Surry County NewsRead about new business, events and news that effects life and commerce in the western Piedmont Triad.
Insteel Industries Inc. last week announced that its board of directors declared a regular quarterly cash dividend of 3 cents per share and a one-time special cash dividend of $1.50 per share of common stock.
Both dividends are payable on Dec. 18 to shareholders of record as of Dec. 1.
“We welcome the opportunity to return capital to our shareholders through the payment of a special dividend while fully funding our aggressive capital investment program and maintaining ample financial flexibility to pursue acquisition opportunities that may arise,” said H.O. Woltz III, Insteel’s president and CEO.
Insteel, headquartered in Mount Airy, is the nation’s largest manufacturer of steel wire reinforcing products for concrete construction applications. Insteel manufactures and markets prestressed concrete strand and welded wire reinforcement, including engineered structural mesh, concrete pipe reinforcement and standard welded wire reinforcement. Insteel’s products are sold primarily to manufacturers of concrete products that are used in nonresidential construction.
A century-old Triad-based manufacturer and marketer of some of the world’s top sock brands has unveiled new branding and a new direct-to-consumer e-commerce shopping experience. In the process, Mount Airy-based Renfro Corp. has positioned itself for its second century in business.
Now Renfro Brands, the rebrand for the world’s largest dedicated sock maker, includes a new name, a revamped visual identity including, a redesigned logo and the launch of a direct-to-consumer marketplace called Loops & Wales.
“Our rebrand and launch of Loops & Wales represents the unique combination of strengths we’ve honed over the years,” said Renfro Brands CEO Stan Jewell. “With these changes, we aim to honor our heritage while focusing on what our next 99 years can look like. We are brand stewards and laser-focused on driving brand equity and brand health across the board.”
Renfro acquired its long-term license for the Fruit of the Loom hosiery business in the 1990s, shifting assets, resources and focus into the development of a brand portfolio model. The acquisition set the company on a new path to expand the breadth of its offerings, resulting in deep relationships with large retailers such as Macy’s, Walmart and Costco as well as brand licensors Carhartt, Dr. Scholl’s, Merrell and more.
Fashion sock labels Hot Sox and K. Bell joined the Renfro portfolio in 2007 and 2010, respectively. Today, Renfro manufacturers more than 20 globally recognized brands spanning the essentials, fashion, athletics, outdoors, work and wellness categories.
As Renfro noted a renaissance in socks toward more of a fashion statement than an afterthought, the company recognized an opportunity to develop a digital shopping experience through Loops & Wales. The move is intended to simultaneously capitalize on the acceleration toward e-commerce and the trend toward socks as a fashion accessory.
“Launching Loops & Wales signifies a big shift for Renfro Brands,” Jewell said. “Covid has accelerated e-commerce by at least three to five years, and so while we may have been behind the market during the rise of e-commerce, the opportunity is even better today. “People will want to go to stores again someday, but the trends for e-commerce in this category will stick with us and we are forging right ahead.”
Renfro is no stranger to rapid market pivots. At the onset of Covid-19, the company, which also has a design and packaging presence in Winston-Salem, collaborated with Wake Forest Baptist Health to design its Nightingale brand face covering, which entering this past summer it was producing up to 1 million units per week at multiple manufacturing locations in Alabama and Tennessee.
The moved not only preserved all of the company’s full-time jobs, it also created more than 500 temporary positions as well. Since then, the company has shifted back to focusing on its core business, but has not exited the mask business entirely.
“Currently, our internal manufacturing capacity is fully utilized with the manufacture of socks,” Jewell told Triad Business Journal last week. “We continue to have some of the Nightingale masks available for sale, and we have supplemented our offering with masks sold under our K. Bell and Hot Sox brands.”
Loops & Wales, according to the company, is a destination for discovering, styling and buying the right socks for the right occasions while providing a unique shopping experience, offering form and function for any occasion.
“The trends were really moving towards more and more consumers purchasing socks directly online. We were behind and needed to catch up,” Jewell said. “We looked to our DNA to find what made Renfro unique in the market. We’ve got a sock for any and every occasion, and that’s where we found a space we can own.”
Texwipe, a global manufacturer of contamination control supplies, will create 33 new jobs in Surry County, Governor Roy Cooper announced today. The company will invest more than $4.5 million to locate a manufacturing facility in Mount Airy.
