Surry County News

Read about new business, events and news that effects life and commerce in the western Piedmont Triad.

Montana Ag: American wool makes perfect socks

Montana farmers and ranchers raise numerous high quality products.

2 minute 29 second YouTube video on the Nester Process

For sock maker Nester Hosiery in Mount Airy, North Carolina, the perfect pair of socks always starts with the main ingredient: Wool.

“There’s that phenomenon that happens with one person putting wool on their feet,” CEO Kelly Nester said. “When they do that, they go, ‘Gosh, what have I been missing?'”

According to Nester, wool is the sock ingredient that manages moisture and comfort while keeping the sock together and durable.

Nester Hosiery produces about 12,000 dozen pair of socks each week, or about 288,000 individual socks including their Farm to Feet line, which uses 100 percent American wool.

“It’s still a very young brand but that brand is principled on transparency in supply and it’s much more than the origin, it’s more of telling the story of manufacturing,” Nester said. “The companies involved from the American sheep industry rancher where they have grown the wool all the way through.”

Being a family-owned and operated business, the Nester family and employees treasure the relationship with America’s wool producers.

“It’s been one of the real treasures of the last five years of my career is getting to communicate with the sheep rancher,” Nester said. “The hard work that goes into farming is something that our whole company is familiar with and getting to communicate with some of those great personalities has been a lot of fun.”

America’s wool producers can take great pride in knowing that companies like Nester Hosiery depend on American wool so people everywhere can enjoy a perfect pair of socks.

This is another great example of why wool is one of the world’s most diverse natural fibers and how Montana woolgrowers are an important part of the fiber’s success story.

SCC hosts 6th annual wine symposium

The 6th-Annual Southeastern United Grape and Wine Symposium took place Wednesday on the campus of Surry Community College at The Shelton-Badgett NC Center for Viticulture and Enology. After a full day of workshops, lectures and talks from industry professionals from wine-producing regions as diverse as California, Italy and France, symposium participants got a chance to taste some wine, enjoy a vast hors d’oeuvre buffet and listen to Melva Houston sing with the Bob Sanger trio. The wine professionals were joined by wine lovers whose primary interest in wine is consuming it, rather than producing it. The groups mingled as Ms. Houston sang jazz standards. The symposium originally came from grant funding through the Viticulture Enology Science and Technology Alliance (VESTA), according to Jami Woods, vice-president of academic affairs at Surry Community College. VESTA is a Midwestern organization and was looking for an East Coast presence. Woods said the collaboration with VESTA ultimately did not work out as a recruitment tool for the college, due to the high cost of out-of-state tuition deterring prospective students from other states. But the partnership lives on with the symposium, as wine professionals from all over the Southeast come together to share knowledge and network. “Finding the Perfect Blend” was the theme of the 2017 symposium, according to Ashley Morrison, SCC division chair. Morrison said that ‘blending’ can be important in many ways. A lot of information was provided on wine blends, where more than one varietal is blended together to make a single wine, as well as blending in the vineyard, where blending possibilities go back to choosing which grapes to plant. Morrison said these wines blend out the imperfections in grapes, fixing things that are off-kilter and correcting issues that may arise. She also said blends are the fun wines with fun names and interesting labels. “Blending is not only scientifically important, but artistically important and important for marketing.” David Bower, SCC enology instructor said Surry Community College is the only college on the East Coast that teaches the production of sparkling wines. He said, “it’s important for a region to have that one wine they are known for. We don’t have that one wine.” He thinks sparkling wines may fill that void. Surry teaches the traditional method, the charmat, or bulk method and the encapsulated yeast method. The college’s winery has won several Best Sparkling Wine awards, including one from the NC Fine Wines Competition. Students from the viticulture and enology departments were an important asset in producing the symposium, according to Morrison. Will Simmons, a student in pursuit of all three certificates Surry offers in viticulture, marketing and marketing said, “I’ve always wanted to do it, ever since high school.” He added, “I’m 23 now, so that’s been a while.” Linda and Wayne Gay, owners of Wautauga Lake Winery, in Butler, Tennessee, have attended the Symposium for four out of the last five years. Wayne Gay said, “We pick up new info. There’s always something new.” The Gays’ vineyard produced 75,000 pounds of fruit and 2,000 cases of wine last year. Their region was designated as the Appalachian High Country American Viticultural Area in November of last year. AVA designation is usually useful to vineyards but Linda Gay says their operation is being stymied because they are located in Tennessee and all of the other vineyards are in North Carolina. Due to legal restrictions, they are not allowed to do any joint sales. A tablemate at lunch suggested they hold a wine festival on the state line. There is laughter, but general consensus it might be a good idea. But Linda Gay has already thought of that and yet other legal obstacles make it impossible. Marion Venable, executive director of SCC’s Foundation, was business manager for the viticulture and enology programs for eight years at SCC before it was a degree program, back when courses were offered through the continuing education department. She assured Linda and Wayne Gay that as winemaking became more important to their area, accommodations for problems such as theirs would begin to be found.

