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So That Happened: The Eaglets Have Landed in a Steel Plant

April 10, 2024
IndustryWeek editors look into those stories and STEM programs for historically black colleges, growing capital investments in manufacturing, electric vehicle growth for school buses and how much our readers know about basketball.

Editor’s note: Welcome to So That Happened, our editors’ takes on things going on in the manufacturing world that deserve some extra attention. This will appear regularly in the Member’s Only section of the site.


Chevron U.S.A. Inc. and the Fab Foundation have announced the establishment of Fab Labs at Fort Valley State University and Florida A&M University. The labs will bring advanced manufacturing technologies like 3D printers, laser cutters and electronic workstations to students and community members.

“Historically Black Colleges and Universities are critically important anchors in our U.S. communities, bringing higher education and economic opportunity to individuals who have historically been excluded. They have produced many of this country’s greatest scientists, mathematicians, politicians, advocates for social change and thought leaders,” said Sherry Lassiter, president and CEO of the Fab Foundation.

The labs intend to encourage hands-on STEM learning experiences, digital literacy and the development of entrepreneurial skills. The cutting-edge equipment will empower activities like prototyping, coding and robotics.

"These labs will serve as innovation hubs to empower individuals to harness their creative potential, develop essential STEM skills and contribute to building a more sustainable and inclusive future,” said Jennifer Michael, Chevron’s social investment manager.

—Anna Smith

EV School Bus Growth Continues

While consumer electric vehicle sales began slowing in mid-2023 and into this year, adoption on battery-powered vehicles remains strong in the public sector with companies expected to deliver thousands of yellow school bus models this year.

The Electric School Bus Initiative, a non-profit funded by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, tracks EV school buses on the road and ones that districts have committed to buying. So far this year, there are nearly 3,900 vehicles in service to school districts, but districts have signed commitments to more than double that number within the next few years.

Today, EVs make up 0.8% of the school bus market, but that figure should hit 1.8% after districts receive the vehicles they’ve ordered. Converting the entire fleet from diesel to electric would take decades, and it’s not likely to happen at all given the long lifespans of the current fleet (only 22% of the school bus fleet has been on the road for 15 years or more), the long distances or rural bus routes and the high costs of electric systems. However, federal grants and tax breaks are driving adoption in the short term.

In West Virginia, manufacturer GreenPower’s factory in South Charleston is producing 88 vehicles for school districts in that state, a number that it expects to reach this year before turning to orders in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada and Oregon in 2025.

“With the next tranche of deliveries, West Virginia will be a leading state in all-electric school bus deployment on a per capita basis,” GreenPower CEO Fraser Atkinson said.

The dominant player in the EV bus market is Blue Bird, the No. 1 school bus maker for all types of vehicles. It has delivered more than 900 EV buses to districts has another 500 on order. IC Bus and Thomas Built, also major conventional bus makers, have more unfilled orders for new buses but have delivered fewer finished models.

—Robert Schoenberger

This Investment Boom Has Staying Power

The global post-pandemic investment and capital spending boom shows no sign of fading, according to a new report from the researchers and management consultants at Kearney.

The Global Business Policy Council at Kearney early this month unveiled the 2024 version of its FDI Confidence Index, which surveyed senior executives at large companies in 30 countries about where and how much they plan to spend on growth in the coming years. The United States retained the top spot as an investment destination ahead of Canada while Mexico entered the index’s top 25, suggesting more good times ahead for those already benefiting from the reshoring and nearshoring movement.

Perhaps the most striking data point from the survey is the global ambition of respondents: 88% of them said they plan to increase their foreign direct investment in the next three years, which was up six points from early 2023, while the share of those pessimistic about the global economy fell to 29%. And that’s despite a widespread belief that geopolitical tensions and greater regulatory pressures will complicate investment decisions.

The full study is available here.

—Geert De Lombaerde


It’s baby bird birthing season at U.S. Steel Corp. That’s right. While much of the United States (at least where I live) was preparing for Monday’s solar eclipse, bald eagles Irvin and Claire turned their attention elsewhere. The fine-feathered couple on Sunday hatched their first eaglet of the season on property at U.S. Steel’s Mon Valley Works Irvin Plant in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania. A second egg was predicted to hatch soon. (As of Wednesday morning, the second egg appeared to be unhatched, to this untrained eye.)

The new baby is currently known as USS 7, dubbed as such because it is the seventh successful eaglet hatched in this nest.

Irvin and Claire, named after U.S. Steel facilities, have been nesting at the steel manufacturer’s property since at least 2019. That’s when steel employees discovered the raptors’ building a new nest at the site. The couple first hatched an eaglet there in 2020.

If you are lucky, it’s possible you can catch the birth of the second eaglet yourself, or perhaps a glimpse of the fuzzy gray head of USS 7, as a bald eagle cam is providing livestream video 24 hours a day.

Congratulations, Irvin and Claire.

—Jill Jusko

Manufacturing Basketball Bonafides

Now that “eyeballing” court measurements is no longer OK (we hope) and you’ve squared up your NCAA bracket debts, we can move on to the next question on everyone’s minds: How well did IndustryWeek readers perform in the Manufacturing Madness quiz?

I mean, we know you know your Angel Reese from your Caitlin Clark, but can you name the Detroit Pistons superstar who owned a metal fabricating company? Is the preferred ladder manufacturer for some of the world’s tallest people top of mind, or a stretch?

Guess what: IndustryWeek readers overall (phew!) passed the quiz, but it was a nail-biter. Average score, 39% (but we made the pass rate 30% because we like you and want you to succeed.) The most obscure question turned out to be the one about the court manufacturer, Connor Sports, a company that has earned some notoriety since the quiz first went live a month ago. (Maybe they should change their name to “Hoop Dreams.”)

Although everyone’s packed up and gone home courtside, we’re keeping the quiz open 24-7 for the next few days for you stragglers.

Laura Putre

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