A local company which started in a wooden shed is now a Great Place to Work.
A local company which started in a wooden shed is now a Great Place to Work.
WorkForce Unlimited, a locally owned full service employment firm, was recognized Tuesday, September 20 at Pinehurst Resort ranking #12 on the Business North Carolina 2016 Mid-Market Fast 40 list. The list ranks mid-size companies on revenue and employment growth. In addition, WorkForce Unlimited was recognized Thursday, September 22 ranking #8 on the 50 Fastest Growing privately held businesses in the Triad. Mike Brannock, CEO of WorkForce Unlimited, accepted the awards on behalf of the firm.The Business Journal has sponsored the Fast 50 event for 16 years and this is the 11thtime WorkForce Unlimited has ranked in the Fast 50.
“Both the state wide Fast 40 and the regional Fast 50 recognition is an incredible honor and a true testament to the contribution businesses make to local communities across the Triad and the State of North Carolina” said Teresa Lewis, Founder and President of WorkForce Unlimited.
Headquartered in Mount Airy, WorkForce Unlimited was founded in 1987 by Teresa Lewis and has 13 offices in North Carolina and Virginia.
Local school districts performed well compared to the rest of the state in recent benchmark scores. The N.C. Department of Public Instruction has released the results of several educational results, including performance end-of-grade testing for specific grade levels and growth rate (compared with previous student test results). Jeff Tunstall, assistant superintendent for Surry County Schools, told the county Board of Education that he and his staff gave a few “yee haws” when they saw Surry’s rankings. The county district performed well in some categories — such as fifth in the state for students taking Math 1 and second place for fourth-grade math. Elkin City Schools also impressed with scores like fifth place for high school English II, second in fourth-grade reading, fourth in eighth-grade science and ninth for fourth-grade math. In overall district performance, Elkin City Schools scored a composite mark of 69.2, good for seventh in the state. Surry County scored 66.1, good for 15th place. Mount Airy City Schools had a 62.7, good for 24th out of 115 districts. That means that all three school systems finished in the top one-fifth of districts in the state. For neighboring counties, Yadkin was 34th, Alleghany 36th, Stokes 39th and Wilkes 54th — all in the top half of the 115 districts. For the urban areas, Forsyth (including Winston-Salem schools) was 75th, and Guilford (including Greensboro) was 66th. Of those in the bottom 25 on the list, the closest are Thomasville City (105th) and Lexington City (93rd), more than 60 miles away. Tunstall told the county board that he was pleased to see Surry’s overall rank go up after slipping slightly the past two years. Three years ago, the county was 19th in the state, then 21st and 24th before jumping up to 15th this year. The state released hundreds of pages at once, so schools have been busy examining all the data to see how they compare. Among the pages is a listing of every school with a letter grade based on the state’s perceived performances. These are based on student performance data such as end-of-grade tests, end-of-course assessments, ACT tests and graduation rates for high schools. For Surry County, two schools received a performance grade of A, while nine schools rated as a B. Eight received a C, but half of those were only a point or two away from being a B. No Surry school earned a D or an F. In fact, the lowest score was six points higher than a D, so they weren’t even close to being unsatisfactory. For Mount Airy, B.H. Tharrington is only K-2 and doesn’t administer the statewide tests used in the upper grades. For the other three, Jones Intermediate received a B, Mount Airy Middle School a C, and Mount Airy High a B. Similarly, Elkin Elementary was a B, the middle school a C and Elkin High a B. Not surprisingly, the top marks in the state came from early colleges, where students are taking high school and college courses together. The Surry Early College received a composite score of 93, easily the best in the region. Also getting an A grade, however, was an elementary school. Shoals received an A after posting a reading score of 85, math score of 83 and Education Value-Added Assessment growth score of 84. Dr. Kim Morrison, Mount Airy City Schools superintendent, said she is pleased with some of the test results — such as 100 percent of middle school students passing Math 1. However, she added, “Proﬁciency is not the only measure of how well students are learning or how well teachers are teaching. Achieving high growth means educators are accomplishing the goal for personalizing the educational experience for each child — whether they are two years above grade level or two years below.” Growth goals are set by the federal and state government, Morrison pointed out. These goals include a broad group of students such as gifted and exceptional children. Jones Intermediate and Surry County’s White Plains and Rockford schools all had growth scores of 89 or higher and ranked in the top 10 percent of the state. When a child enters a new school or new grade, the faculty and staff celebrate the individual growth that child makes compared to where he or she started, Tunstall told the school board. Fundamental to the district’s success is that all children are more than a test score, according to Morrison. Mount Airy uses data to reﬂect upon strategies, identify areas of improvement, and celebrate accomplishments. However, the district believes strongly that test scores are only a small part of the equation for each child’s success. Morrison said, “Mount Airy City Schools staff has again risen to the challenge to thrive and excel by providing quality education even in ﬁnancially challenging times.” Tunstall also noted the performance of local schools compared to funding provided. He said a report from the Center for American Progress ranked the 115 school districts based on funding per student. He said Surry came in 15th in overall performance, but its funding ranked 89th. Quoting the American Progress report, he said Surry came in 59th in state funding, 80th in federal funding and 97th in local/county funding.