Insteel Industries acquires Pennsylvania company

Insteel Industries Inc. (NASDAQ: IIIN) of Mount Airy, through its wholly owned subsidiary Insteel Wire Products Co., has acquired certain assets of Ortiz Engineered Products of Sugarloaf, Pennsylvania, the company announced Monday.

Ortiz services the concrete industry by replacing conventional rebar with welded wire reinforcement — a process that saves both time and costs over the course of a construction project. Its headquarters is located in central Pennsylvania about 60 miles northwest of Allentown.

Insteel manufactures welded wire reinforcements at six facilities in Arizona, Florida, Missouri, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Texas. The company has a total of 10 facilities across the U.S.

“We believe the addition of OEP’s capabilities will accelerate our ongoing efforts to penetrate the rebar market with engineered structural mesh and leverage the recent investments we have made in our manufacturing facilities,” said H.O. Woltz III, Insteel’s president and CEO.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Grant giving students career education

DOBSON — A grant from the Golden Leaf Foundation is helping Surry County Schools prepare kids for the workplace.

Crystal Folger-Hawks appeared before the county Board of Education Monday evening to give an update on what has happened since the launch of a new initative was announced in late September.

On Sept. 19, the school district and Surry Community College hosted an event in Mount Airy for local businesses to talk with educators about a new program called Next Generation Career Academy, sponsored by a grant from the Golden Leaf Foundation

“The foundation supports tobacco-dependent, economically distressed and/or rural communities working to transition to more prosperous and stable economies,” Dr. Jill Reinhardt, assistant superintendent, said at the time. “Surry County Schools pursued this grant hoping to fill some employment needs over the next few years in advanced manufacturing and STEM-related fields.”

“Students will complete internships or apprenticeships designed with local business and industry partners that can and will lead to employment,” said Dr. Travis Reeves, school superintendent.

“Students will earn industry-related career credentials such as Career Readiness Certification, OSHA Certification, Lean Six Sigma Certification, and certificates from Surry Community College in content areas such as welding, construction, nursing, computer-integrated machining, and electronics,” stated Reeves.

A visibly excited Folger-Hawks said she was kept busy the whole month of October with site visits. She began meeting individually with businesses, touring their facilities, and designing internship opportunities.

One of her main responsibilities is matching students to specific careers in the supporting businesses and then monitoring and mentoring those student interns.

“Getting involved in this program is important to Smith-Rowe, but also important to our local economy,” said Jody Phillips, vice president of Smith-Rowe Inc. “We have the opportunity to teach young people about the good jobs in our community. This will help us grow our own. This is a win-win for everyone.”

  • On Oct. 13, Folger-Hawks organized a field trip to Smith-Rowe for a group of sophomores from the Surry Early College.

It was obvious that the company had put some effort into hosting the kids, she noted. When she brought this up to Phillips, she said that he responded, “We see this as an investment.”

As this trip was for sophomores, she said she would plan for the next such event to focus on the junior class.

  • On Oct. 19, a group of carpentry students from North Surry and East Surry traveled to the N.C. State Fair in Raleigh for the 32nd-Annual N.C. Department of Commerce Appenticeship Competitions.

Folger-Hawks said she had never heard of the competition before, and it was too late to sign up by the time students learned of the events. After seeing the competitions in person, the teachers told her they plan to sign up next year.

