Surry County NewsRead about new business, events and news that effects life and commerce in the western Piedmont Triad.
Schools were erected to help prepare children for adult life, but in today’s changing job landscape, are kids being prepared?
Surry County Schools teamed up with the Surry County Economic Development Partnership this week to help teachers and administrators be better able to answer “yes” to that question.
The EDP and a guest employer spoke for 40 minutes at Surry Community College before leading a tour of local businesses.
Several teachers, assistant principals, assistant superintendent Jill Reinhardt and Superintendent Travis Reeves jumped on an activity bus at the college with Economic Development Partnership President Todd Tucker and past EDP Chairman John Priddy.
This is summer vacation, noted Dr. Reeves. Instead of hanging out by the pool or lounging on a beach, these educators were willing to give up some free time to learn more about what kids need to know by the time they graduate.
Some people have criticized teachers for spending so much time in the classroom that they don’t know what it’s like in the “real world.” Educators counter that they have to follow guidelines set down by politicians in Washington who aren’t teachers, yet pass acts like No Child Left Behind and Every Student Succeeds.
On Tuesday, Tucker told teachers that their emphasis on problem-solving and creative thinking is exactly the kind of thing that employers want in new hires.
Companies might not be familiar with the term STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), but the STEM projects that students do help to expand their minds and how they find solutions to problems — which is exactly what a boss wants of his or her workers.
In a presentation, Tucker explained some of the challenges the workforce faces today.
One of the big issues is the aging of the Baby Boomers, where the biggest age demographic in the country (and many well-qualified workers) is now hitting retirement age.
Another issue is the way technology continues to grow by leaps and bounds, leaving many existing employees behind.
Then there are deficits in the current educational system, compared to some global competitors.
Tucker said that he had a chance to host a Chinese student visiting the U.S. for a week. He learned that this child’s school was open 10 hours a day, six days a week, giving students twice the exposure to education as American youths.
U.S. companies need a good, skilled workforce in order to make money, said Tucker. Making money has somehow become a bad thing in some people’s eyes, but if a company can’t make ends meet, then it perishes.
“Having well-trained workers can reduce risks, drive innovation and support competitive advantage,” he said.
“Having a qualified workforce attracts firms and more talent,” he said. More rural areas like Surry County are competing with places like Charlotte and the Research Triangle where qualified applicants are more plentiful.
It is crucial that U.S. communities fill the skills gap for technical and analytical workers, he said. That skills gap will only get bigger as technology continues to advance.
The EDP believes that collaboration among all stakeholders is vital for regional/local and national competitiveness.
To hear from someone actively looking to hire new workers, Tucker brought in Alan Connolly, the executive vice president of SouthData.
For those not familiar with the company, Connolly said, SouthData started in the basement of a house in 1985, then moved to the basement of a strip mall, then to a site in an industrial park. Now the company is housed in a former Cross Creek knitting plant on Riverside Drive.
SouthData’s raw material isn’t cotton or lumber, but data, he said. The company gathers, organizes and manages information for others.
The company handles tax listings for 73 of the 100 counties in the state. It has 2,500 clients in homeowners associations. It does billing for many energy co-ops.
SouthData is by far the biggest postal customer in the county with four or five tractor-trailer loads a day going out the door, Connolly said.
The company has 600 employees and is continuing to grow.
The basic skills that Tucker touched on are true, he said.
Every piece of equipment in the company runs off a computer, so computer training is necessary. These aren’t sewing machines or toe seamers, but highly sophisticated pieces of machinery that take qualified personnel.
SouthData is constantly updating and/or adding equipment. “So if change is not your middle name, SouthData is not the place for you,” he said.
The best workers are the ones who buy into the company and want to grow with the business rather than just see it as a job, he said.
Connolly had a hand in starting a new project for middle schoolers, a local First Lego League team. In this league, students use Legos to create robots that can perform tasks.
“FLL is truly the diagram of what we look for,” he said, as it combines knowledge of the STEM subjects with a concrete application that happens to be fun for the participants.
One job skill that often gets forgotten is communication, Connolly said. It is important that coworkers can communicate on projects and problems.
He said he showed up for an event at Gentry Middle School one day and was pleasantly surprised with a group of student ambassadors welcomed him, with each student shaking his hand and making an introduction. That was a great first impression, he said.
After Connolly’s speech, the group boarded a bus and visited Pittsburgh Glass Works in Elkin and Insteel Industries and Renfro Corp. in Mount Airy.
Three Triad health systems have been rated as among the “most wired” in the country by the American Hospital Association.
The annual designation follows the association’s Most Wired survey, which this year in addition to looking at the integration of electronic medical records also included how hospitals are using telehealth to expand access to specialists.
“Hospitals are breaking out of their traditional four walls and providing care where and when patients need it,” said Rick Pollack, president and CEO of the American Hospital Association. “These Most Wired hospitals exemplify this transformation by harnessing technology, engaging patients and offering services remotely.”
Within telehealth, the survey found that stroke care is the area of most rapid growth, with a 38 percent increase in utilization from last year.
