First lady Jill Biden visits Forsyth Tech, unveils $30m investment

Atkins High biotechnology student Ashvath Ramesh speaks with first lady Jill Biden during a visit to Forsyth Tech last week. Biden was in Winston-Salem to promote a new $30 million investment in local STEM education and research. PJ WARD-BROWN/NORTH STATE JOURNAL

WINSTON-SALEM — First lady Jill Biden made a pair of stops in North Carolina on Friday, Jan. 26, speaking at Forsyth Tech in the morning and then appearing at a fundraising event in Raleigh that afternoon. The visit came just eight days after President Joe Biden made his own visit to the state, and the third in the past four weeks for the administration after Vice President Kamala Harris spoke in Charlotte.

At the campus of Forsyth Tech, Biden was joined by Gov. Roy Cooper and Winston-Salem mayor Allen Joines to celebrate $30 million in grants provided to two entities by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM) and Morganton-based nonprofit The Industrial Commons (TIC) were awarded grants as Regional Innovation Engines by the NSF.

Created by the CHIPS and Science Act, passed by Congress in August 2022, the NSF Engines Program aims to advance critical technologies and expand the nation’s innovation capacity by leveraging the resources, creativity, and ingenuity that exist across geographic regions throughout the country.

Each grant could yield up to $160 million over 10 years to each of the two North Carolina winners. Across the country, only 16 finalists were slated to receive the grants.

“The workforce in America starts in the high schools, goes to the community colleges, and then into great careers. Today’s investment of $30 million into the state of North Carolina is going to support that to create great jobs of the future,” said Biden at the event. “I’m happy to be here as a community college professor myself. I’m excited to see your programs and what you’re doing.”

The Wake Forest program, which will lead the Piedmont Triad Regenerative Medicine Engine, will tap the world’s largest regenerative medicine cluster to create and scale breakthrough clinical therapies, contributing to a growing industry that is key to healthcare delivery, according to a fact sheet at the event. The program includes a total of 80 partner organizations across the Piedmont. Those partners include Forsyth Technical Community College, North Carolina A&T University, the RegenMed Development Organization and Winston Salem State University.

“We are excited that Biden Administration is yet again funding amazing projects in North Carolina that will create good-paying jobs and produce groundbreaking innovation,” said Gov. Cooper in a statement. “These awards funded by the CHIPS and Science Act will make innovative investments that lead to life saving treatments, a stronger workforce and a cleaner, more sustainable energy future.”

Following the visit at Forsyth Tech, Biden spoke a crowd of around 90 in Raleigh to raise money for her husband’s reelection campaign.

“This year, our campaign is going to do everything we can to make up that one point and more,” Biden said as the crowd cheered, noting that North Carolina was the closest state in 2020’s presidential election won by former President Donald Trump.

After giving a 12 minute speech, Biden traveled to Columbia, South Carolina, where the state’s presidential primary is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 3.