December 27, 2018

The Manufacturer’s Apologist: Looking Back At Gary Green’s Time At Forsyth Tech

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It’s that time of year: time to look back on 2018 and reflect on the events and the people who shaped our community for better or worse. Dr. Gary Green has led Forsyth Technical since July 2001. He will officially leave FTCC on December 31. 

Dr. Green is the longest-serving president of Forsyth Tech. Many have praised Dr. Green‘s leadership, his shepherding of our local community college during a time of sustained enrollment growth, expanded programs, and new buildings constructed.

Perhaps Gary Green’s preeminent accomplishment at FTCC was getting both presidents George W.Bush (2003) and Barak Obama (2010) to visit Forsyth Tech. Gary Green put Forsyth Tech in the spotlight.

Green used his modest educational institution as a prop that two presidents, one Republican, one Democrat could use to argue that their administrations were creating jobs. Forsyth Tech was sold as an antidote to offshoring and decades of anti-worker policies.

When George W. Bush visited FTCC in 2003, Bush came to FTCC’s West Campus. There he participated in a staged roundtable discussion about jobs with some workers who were retooling at Forsyth Tech. George W, a man who “was born on third base, but thought that he hit a triple” never held an honest job in his life. He failed in business but was bailed out on multiple occasions by his father’s wealthy friends. Bush shouldn’t have been lecturing students at Forsyth Tech. What does he know about the struggles that average working class people endure every day?

By the way, as these jobs get more sophisticated, in other words, the training level is higher, no question about it. But the pay is better. And that’s what productivity increases do in a society. As our society, particularly North Carolina economy shifts from textiles to biotechnology, the pay gets better. And all we’ve got to do is bridge from the textile sector to the biotechnology sector with smart education practices. And that’s what we’re here talking about.

It requires — a smart education system requires a community college which is flexible in their curriculum. If they’re rigid, this good man here wouldn’t be designing a curriculum. If they we’re rigid, they wouldn’t be listening to the employers of the community say, listen, this is what we need; we need this kind of person or that kind of person.

George W. Bush, November 7, 2003

Obama’s 2010 visit to Forsyth Tech was similar in tone to Bush’s visit seven years prior. Obama made headlines by calling for a ‘Sputnik moment.’ Other than the well-crafted but empty rhetoric from Obama, his visit to FTCC was more of the same.

Both Bush and Obama essentially told workers that when the capitalist economy (that Bush and Obama oversaw while in office) places them in a precarious state (unemployed, in debt, unable to pay their bills, much less plan for the future) go to community college and retrain.

Obama went on to use the term “Sputnik moment” at his next State of the Union address. Obama brought one of the students that he met at Forsyth Tech up to D.C. to attend his SOTU in person. Kathy Proctor reinvented herself. After losing a job in furniture manufacturing, Proctor enrolled at Forsyth Tech and completed a degree in biotech. After Forsyth Tech she went on to work in quality control at Herbalife.

But in Winston reinvention isn’t just reserved for Kathy Proctor. The entire city loves to brag about its transformation from tobacco and textiles to high tech.

Gary Green has had a prominent role to play in promoting the myth of Winston-Salem’s miraculous transformation. Dr. Green loves to speak on the merits of modern manufacturing. He believes that high tech manufacturing will produce the good paying jobs of the future, jobs that Winston desperately needs to address the jobs deficit that’s accumulated by tobacco and textile jobs lost in recent decades to automation and offshoring.

“Forsyth Tech is stepping up to meet the training needs of local manufacturers by offering technology-driven manufacturing education and training, preparing students for the new jobs in manufacturing”-Green said in a 2014 editorial in the Winston-Salem Journal. Dr. Green was always eager to use public dollars to train workers to work in factories that were being subsidized by the taxpayers (Dell, Caterpillar, Herbalife).


An RJ Reynolds VP, speaking at Green’s retirement announcement, praised Forsyth Tech under Green for being, “flexible to the changing needs of the area businesses.”

Gary Green’s most glaring failure has been Caterpillar. Forsyth Tech worked to recruit CAT. It helped train their workforce. After millions in incentives, CAT has failed to produce the jobs that were promised when they broke ground in Winston.

The only businesses that have opened on Union Cross Road as a consequence of CAT’s presence are a Sheetz and a Bojangles.

Dr. Gary Green can continue to profess his belief in high-tech manufacturing well after he has retired from Forsyth Tech.

But the truth is manufacturing, high-tech or otherwise requires workers to gamble on corporations that have proven time and time again that they only care about their profits, not the wellbeing of workers. Only politicians and Gary Green will tell you otherwise.

Photo borrowed from George W. Bush White House archives.

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