In the carpentry pre-apprenticeship category, students were given projects to complete during a briefing. Then the two-person teams had from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. to design and build their own pieces to submit for judging.

The students must supply their own equipment, which is inspected to ensure safety before the competition.

Folger-Hawks told the board that in addition to looking for intern possibilities, she is trying to see what apprenticeships she can develop with businesses.

In an internship, a student may have a good idea what field is desired, but not a specific job. An apprenticement has a tighter focus where the student has a career path and is looking for training toward a specific job(s).

Before taking this position with the new school year, Folger-Hawks was a college liaison for East Surry. She said when she has been able to sit down and use some desk time, the Pilot Center on South Main Street has been kind enough to give her a place to work. Still, she said she’d rather be spending her time with the students.

Appointment of Johnny Easter as Development Services Director for Surry County

The County of Surry is pleased to announce the appointment of a Development Services Director who will oversee the operations of the Development Services Department. This department is the result of the consolidation approved by the Board of Commissioners in June as a part of the FY17-18 budget. The following departments and activities are being consolidated into this department: Planning and Development, Zoning, Inspections, Code Enforcement, Central Permitting, Lovills Creek, Flat Rock-Bannertown Water and Sewer District, Interstates Water and Sewer District, and the Elkin Area Water System. Johnny Easter, who currently serves as Environmental Health Supervisor II with Surry County, has been named to the position effective December 1.
Mr. Easter has been employed with Surry County since 2006. Prior to his employment with Surry County, he worked with Forsyth County for eight years as an Environmental Health Supervisor I. Mr. Easter graduated from North Surry High School and Western Carolina University and holds a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Health. He has extensive experience working with the contractors and citizens of Surry County.
County Manager Chris Knopf said “I look forward to working with Mr. Easter in his new role with Surry County. His experience working with our citizens, contractors, and other County departments will allow him to hit the ground running in his new role.”
Mr. Easter stated “My sole focus as the new Development Services Director is to provide the best possible permitting process for the people of Surry County. My years of experience in Environmental Health have prepared me for the task at hand. I will be steadfast in establishing a positive, open and constructive experience for both the contractors and citizens at large”.
The Development Services model being implemented by Surry County is designed to provide enhanced customer service and improve the efficient delivery of services by consolidating those functions of County Government that cater to development activities. Giving stakeholders a single point of contact for development-related activities will assist the County in accomplishing its goals.
Surry County’s “one-stop” shop is in the Permitting Center, 122 Hamby Road, Dobson, North Carolina. Office hours are Monday through Friday, 8:15 am until 5:00 pm.
For additional information, contact: Sandra Snow, Assistant County Manager for Human Resources and Operations, at 336-401-8202.

Editor’s Notebook: It’s time for some manufacturing myth-busting

This week’s Special Report on advanced manufacturing highlights how Triad companies are using technology to increase efficiency and remain competitive in today’s global marketplace.

Artificial intelligence, virtual reality, robotics, 3-D printing and design and highly streamlined processes are helping these manufacturers increase their output, improve consistency and quality, and most of all, grow revenue.

One of their biggest challenges is attracting skilled workers. While area schools are drawing more students into advanced manufacturing careers, too many parents still believe their children deserve “better.” They picture a grimy, dimly lit, smokestacked factory that belches out exhausted, grease-covered workers with a loud whistle at the end of the day.

As someone who once held that same mental picture, I admit we need to do better job of educating not just students, but parents. For example, here are a few common myths:

Manufacturing is dirty: To the contrary, the floors of these advanced facilities are clean, safe and full of shiny equipment in well-lit spaces.

• Manufacturing is for people who can’t get into college: In fact, the skills needed at today’s plants demand training in STEM: science, technology, engineering and math. Much of the work involves computers, calculations and precision monitoring to make sure the machines are doing their jobs properly. For many students, devising a career path toward advanced manufacturing is a far more sensible way to find rewarding employment than a traditional college degree.

Manufacturing jobs are for men. Last week’s panelists described a diverse workforce that includes female employees who are handling technology and equipment as skillfully (or even more so) than men, advancing their careers and pay opportunities in the process.

