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SVHEC cuts virtual ribbon for ProductWorks

South Boston News
From left, David Kenealy, special assistant for innovation & technology; Jerry Elliott,lead machinist; Bradley Overby, technology manager; Christopher Walker, CAD/3D modeling specialist; Lily Toombs, administrative assistant and apprentice technician. / November 12, 2020
The Southern Virginia Higher Education Center held a virtual ribbon cutting Tuesday to formally launch ProductWorks — Virginia’s only single source location for product design & development services.

Formerly known as the SVHEC R&D Center for Advanced Manufacturing & Energy Efficiency, ProductWorks was established in 2010 by a grant from the Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission. Today, ProductWorks is home to $5.5M in hardware and software assets, and works with entrepreneurs, small businesses, and large manufacturers to energize their growth and help them produce products.

Using one of those assets, a five-axis CNC router, SVHEC cut the ribbon to officially launch ProductWorks and celebrate its new location within commercial space at South Boston’s Imperial Lofts.

South Boston mayor Ed Owens saluted the SVHEC. “The Town is very proud to have the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center in our hometown, South Boston. By providing affordable and convenient services in one location, ProductWorks helps industry and entrepreneurs across our region energize and grow their businesses. Ultimately that helps grow our economy and our community.”

Jason El Koubi, Virginia Economic Development Partnership, executive vice president, served as the event’s guest speaker. He began his remarks with a sobering reminder of the toll the COVID-19 pandemic has taken on the economy. He highlighted the fact that rural areas have been especially hard hit, and that the recovery will take longer in these areas. It is within this larger context that El Koubi finds hope in the launch of ProductWorks.

“The renewed focus and energy on ProductWorks comes at an especially important time as we put our shoulders to the wheel of economic recovery. The ProductWorks mission to energize new and existing industries and entrepreneurial start-ups will help companies in virtually all sectors to innovate with customized assistance with everything from design planning to prototyping to testing to small production runs. This is the kind of partnership that’s always important to the competitiveness of individual businesses and to our overall economic growth, but it is especially important in a time of great disruption in the global economy and in Virginia’s economy,” said El Koubi.

Following El Koubi’s remarks, SVHEC premiered a new video showcasing ProductWorks’ facilities and clients.

TMI Autotech’s president and co-owner Mark Swain shared how ProductWorks allows his company to remain nimble in a fast-paced market. “We’re Virginia’s only four-wheel vehicle manufacturer, so we need to prototype tooling on the fly, very quickly. A lot of the ways we utilize this facility is through waterjet cutting for tooling or sheet metal components, as well as some rapid prototyping that lets us get on it a lot quicker than we would’ve if we had to do this in-house.”

Connie Nyholm, owner and CEO of Virginia International Raceway, shared her experience working with the ProductWorks team to develop a custom trophy for the renowned racetrack. “Our experience working with ProductWorks was absolutely flawless and very easy. This is a trophy the driver actually wants to win and we’re very proud ProductWorks came up with it for us.”

Inventor and entrepreneur Stuart Topp came to ProductWorks with an idea and a rough sketch for an innovative tool for the cabinet-making industry. ProductWorks collaborated with Topp to move his idea from sketch to CAD mock-up to prototype, and finally, to market. Using elements from his work with ProductWorks Topp applied for a patent, and he is now successfully selling his tool, The Blind Stapler, to cabinetmakers across the United States and into Canada.

ProductWorks continues to serve as Topp’s manufacturer for the Blind Stapler Tool. “I’ve had options to go and have bigger places manufacture the tools. I choose not to. I want to stay here; I want to keep this working,” he said.

The ribbon cutting concluded with remarks from ProductWorks’ special assistant for innovation & development David Kenealy. Kenealy leads ProductWorks’s team comprised of Jerry Elliott, Bradley Overby, Christopher Walker, and Lily Toombs. “We have a well-equipped and very sophisticated workspace with advanced technology, but unquestionably without our staff we wouldn’t be able to have the success that we’ve enjoyed. I’m really privileged to have very talented, very dedicated people to work with,” Kenealy said.

Kenealy encouraged entreprenuers, business-owners, and others interested in collaborating with ProductWorks to reach out to him to start the conversation on how ProductWorks’ resources can advance their vision.

To learn more, visit, email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), or call 434-572-5557.

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