“Our state’s economy continues to grow, despite public health and economic challenges,” said Governor Cooper. “Companies like Texwipe choose to grow in North Carolina’s because of our talented workforce and our state’s strong management of the pandemic.”
Texwipe has been headquartered in Kernersville, N.C. since 1991. The manufacturer is an innovative leader in contamination control supplies and critical cleaning products for life sciences, semiconductor, and other industries requiring critical manufacturing environments.
“We are thankful for the support from the City of Mount Airy, Surry County, and the State of North Carolina, and look forward to our expansion and the new career opportunities it will bring to the community,” said Luke Grant, Business Unit Manager of Texwipe.
“Texwipe is an important part of our life sciences supply chain, and the company’s expansion brings exciting benefits on several levels,” said North Carolina Commerce Secretary Anthony M. Copeland. “North Carolina’s many advantages as a business destination support the success of innovation-minded manufacturers as they embrace expanded market opportunities.”
The North Carolina Department of Commerce led a team of partners in supporting Texwipe’s decision to expand their manufacturing footprint in North Carolina. The new positions include production, maintenance, and managerial staff. The average annual salary for all new positions will vary creating a payroll impact of more than $1.2 million per year. Surry County’s overall average annual wage is $37,222.
A performance-based grant of $75,000 from the One North Carolina Fund will help facilitate Texwipe’s expansion. The One NC Fund provides financial assistance to local governments to help attract economic investment and to create jobs. Companies receive no money upfront and must meet job creation and capital investment targets to qualify for payment. All One NC grants require a matching grant from local governments and any award is contingent upon that condition being met.
In addition to the North Carolina Department of Commerce and the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, other key partners in the project include the North Carolina Community College System, Surry Community College, Surry County, Surry County Economic Development Partnership, City of Mount Airy, and Duke Energy.
Insteel’s fourth-quarter results showed quite a turn-around from the same period a year ago, and its year-end results were equally strong.
In the fourth quarter of its fiscal year, which ended Oct. 3, the Mount Airy-based firmed reported earnings of $7.4 million, or 38 cents per share, compared to a net loss of $1.8 million, or 9 cents per share, during the same quarter in 2019.
For the year, net earnings stood at $19 million, or 98 cents per share, up considerably from $5.6 million, or 29 cents per share, from the end of the fiscal year 2019.
For the fourth quarter of this year, the company reported net sales increased 21.9% to $138.2 million from $113.4 million during the same quarter a year ago, quarter driven by a 27.7%
increase in shipments that offset a 4.6% decrease in average selling prices. Shipments increased 12% from the third quarter of fiscal 2020 and average selling prices increased 1.1%. The
company also benefited from an extra week in the current year quarter based on its fiscal calendar.
For the year, net sales increased 3.7% to $472.6 million from $455.7 million in the prior year, driven by a 17.3% increase in shipments that offset an 11.5% decrease in average selling prices, as well as the extra week in the current year based on the company’s fiscal calendar.
Insteel reported that it ended the year debt-free with $68.7 million of cash and no borrowings outstanding on its $100 million revolving credit facility.
“Looking ahead to fiscal 2021, we expect our financial results will remain vulnerable to uncertain market conditions depending on the strength and direction of the U.S. economic recovery,” said H.O. Woltz III, president, and CEO.
“The latest forecasts for non-residential construction indicate a bottoming or modest improvement, but the sustainability of those trends is not yet clear. Public construction has not experienced the level of weakness forecast at the onset of the pandemic, although the impact varies widely from state to state. Federal action on new transportation spending or proposed state budget relief has the potential to be a positive catalyst if implemented by the U.S. Congress.
“Despite the economic uncertainties, we remain optimistic about our key initiatives, which should benefit our fiscal 2021 performance. We are pleased with our performance in the engineered structural mesh market during 2020 and expect further growth in 2021.
“Additionally, the trade cases filed in April and June 2020 alleging illegal activity by importers in the U.S. PC strand and standard welded wire reinforcement markets have progressed favorably. The PC strand cases are now scheduled to conclude during our third fiscal quarter and the standard welded wire reinforcing case is expected to conclude during the fourth fiscal quarter of 2021. As with any litigation, we cannot predict the outcome, but we believe the facts supporting the cases are strong.”
Bottomley Enterprises, a family-owned carrier, recently opened a new trucking terminal in Mount Airy, North Carolina.