Additionally, more than a quarter of the hospitals in the list are using internet-enabled monitoring devices for management of chronic diseases such as congestive heart failure, diabetes and heart disease.
Within the realm of medical records, more than half are using electronic records in conjunction with population health tools to manage care for large swaths of patients.
Nearly two-thirds use those records to stratify patients according to risk and more than half are aggregating patient data from across various sources and providers to create a community health record.
For a full list of winners, visit www.hhnmag.com.
Read the story in the Business Journal here.
Year founded: 1931
Top executive: Paul Hammes, CEO
Address: 180 Parkwood Drive, Elkin 28621
No. of Triad employees: 602
No. of employees total: 885
Describe your company culture in five words: Friendly, collaborative, respectful, “like family”
Three ways you ensure all of your employees know they are valued? 1.) Promoting a recognition culture. We celebrate the success of individuals, departments and the organization often, from awards for years of service to national awards for clinical excellence that include cake or ice cream and a gift for all employees. 2.) Ample benefits. Employees have access to medical, dental, vision, and prescription benefits; a health savings account, flexible spending accounts, life and disability insurance, 401(k) and wellness dollars. We also do things that few other employers do these days. For example, at Christmas we provided every employee with a gift certificate to a local meat center. We also do fun events like hosting an ice cream sundae-making party and a BBQ lunch for all employees during Hospital Week. 3.) Emphasizing department manager or supervisor-to-employee communication. We use weekly department huddles to promote communication to all employees about what’s happening in the organization, and to also provide time for employee recognition by managers and supervisors in front of co-workers.
Most popular perks? Our robust health and wellness services go beyond standard offerings. They include a wellness gym and pool with
classes like water aerobics, boot camps and Turbo Kick. Our beautiful, wooded campus has walking trails and we have a great cafeteria with tasty, healthy and affordable food. We also have the option to sit outdoors to eat in a garden area with roses.
Longest-tenured local employee? Sandra Wood, director of budget and cost reimbursement, 40 years
The best time we’ve had in the past year was when … on Friday and Sunday of Super Bowl week our employees could wear their team shirt. We enjoyed tailgate food in the cafeteria. Pictures began to come in from our physician offices as well as departments within the hospital. Being North Carolina based, most employees were Panther fans. Our employees had a great time at work that day. We distributed a word scramble during the week to turn in and be eligible for a large amount of small prizes. This created a lot of excitement and camaraderie.
What employees said:
“HCMH is a great place to work because our employees — from leaders to staff — are excellent people who support each other and our mission. We are the best community hospital.”
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.
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.
When FloydFest begins later this month in Virginia, a Mount Airy company will take center stage with the official sock of the popular musical event.
The Farm to Feet brand, a product of Nester Hosiery on Carter Street, will have that role for the second-straight year. It not only involves the Farm to Feet/Nester Hosiery name being associated with and promoted alongside what has been called the South’s pre-eminent music festival, but also sales of special FloydFest socks on site.
This translates to increased job stability for the 200 or so employees of Nester Hosiery who turn out 100-percent American-made socks, from raw materials through production.
FloydFest will be held for the 14th year on July 27-31 on a site in the mountains of Patrick County near the Floyd County line, off the Blue Ridge Parkway near mile marker 171. The talent lineup includes Gregg Allman, Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers, Shakey Graves and a long list of others.
A special sock line with a FloydFest theme has been produced by the local company.
“The Floyd” is a lightweight crew sock with a design inspired by the Blue Ridge Mountains that surround the event and its distinguished performers. It features guitar strings, musical notes, trees and the mountains in its design.
Those socks will be available for purchase at a Farm to Feet booth in the Outdoor Experience Tent at the festival, through Farm to Feet’s retail partners and online at http://www.farmtofeet.com.
On the Rise
The Farm to Feet brand specializes in socks for rugged outdoor uses such as hiking, climbing and snow sports — with names such as Kodiak, Denver and Park City.
Aside from being the official sock of FloydFest, a further promotion involves the Farm to Feet brand featuring — on its packaging — the winner of an On the Rise contest. It is a competition highlighting up-and-coming acts voted on by festival attendees.
The On the Rise program reflects FloydFest’s showcasing of new, lesser-known bands in addition to national acts. During the festival, attendees vote for the “On the Rise” band they like best, and the group with the most votes will win a set on FloydFest’s main stage the next year and their photo and story featured on the sock packaging.
Last year’s On the Rise winner, Look Homeward, based in Raleigh, is shown on the packaging of this year’s FloydFest sock.
This campaign is a natural tie-in, in the view of David Petri of Nester Hosiery, the marketing vice president of its Farm to Feet division.
“As an up-and-coming sock brand, we understand what it’s like to try to break out on the scene, and by featuring the winning band on our packaging we hope we can help them reach new fans,” said Petri.
He added Thursday that its partnership with FloydFest involves a recognition by Nester Hosiery of the growing popularity of such outdoor music festivals. “It’s just an opportunity to introduce our products to more people in a fun and creative way.”
Petri hopes similar arrangements can be forged with other events.
