Since its creation 32 years ago, the Robert C. Byrd Institute (RCBI) at Marshall University has grown from a regionally focused support center to a one-of-a-kind state and national resource that delivers manufacturing and technical assistance, entrepreneurial support, workforce development, quality implementation, and STEM education across West Virginia and 31 other states.
This exponential growth has been fueled by the passion, dedication, leadership and vision of longtime Director & CEO Charlotte Weber.
Upon assuming the leadership role in 1996, Weber embarked on an ambitious plan to expand RCBI to meet the growing demand of manufacturers and entrepreneurs, to build an agile organization capable of responding to changing and diverse needs.
Under her supervision, RCBI expanded operations to serve the entire state. It launched the nation’s first Machinist Technology educational initiative to combine industry credentials with a career-enhancing college degree option. This effort soon was followed by the creation of a nationally recognized Welding Technology Program that, like its machining counterpart, continues to address the ongoing skills gap facing industry.
RCBI evolved into a national leader in the emerging additive manufacturing (better known as 3D printing) arena, installing the state’s largest 3D printer and in 2014 the only metal 3D printer to serve industrial and military needs. The Institute amassed more than $20 million in advanced technology for leased used by manufacturers and startups.
It rocketed beyond the stratosphere in 2005 when RCBI’s National Composites Center of Excellence played a pivotal role in constructing the West Virginia-made Super Lightweight Interchangeable Carrier designed for use on the NASA Space Shuttle mission to service the Hubble Telescope.
With the backing of the U.S. Department of Labor, RCBI designed and deployed in 2015 the country’s first nationwide advanced manufacturing apprenticeship program that today serves companies across West Virginia and 22 other states. During Weber’s tenure, RCBI has trained more than 26,500 individuals and assisted more than 6,000 companies.
While West Virginia has been – and continues to be – RCBI’s primary focus (RCBI serves all 55 counties), today the Institute assists manufacturers in 34 states, from Washington to Maine, Texas to Michigan, and everywhere in between, helping them leverage advanced technologies and develop the skilled workforces they need to innovate and thrive. Its Quality team alone has helped companies save tens of millions of dollars by assisting them in reducing waste, improving efficiencies and saving time.
What better testaments to RCBI’s impacts under Weber’s leadership, than the words of its clients:
“If you take a tour through our facility, every component we use was started, developed and grew by using RCBI. If not for RCBI, if not for the shared manufacturing facilities, the Quality Control services offered… we would not be at this level of operations without that partnership.”
– Rick Houvouras, owner of Star Technologies
“One of the best resources for small or large businesses.” – Tony Stewart, inventor of the Spectraswitch.
“Thank you, RCBI, for all you do. You have an awesome program model that works. We have used your facilities for training, for expanding our capacity to meet our customer demands, for engineering assistance and guidance on ISO certification. I want to congratulate you for maintaining a truly professional staff of technical experts to train and assist our local manufacturing community.” – Linn Yost, owner, Micro Machine Works
“There’s technology from RCBI at every level that we work at M-Rock. As I’ve said, it’s one of the best kept secrets in West Virginia.” – Matt Mann, owner, M-Rock Stone Manufacturing
“The list of services RCBI can provide a company goes on and on. If companies aren’t tapping those resources, they’re really missing out.” – Kim Mack, owner, Cyclops Industries
“RCBI is a one-stop shop for everything you need, from training to design engineering to production assistance. The model created here clearly works. I’m proof of that!” – Tad Robinette, entrepreneur and owner, Liberty Hill Company
Weber, who also serves as Marshall’s vice president for federal programs, will step aside at RCBI next month when she becomes the university’s new vice president of government relations. RCBI Deputy Director Derek Scarbro, who will become the new director on Aug. 1, praised Weber’s leadership and her dedication in building RCBI into a nationally recognized leader of entrepreneurial and manufacturing support.
“Charlotte’s time at the helm of RCBI has been transformational,” Scarbro said. “I could highlight the nationally recognized advanced manufacturing initiatives developed under her leadership, but stop and think about how many livelihoods in West Virginia she has improved. When you consider the 26,500 people who have received training from RCBI or the thousands of companies who improved their operations with RCBI help, Charlotte’s impact is profound.
“She has taken the organization from a regional player to a world-class leader in the manufacturing world. She has guided us through the most challenging of times during the Covid-19 pandemic. Because of her leadership, RCBI has emerged more agile, more focused, stronger and better positioned to continue expanding to meet the needs of entrepreneurs, small businesses, advanced manufacturers and workers.”