The company’s new estimated $13 million, 33,000 square-foot terminal will create approximately 100 new jobs, according to the Mt. Airy News.
Bottomley’s team drivers haul expedited refrigerated freight, including meat, produce, and Christmas trees, to several western locations in the U.S., from its Bottomley Evergreens and Farms operation.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration data, Bottomley Enterprises has 57 power units and 120 drivers.
The company decided to move its headquarters from Ennice, North Carolina, in January 2019 after receiving approval from the Surry County Board of Commissioners, the news outlet reported.
Although many businesses and school-related programs have been curtailed because of COVID-19, the Next Generation Career Academy sponsored by Surry County Schools and Surry Community College has continued this fall.
The program has placed 12 interns with area businesses during the autumn semester.
The Next Generation Career Academy began in 2017 as Dr. Travis Reeves, superintendent of Surry County Schools, and Dr. David Shockley, Surry Community College president, brainstormed ways to create a workforce development program. Their desire was to facilitate a program in which students would complete internships or apprenticeships with local business and industry partners that could ultimately lead to employment.
The Golden LEAF Foundation’s funding made the dream a reality.
“The Next Generation Career Academy continues to evolve. In the spring, Insteel partnered with us to begin an apprenticeship program in machining and signed one apprentice for full-time employment,” said Crystal Folger-Hawks, the career coach for Surry County Schools and Surry Community College.
”I am currently working with other businesses who are receptive to partner with us to expand the apprenticeship programs, and I am pleased Insteel will continue with us for a second year.”
Folger-Hawks continued, “I think this speaks volumes that businesses are seeking our students to fill their employment needs. Additionally, it is great for us to be able to provide internship opportunities for our own students as Surry County Schools is hosting two interns as school custodians.”
“Northern Regional Hospital is fortunate to partner with Surry County Schools and Surry Community College to find local talent in the healthcare industry,” said Christi Smiley, human resources director, Northern Regional Hospital. “They are helping us fill the need for qualified employees and students get hands-on experience. This is a win-win for business and education partners.”
Students are enrolled in the Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) course at Surry Community College, and these students will be looking for internships in the spring. Other points of interest regarding the Next Generation Career Academy and how the program has exceeded the Golden LEAF Foundation’s grant milestones include:
• 41 students have obtained a minimum of twelve credit hours of college credit or an Associate in Science degree. The Golden LEAF Foundation goal was 30.
• 70 students have earned a total of 144 industry-recognized/third-party credentials. The Golden LEAF Foundation goal was 30.
• 73 students completed a minimum of 100 hours of work experience through internships or other work-based learning. Again Golden LEAF Foundation goal was 30.
An average of 92% of program graduates obtained employment in their field of study within six months or continued training in advanced manufacturing programs or STEM-related fields, according to SCS. The Golden LEAF Foundation goal was 80%.
“I am so proud of our students and the partnership we have cultivated with Dr. Shockley and Surry Community College,” said Reeves.
”The ability of our school system to collaborate with the community college to provide students learning experiences steeped in real-world application is invaluable. Students are not only learning the curriculum but they are applying that knowledge to the world of work. The Next Generation Career Academy has been a tremendous benefit to our local businesses, with our students both contributing to local business workforces and benefiting from the hands-on learning.”
To date, here is how Career Academy interns have participated in work-based learning by doing and contributing to workforce development, by the numbers:
• 88 students have participated in the Next Generation Career Academy internship program.
• 34 local business partners have hosted interns.
• 34 students have committed to continue working with their company on a full- or part-time basis at job signings.
“To be able to couple the academic classroom with a hands-on, real-world experience makes the big difference in education,” Shockley said. “This is where the rubber hits the road; when students have light bulb moments of being able to apply classroom instruction into an everyday work setting.
“This experience is valuable to students in that it helps them network with local professionals and build up their resume experience,” said Shockley.
“I am proud and delighted of the partnership we forged with Dr. Reeves and the Surry County Schools to establish the Next Generation Career Academy, and I look forward to seeing future student successes from this program. We are grateful to Golden LEAF for supporting our students through its grant program.”
“Golden LEAF is proud to support innovative strategies that help develop a skilled workforce,” said Scott T. Hamilton, Golden LEAF president, and CEO. “This project is a great example of how public-private partnerships can create sustainable programs that meet the needs of local business.”