Manufacturing jobs will just be replaced by robots, anyway, so why bother? People will always be needed to monitor, trouble-shoot and direct the computer-run equipment. And there are still many tasks that require hands-on work and human problem-solving.

Manufacturing is old-school. For an eye-opening reality check, take a tour of any of the factories mentioned in our special report.

Insteel Industries posts 4Q profit

Allegacy Federal Credit Union opens new location in Mount Airy

Allegacy Federal Credit Union, one of the largest credit unions in North Carolina, announced today it plans to open its newest location in Mount Airy. The credit union will be located at 1996 Rockford Street, Suite 300 and is expected to open by the end of the year.

“We are thrilled to join the wonderful, growing community of Mount Airy,” said Cathy Pace, Allegacy President and CEO. “Our expansion will allow us to better serve current members and provide fresh opportunities for new members looking for a financial partner dedicated to doing the right thing for their wellbeing. Allegacy is committed to helping our members lead a vibrant, healthy, financially sound life and we look forward to serving, partnering, and working in the Mount Airy community.”

Allegacy joins three other businesses to sign on to a new construction site located at the former Long John Silver’s restaurant, which was razed in 2016. Other new businesses include Starbucks, Jimmy John’s restaurant, and AT&T cell phone.

This location will include dedicated resources focused on small business, financial planning and mortgage services. In addition to offering a full array of retail services, Allegacy offers competitive small business products and services and employer benefits.

Many established Mount Airy and Surry County businesses are already members of Allegacy’s Select Employee Groups (SEGs), which allows employees to enjoy credit union benefits. Some of the local SEGs include Pike Electric, Insteel Industries, Insteel Wire Products, Mountain Valley Hospice and Palliative Care, Omega Construction and Foothill Ford.

Hours at the new Allegacy location are expected to be 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Friday.

About Allegacy

For nearly 50 years, Allegacy has helped its members, employees and the communities it serves be their best by helping people make smart financial choices. By doing right, Allegacy has become one of the largest credit unions in North Carolina serving over 129,000 members worldwide with over $1.2 billion in assets and an additional billion dollars in assets under management in its financial planning group. With roots in Winston Salem, Allegacy has 12 convenient locations and eight high school student-run credit unions in the Triad. Allegacy offers personal and business financial services to help a broad membership base including the employees, retirees and families of over 680 companies throughout the country be their best. To learn more, visit

Northern Hospital earns national accolades

Northern Hospital of Surry County has earned three quality-care honors, all of which resulted from competitive comparisons with hospitals of similar size and scope.

The awards include High Performing Hospital, Top 100 Great Community Hospital, and Blue Select Tier 1 Facility.

Northern was ranked a High Performing Hospital for exceptional care and performance in pulmonary care by U.S. News & World Report in its 2017-2018 “Best Hospitals” rankings. Fewer than 30 percent of the more than 4,500 hospitals evaluated by U.S. News earn a “High Performing” rating. Additionally, Northern Hospital achieved an “Excellent” designation on U.S. News’ scorecard for individual hospitals.For the second consecutive year, Northern Hospital was named among the 100 Great Community Hospitals for 2017 by Becker’s Hospital Review; and it earned the highest three designations across the board for high quality and low costs from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North America for 2018.

“Such prestigious national rankings and top designations continue to validate the ongoing efforts and mission of our hospital,” said Ned Hill, president and chief executive officer of Northern Hospital of Surry County. “These high honors also serve as a testament to the dedication and commitment of our doctors, nurses, staff and volunteers – whose individual and team efforts permit us to consistently improve and enhance our patient-care offerings.”

Most recently, Northern’s expanded treatment options have included a full range of ENT surgical procedures, vascular surgery, and advanced cardiac rehabilitation care.

“The resources and assistance provided by the Surry County Economic Development Partnership, the City of Mount Airy, the Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce and Surry Community College were essential to the success of our start up venture.”

Andrew Clabough

President, Willow Tex

Contact Us

Surry County Economic Development Partnership, Inc.
1218 State St.,
Mt. Airy NC 27030
PO BOX 7128

Contact Us

Surry County Economic Development Partnership Inc. 1218 State St., Mt. Airy NC 27030
PO BOX 7128

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