“It has helped us reach a younger audience,” company CEO Kelly Nester said Thursday of the musical involvement, getting more people interested in the Farm to Feet lifestyle collection.
Petri said that sales of socks last year at FloydFest “far exceeded” company expectations, and helped boost sales later on while also increasing brand awareness. The latter led to a decision by REI — a retail chain specializing in outdoor gear — to add Farm to Feet socks in its stores.
Wool to produce the socks is grown and sheared in the Rocky Mountains, with the remaining processes taking place within 300 miles of Nester Hosiery’s sustainability-focused knitting facility in Mount Airy.
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.
Edit Edit date and timeI 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 don’t 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 company’s culture, industry, business, office environment and workflow. This can be a fruitful opportunity for both you and the interns. You don’t want to lose the opportunity to make the best impression and provide the best learning experience possible.
Don’t 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.
Elkin High is silver award winner First Posted: 3:31 pm – April 30th, 2016 Elkin High School has been recognized as a Silver Medal award winner in the latest edition of The U.S. News and Record national report on the Best High Schools in America.
National and state rankings for this report include data on more than 21,000 public high schools in 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Elkin High is ranked 36th within North Carolina and has a national ranking of 2,104. Schools were awarded gold, silver or bronze medals based on their performance on state assessments and how well they prepare students for college. With the exclusion of charter schools, early colleges and magnet schools,
Elkin High Schools rank moves to No. 14 compared to the 608 high schools in North Carolina. To produce the 2016 Best High Schools rankings, U.S. News & World Report teamed with North Carolina-based RTI International, a global nonprofit social science research firm.
The rankings were based on two key principles: 1) that a great high school must serve all of its students well, not just those who are college bound, and 2) that it must be able to produce measurable academic outcomes to show it is successfully educating its student body across a range of performance indicators. In the 2016 U.S. News Best High Schools rankings, there are 29 North Carolina schools with silver medals and 109 with bronze medals.
Fifteen schools in North Carolina earned gold medals. Of the 29 schools with silver medals, Elkin High School is the 14th highest ranked traditional public high school in northwest North Carolina and is only one of three traditional public high schools in western North Carolina (excluding charters, magnet schools, early colleges, private schools, etc) to receive a Top 40 statewide ranking and earn the Silver Medal.
Only East Surry High School (No. 39) and Mount Airy High School (No. 40) earned silver recognitions as a traditional high school from western North Carolina. Superintendent Dr. Randy Bledsoe said he is very proud of Elkin High School for being the highest ranked school in the western North Carolina region for two consecutive years. Our staff is totally dedicated to educating every child and helping each one to reach his/her academic and career goals, according to Bledsoe. Elkin High School Principal Joel Hoyle stated that he was very proud of this recognition for Elkin High School and this is a testament to the students, staff, and the community. He credited the extraordinary staff at Elkin High School for providing exceptional learning opportunities for each student.
As a Pre-K through grade 12 STEAM-infused educational system, all teachers in the Elkin City Schools district are to be commended for this most recent honor, said Bledsoe. The preparation of high school students begins in the elementary school, continues through the middle school and is further enhanced by numerous opportunities provided through the various academic programs. Every school day students are engaged in meaningful lessons and activities that reinforce the objectives taught in the classroom, said Bledsoe. Our system-wide mission is to provide every child with staff members who nurture, support, inspire, encourage and deliver quality instruction. The accomplishment of our mission is reflected in this most prestigious honor as a Best High Schools Silver Medal recipient.
N.C. has enough debt capacity to absorb $2B bond proposal, treasurer says Jan 28, 2016, 7:25am EST The North Carolina general fund has enough capacity to absorb $210 million in new debts per year for the next 10 years, according to a study released by N.C. Treasurer Janet Cowell.
Every year, the Debt Affordability Advisory Committee provides a look at North Carolinas debt capacity, but the report carries extra weight this year as North Carolinians will vote on a bond package in March that could see the state borrow $2 billion for a wide range of infrastructure projects.
In short, the report supports the notion that the state could borrow the full $2 billion without the need to raise taxes, something bond supporters, including Gov. Pat McCrory, have also said. North Carolina enjoys a triple-A rating from all three major rating agencies, one of only nine states that can boast that claim. The states debt ratios are below the median of those nine states, and the advisory committee estimates that additional borrowing from the bond proposal would not cause a ratings downgrade.
This report is of elevated importance this year as voters consider approval of the Connect NC Bonds, Cowell said in a statement. Our findings demonstrate that North Carolina has maintained a conservative posture on debt and has the ability to responsibly invest in its future and keep the AAA bond ratings if the Connect NC bonds are approved. In addition to the general fund report, the advisory committee report shows the combined debt capacity of the Highway Fund and the Highway Trust Fund is about $1.1 billion for the current fiscal year.
“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
Surry County Economic Development Partnership, Inc.
1218 State St.,
Mt. Airy NC 27030
PO BOX 7128
Surry County Economic Development Partnership Inc. 1218 State St., Mt. Airy NC 27030
PO BOX 7128