The Mount Airy News
September 12, 2016
Yadkin Financial, the Raleigh-based parent of Yadkin Bank (NYSE: YDKN) and the company that recently acquired Greensboro-based NewBridge Bank, is being acquired itself by Pittsburgh-based F.N.B. Corporation (NYSE: FNB) in a deal worth about $1.4 billion.
Yadkin CEO Scott Custer, minutes after the official announcement, said the deal was the result of "back and forth discussions" between the two entities.
"These things don't happen overnight," he says.
Following t he recent acquisitions of NewBridge Bank and VantageSouth, Yadkin, North Carolina's largest community bank, was “exceptionally well positioned,” making it an attractive target, he says.
“As we think about going forward in a very complex world with higher levels of regulatory scrutiny and regularity thresholds that come into play, FNB is a company that’s already there,” he says. “They’ll give our customers more services and give our people good opportunities.
Custer, who travels to Pittsburgh on Thursday, says the Yadkin brand will be absorbed into FNB following the deal.
The deal, which values Yadkin shares at about $27.35 (stock closed at $25.95 Wednesday), will provide FNB with about $7.5 billion in assets, $5.3 billion in total deposits, $5.4 billion in total loans and 10 banking offices located in North and South Carolina.
When the deal closes, FNB will have:
Yadkin shareholders will own about 35 percent of FNB following the deal, which still needs to be approved by shareholders and federal regulators.
The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2017.
RBC Capital Markets served as financial advisor and Reed Smith served as legal council to FNB.
Sandler O’Neill & Partners LP acted as financial advisor and Skadden Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP served as legal counsel to Yadkin.
Yadkin shares were up nearly 6 percent in pre-market Thursday, selling for $27.50.
In May, when rumors of a pending buy started to swell, Custer said "it's never good to believe all you read."
Three Triad health systems have been rated as among the "most wired" in the country by the American Hospital Association.
The Triad Business Journal on Wednesday evening revealed the honorees in its Best Places to Work awards program, including celebrating the top scorer overall and the top three scorers in each of three size categories based on local employee counts.
Winners were determined by national research firm Quantum Workplace, based on employee responses to a survey gauging factors ranging from workplace engagement to executive commitment. Employers had to achieve a participation threshold based the size of their local work force and had to score an overall score of 82 to be among the honorees.
Following are some details of practices that made this employer outstanding. See our special publication in Friday’s print edition for bonus content, from photos to employee shout-outs to moments they remember as the best of the past year for each honoree.
Best of the Best winner
(Top scorer among employers of all sizes)
Description: Privately owned general contractor serving the Southeast
Year founded: 1975
Top executive: Paul R. Covington, CEO
Address: 344 Shelleybrook Drive, Pilot Mountain 27041
No. of Triad employees: 32
No. of employees total: 65
Describe your company culture in five words: Family-oriented; honest, goal-oriented, driven; respectful
Three ways you ensure all of your employees know they are valued? 1.) Flexibility and encouraging a healthy work/life balance. Family always comes first. 2.) We value safety and make it an utmost priority. Our employees know we care. 3.) There is open communication on all levels. Everyone truly cares about their co-workers, and our office feels like a large family.
