The box, one of two Betaboxes owned by the Raleigh company, is stuffed with 3D printers, computers, creative materials and a leader who helps students, and even industry, bring their inventions and ideas to life. 

It’s the creation of Sean Newman Maroni, an N.C. State University mechanical engineering graduate who started the company three years ago with a $15,000 National Science Foundation grant.

Inside the Betabox in Hickory this morning, Maroni looks over students’ shoulders as they draw their contraptions on whiteboards



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