Energy conference confirms Charlotte's jobs progress

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) – Friday's Energy Inc. conference was packed - at least twice as many people came this year than last. It's a fairly new affair, but now firmly annual as the movement to transform Charlotte into the nation's energy capital gains steam.

"This conference with major leaders coming in from Washington, major CEOs coming in representing companies here in Charlotte, it recognizes that's really gelled," says Jeff Merrifield, senior vice president of Shaw's Power Group.

He says the movement means jobs.

"You have some large companies that are already here," Merrifield says. "Duke, Siemens, Shaw, Areva, and others. Other companies are recognizing that they want to be part of it.  They recognize that if you want to do energy deals Charlotte is a great place to do it.  And so every month we seem to see new companies that decide to make Charlotte their home."

Training people locally to work for them is a key part of the plan.  And at the conference, a company called Areva said it would help by donating $2 million to UNCC's new Energy Production and Infrastructure Center.

"EPIC is a brand new program with a brand new building," says UNCC Chancellor Philip Dubois. "In fact we just took occupancy of it this week. But we will be launching that curriculum in the fall."

Areva is based in Maryland, but it has about 600 employees working in our region on clean-energy products.

"This gets the best students and best faculty together to support the workforce needs of this growing industry in the Charlotte area," Dubois says.

Johnson C. Smith University's Dean of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Magdy Attia says similar things are happening there.

"We recently received the largest gift ever from Duke Endowment to build a new science center," he says.

And he says students are grateful.

"They will find jobs. Highly paid."