What steps do your senior leaders take to create a great work environment for all employees? The environment at Omega is based around hard-work, integrity, open communication and is a true family atmosphere. Our senior leaders try to model and reinforce those traits on a daily basis, including an open door policy and making sure everyone’s questions/concerns don’t go unanswered. It sounds simple, but the Golden Rule is truly what is modeled by all of our employees.
Examples of how your company creates opportunities for individual development and career growth at all levels of the company? We assign new employees to work directly with experienced employees to mentor and train them. When new employees have shown they are ready, we give them opportunities to take on more responsibilities. We try to give employees opportunities to get experience with different project types and sizes to give them varied and well-rounded experience.
How would you describe your company in 30 seconds to someone you meet at a cocktail party? Omega Construction Inc. is a privately owned general contracting firm located in Pilot Mountain. We have been serving the construction needs of the Southeast for 40 years. We are a contractor of choice in the hospitality, retail, industrial/distribution, and institutional/commercial markets. We are also one of the premier design-builders in the Southeast and have extensive experience and expertise in our target markets. We are uniquely equipped to provide full estimating, pre-construction and construction services to our clients and have an unmatched record of completing projects on schedule and within budget. Our strength is our people, and we have one of the most experienced and qualified teams working today in the markets we serve, averaging over 21 years’ experience per employee. Most popular perks? Flexibility to ensure work/life balance for our employees is amazing. There is a level of trust throughout our company, and we know that family should and will always come first. We also have discounted gym memberships as well as discounted services from Verizon. Free lunches happen regularly for our employees and we have a great benefit package.
How does being a Best Place to Work affect your bottom line? Construction is all about people. We feel strongly that this award will allow us to recruit more great employees to add to our family.
Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital
Snowboarding News | Wednesday June 15, 2016 | Shared By: Outdoor Industry Association
Nester Hosiery, the world’s most advanced sock manufacturing company, has announced that company president Kelly Nester has been promoted to the position of CEO, effective immediately. The current CEO and company founder Marty Nester will continue to chair the company’s Board of Directors.
“We have been moving toward this change for some time and I am confident that under his leadership Nester Hosiery will continue to grow and thrive,” said Marty Nester.
Nester Hosiery was founded in 1993 and employs more than 200 people in its Mount Airy, NC facilities, where it produces socks for many of the world’s leading outdoor, performance, and lifestyle brands.
In 2013 Nester Hosiery launched its own brand, Farm to Feet™ whose guiding principle is a 100% American transparent supply chain. The brand is sold at better outdoor retailers across the county and through its website, www.farmtofeet.com.
“Marty has created a strong foundation for us by instilling a company culture committed to tireless product innovation and development of the best manufacturing processes,” said Kelly Nester. “I am fortunate and excited to carry this forward.”
Kelly Nester joined the company in 1996 and has been president since 2008.
ABOUT NESTER HOSIERY
Nester Hosiery is the world’s most advanced sock manufacturing company. They design and manufacture the most innovative socks in the world – for mountaineers, firefighters, military personnel, athletes, and anyone who loves a perfect pair of socks. Situated in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Mount Airy, North Carolina, Nester Hosiery is a family owned, environmentally responsible company. Learn more at www.nesteryhosiery.com
ABOUT FARM TO FEET
Farm to Feet™ is committed to the single, simple goal of creating the world’s best wool socks by exclusively using an all-American recipe: US materials, US manufacturing, and US workers. With its supply chain completely within the U.S., Farm to Feet is able to ensure the highest quality materials and end products, while having as little impact on the environment as possible. Once the wool is grown and sheared in the Rocky Mountains, the remaining processes take place within 300 miles of its sustainability-focused knitting facility in Mt. Airy, NC. All Farm to Feet socks feature seamless toe closures, a comfort compression fit from the top through the arch, and superior cushioning for ultimate performance and comfort. Learn more at www.farmtofeet.com.
By John Davenport Guest columnist A recent front-page story in the Journal caught my eye. It addressed the evolution of career and technical education in the local high schools, particularly in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math. I am encouraged by this renewed focus on STEM education. Introducing students to jobs and careers in technical fields while they are still in school can go a long way towards building a talent pipeline that will help meet hard-to-fill local labor market demands. As the owner of an engineering consulting firm that has been around for 15 years, I know firsthand how difficult it is to find strong candidates with skill and experience. My ability to attract and retain talented employees is critical to my firms continued success. Thats why Im a firm believer in internship programs. I see them as a short-term investment that can provide long-term value not only to my firm but to the community. Internships can open doors for students and lead to full-time positions. I know, because thats how it happened for me. I was the first person in my family to graduate from college I was also a first-generation high-school grad. With my parents support, I graduated from East Forsyth High School, received my bachelors degree from N.C. State, and went on to earn my masters from N.C. A&T. My parents didnt know the levers to push to help me achieve my dream of becoming a civil engineer, so I had to figure it out on my own. My quest led me to a wise classmate who was a couple of years ahead of me at State. This classmate knew of my interest in becoming a civil engineer. He also was aware that during the summers while I was in college, I worked a lot of temporary jobs, such as loading trucks for FedEx Ground and telemarketing. The summer before my graduation year, he recommended I apply for a summer internship in Winston-Salem with the N.C. Department of Transportation to gain relevant work experience. I got the internship and a job offer from the DOT after I graduated. That internship was a pivotal experience for me as I was beginning my career, and I pledged to pay it forward. I started my firms internship program in 2007, once my company had developed the traction needed to support it. Today, our internship program has grown to where we routinely hire several high-school and college interns a year, budget permitting. One or two students come from Atkins High Schools pre-engineering program based on faculty recommendations. I also look for one additional intern, a non-traditional student who is not necessarily interested in engineering and who has never had an opportunity to work in a professional environment. We introduce this intern to basic administrative, operational and support functions within the organization to help them gain valuable work experience. We also hire college interns who are majoring in civil engineering or environmental studies. We utilize them at higher levels with an eye to possibly hiring them on when they graduate. Sometimes our interns discover while working with us that they dont want to go into civil engineering. Not all of our interns will turn into full-time employees and thats OK. We believe our program helps expand our interns networks, gives them experience to put on their resumes, and helps inform their career direction. We dont lose anything. In fact, we see internships as a win-win. The interns learn from us, we learn from them. We benefit from their fresh, innovative ideas and perspectives, and we find out what motivates them, which in turn helps our recruiting efforts. Developing an internship program takes time and effort. You must be intentional about what you want your interns to do and develop a plan for how you will introduce them to your companys culture, industry, business, office environment and workflow. This can be a fruitful opportunity for both you and the interns. You dont want to lose the opportunity to make the best impression and provide the best learning experience possible. Dont dismiss the value of good word-of-mouth. I encourage all employers to consider developing an internship program at whatever scale seems appropriate. In the short term, internships are a cost-effective way for you to find future employees, test-drive talent and increase productivity. In the long run, they can not only ensure your organizations success but can provide a way for you to give back to the community by helping students learn and building a strong local workforce.
WorkForce Unlimited, LLC, a full service staffing firm based in Mount Airy, NC has acquired the light industrial staffing division of Associate Staffing, LLC. The light industrial division consists of one branch office in Laurinburg, NC which is managed by 2 key employees, John Easterling and Amy Graham. The acquisition expands the 30-year WorkForce Unlimited brand and footprint and supports their strategic expansion efforts of key markets.
The transaction closed April 29, 2016. Terms were not disclosed.
In comments regarding the sale, Michael Norton, Chief Operating Officer and shareholder of Associate Staffing, said that, “Selling our light industrial division allows us to concentrate on expanding our professional staffing business, which has seen explosive growth over the past several years. With this change, we will be able to prioritize further growing a national presence in the professional services space.”
Founders of Associate Staffing, Jerry and Allison Norton have known Teresa Lewis and Mike Brannock of WorkForce Unlimited for a number of years and have shared a mutually respectful and professional relationship during that time. “We wanted to leave our employees, clients and the community in the hands of a reputable and competent firm,” said Associate Staffing CEO Allison Norton, “and I am confident that we have done just that.”
“Jerry and Allison’s core values and focus on excellent customer service are aligned perfectly with the WorkForce Unlimited vision and values. Their business not only expands our footprint, but allows us to expand partnerships with a number of existing clients in other markets,” said R. Michael Brannock, Jr., Chief Executive Officer of WorkForce Unlimited.
WorkForce Unlimited is an industry leading regional staffing firm headquartered in Mount Airy, NC with 12 additional office locations throughout North Carolina and Southern Virginia. The company was founded in 1987 by Teresa Lewis, President and Chairman, and is one of the largest staffing companies based in the Triad. For more information, visit wfunlimited.com.
Associate Staffing is a diversity-certified staffing firm with a nationwide presence in the professional services space. The company has been named one of the fastest growing staffing firms in the United States by Staffing Industry Analysts, with a recent peak of no. 8. For more information, visit astaff.us.
Ted Ashby, long-time chief executive and president of Surrey Bancorp, said “We may be off the beaten path for some larger banks, but we like our place and our business model.”
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Posted: Saturday, January 16, 2016 11:00 pm
MOUNT AIRY — Blending an old-fashioned atmosphere with modern banking services is at the heart of Surrey Bancorp’s motto of “Small enough to know you, large enough to serve you.”
Customers are greeted by name as they entered the main branch of the Mount Airy community bank, just what you would expect in a rural town that embraces the embodiment of fictional Mayberry.
Tellers await behind dark wood panels that resemble church pews. The office of Ted Ashby, long-time chief executive and president, is not only accessible, but right off the lobby by design.
The focus of the $276 million bank has been on business banking since the bank’s founding in July 1996, with a particular prowess for U.S. Small Business Administration loans in North Carolina and Virginia.
Yet, Surrey and its workforce of 76 offer financial products and services beyond the typical community bank, such as investment, property and casualty insurance, mobile banking and online services.
Surrey recently opened a branch at 393 CC Camp Road in Elkin, its sixth overall, with the goal of moving past Wells Fargo & Co. for the No. 2 market share in its home county behind BB&T Corp. A loan-production office is open at 717 Main St. in North Wilkesboro.
“We want to offer customers a hometown feel no matter where we are,” Ashby said.
“We also have been generally profitable above our peer group, and our shareholders are generally doing better.”
Surrey is one of the few North Carolina and Southeast banks, joining BB&T and BNC Bancorp, that produced a profit each quarter through the financial crisis that began in late 2007.
“We were proud of the fact we did not report a quarterly loss during that period,” Ashby said. “It helped validate our business model.”
Surrey has provided shareholders with a special dividend each of the past five years, increasing from 15 cents in fiscal 2011 to 27 cents for fiscal 2015.
As a result, Surrey has been ranked consistently by Florida financial-services firm BauerFinancial as a five-star “superior” financial institution. Bauer has recommended Surrey to investors for 44 consecutive quarters.
“BauerFinancial employs conservative measures when assigning these ratings, and consequently our analysis may be lower than those supplied by other analysts or the institutions themselves,” Bauer said.
“More than 30 years of experience has shown this to be a prudent course of action.”
Ashby said he and the Surrey board are aware that “you have to make money and competitive rates of return on stakeholders’ investments, or they will give up on you.”
“We’ve held to our values,” Ashby said. “We have a role in the success of our community with our ability to provide SBA and USDA (U.S. Agricultural Department) loans.”
Ashby said being small has its advantages for his management team and the board of directors.
“Our board can be more patient than private equity when it comes to return on investment,” Ashby said.
“We have worked with our customers to help them as we can when things don’t go as planned for them. We always shoot straight with them, even when it is bad news.
“As a result, we’ve earned the right to keep a local bank in Mount Airy and Surry County,” Ashby said.
Retaining a local community bank is not a given, particularly as the North Carolina industry is in the midst of another consolidation round.
Since the momentous departure of Wachovia Corp.’s Winston-Salem headquarters and 1,300 jobs in the First Union Corp. deal of 2003, the Triad has lost 13 headquarters through bank acquisitions, including seven in suburban and rural communities: Asheboro (twice), Elkin, Lexington (twice), Mocksville and Pilot Mountain.
Some of those deals were spurred by banks that took on private equity as a life preserver for managing or paying off toxic residential mortgages and commercial loans. The banks were sold when they became healthy enough to provide those firms with a small profit.
Following the expected 2016 completions of Yadkin Financial Corp.’s proposed $456 million acquisition of NewBridge Bancorp of Greensboro and BNC Bancorp’s $141.3 million deal for High Point Bank & Trust, the Triad will have just two prominent banking headquarters: BB&T Corp. in Winston-Salem and BNC Bancorp in High Point.
From a small banking headquarters scale, all that remains will be Piedmont Federal Savings Bank in Winston-Salem, Carolina Bank in Greensboro, Oak Ridge Financial Services Inc., Great State Bank in Wilkesboro and Surrey. On Wednesday, Oak Ridge announced that Ron Black, its chief executive and president since its 2000 founding, was stepping down Feb. 1.
Ashby said Surrey benefits from having a relatively self-contained market that likely doesn’t appeal to regional (those more than $5 billion in assets) and super-community banks (those with more than $3 billion in assets), although some of those could eye Surrey as part of filling in their Triad territory.
“We’re not going to enter Forsyth because there is too much quality competition there,” Ashby said. “But our business model fits in with other surrounding counties, as we believe Wilkes will prove out.”
Ashby said he and Surrey’s board of directors have not been approached formally by a bank or private-equity suitor, which he said is not surprising given that banks large and small typically make it known when they are for sale, rather than receiving unsolicited offers.
“We may be off the beaten path for some larger banks, but we like our place and our business model,” Ashby said.
Todd Tucker, president of the Surry County Economic Development Partnership, cited several ways that Surrey “brings value to our community.”
“Economically, they create jobs within their own organization, which may seem obvious, but these are not just average-wage jobs, but high-paying jobs,” Tucker said.
“Being able to get decisions on lending at the local level is of great value and saves time. They know the businesses and people they are lending to and take that into consideration when lending.
“Socially, they bring value by belonging to civic clubs, being on the boards of local organizations, and being involved with local charities,” Tucker said. “I think it is safe to say that our community is a better place because Surrey Bank is here.”
Ashby realizes Surrey may be in a small circle of community banks its size for the foreseeable future given that only three startup banks have been chartered by the N.C. Banking Commission in the past seven years.
“When we started in 1996, the capital raise requirement was about $5 million to $5.5 million,” Ashby said.
“Nowadays, regulators are expecting northward of $20 million to be able to absorb several years of losses. In a community like Mount Airy, that has become almost cost-prohibitive.”
Tony Plath, a finance professor at UNC Charlotte, said Ted and the leaders at the other local community banks “remain dedicated to the principles of community banking for their customers, employees, shareholders and communities.”
Plath said there’s a 10 percent chance that Ashby and the Surrey board would put the bank up for sale.
“It’s relatively easy for Ted to say no, since he’s in a truly isolated market in Mount Airy and the offer price, when it comes, is relatively low,” Plath said.
Yet, Plath said the stunning sale of High Point Bank & Trust shows that the next generation of executives in community banking “is much more likely to take the money from the sale of the bank and run.”
Plath cited Carolina Bank, led by chief executive Bob Braswell, as another community bank committed to remaining independent.
“Carolina Bank’s a very different story there, since Bob runs an independent community bank in one of the hottest growth markets in the Carolinas,” Plath said.
Plath said Braswell likely is getting more inquiries and higher offers to sell, “which is going to make it much harder for Carolina to say no if a really rich offer comes along — which it undoubtedly will if High Point Bank and Trust is worth a whopping $141 million.”
That’s why Plath said there is a 70 percent chance that Carolina Bank is sold within the next five years.
“If it is truly is in the best interest of the shareholders to sell the bank to a larger franchise that’s willing to overpay for a little community bank, the board’s gotta act in the best interests of the shareholders,” Plath said.
Plath said the reality for Mount Airy and Surry is that if Surrey were sold, “the acquirer would simply turn the bank into a junior deposit farm, milking the community for its little book of deposits and making loans somewhere else.”
“These factors make it easier for the Surrey board to handily reject an offer,” Plath said.
Ashby, at age 62, knows retirement is around the corner, though not a door he expects to step through anytime soon.
That said, Surrey already is preparing a succession plan with its management team so that doesn’t become an obstacle to further growth or inhibit its ability to remain independent.
“We have been purposeful in having multiple generations involved in our loan portfolio, which is about two-thirds of what we do,” Ashby said.
“Whoever is chosen will bring a different personality to how Surrey is run, but they will have the same understanding of our culture and the standards that we lean upon.”
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