Chris Lumsden, president and CEO, Northern Regional Hospital
If you could have an alternate title what would it be? Chief people person
How long have you worked at your company? About two years
Birthplace? Alexandria, Virginia
What was your first job as a youth? At age 12, I had two part-time jobs — a paper route (shows my age) and mowing grass. My dad didn’t believe in idle time, and still doesn’t today.
In light of the Covid-19 virus, what is the biggest challenge you face right now in leading your company? Balancing our responsibility to protect our purpose (serving patients) and people (jobs) against the immense financial impact of Covid-19 is a tremendous challenge for NRH. An intense focus on purpose is particularly critical during a health care crisis when our patients and communities look to us for strength, predictability and stability. Most don’t know the details behind our weeks of meticulous Covid-19 preparedness planning nor the physical, emotional and financial pressures that we are now under as a regional community hospital. Our NRH team members, 1,000 people strong, place themselves in harm’s way every day caring for all patients while at the same time worrying about the financial and physical toll that this awful virus may or has placed on them and their families. My challenge is to ensure that each and every NRH caregiver knows that they are essential, their jobs are precious, and that I have their backs and will fight for them now and going forward. I feel confident that if I help protect people that people will in turn protect our mission and finances short and long term.
How has the Covid-19 crisis impacted how you relate to your employees, and what steps might you take in the weeks and months ahead to continue to motivate and encourage them? I have witnessed the “best of the best” in people at NRH during the past three months. Undoubtedly, hospitals are largely always prepared for a disaster or crisis of some sort. However, for most of us, the Covid-19 pandemic is thankfully a once-in-a-lifetime experience. This past early March, we planned for the worst and hoped for the best. It was an “all hands on deck” approach not knowing whether we might experience a Covid-19 patient surge weeks later. From daily communications and updates across our system to 30-minute virtual Covid-19 huddles three times a week (all recorded and posted for every NRH employee and stakeholder to review) to a multitude of other preparedness and intervention measures, as an award winning team, we aggressively focused on first protecting our team and also having the necessary supplies and equipment in-house to care for our service region. However, like almost all hospitals, what we’ve sadly seen is service volumes and revenue fall by 20 to 40% with unprecedented current and anticipated near future financial losses. This said, we will not allow short term financial concerns to define our long term mission nor distract us from smartly implementing growth plans, protecting our people and serving our community. We will continue to engage our NRH team through a leadership open door philosophy, weekly written CEO Friday reports/updates, executive rounding, employee opinion surveys, town hall meetings (when able), newly instituted employee educational assistance and nursing scholarship programs, and a host of other employee recognition activities. Now is the time to invest in the growth of our people.
How do you measure success? Although it’s important to measure business success by performance metrics, my measure of success is simply the favorable impact that I have had on people over my lifetime. As one of my mentors explained to me many years ago, “people always, in the end, vote their priorities with their time and money”. Rarely are people inspired by or remember achieving performance metrics. What most people remember is who helped them and who they helped to achieve personal and professional milestones. My measure of success is being a great family man and friend and helping as many people as possible to achieve their personal and professional aspirations.
Share one thing about yourself that would surprise people? I love the outdoors. As such, I buy and reclaim farmland and build fish ponds/lakes, ranging in size from 1 to 7 acres.
What do you like to do to relax and/or to have fun? Most sports, particularly golf, fishing, basketball (and now ping pong), and a glass of wine with family and friends.
SYEMC partners with North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives, Circle K to install electric vehicle DC fast charger
DOBSON — Area electric vehicle owners and those traveling through Surry County have a new way to quickly get a lasting charge. Surry-Yadkin Electric Membership Corporation, in partnership with Circle K and North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives, the power supplier and statewide association for the state’s electric cooperatives, has installed and energized a new ChargePoint DC fast charger along the Interstate 77 corridor in Surry County.
Representatives of the partner organizations as well as area economic and county leaders gathered Tuesday, September 15, 2020, to cut the ribbon officially welcoming the new fast charging unit. The first of its kind for a 121-mile stretch of I-77 between Wytheville, Va., and Cornelius, N.C., the charger was installed and energized in July in the southwest corner of the Circle K parking lot on Zephyr Road at the I-77 Dobson Exit.
The fast charger can fully charge an all-electric vehicle in about 60 minutes, allowing the vehicle to travel about 300 miles for $27.
North Carolina’s electric cooperatives, including Surry-Yadkin EMC (SYEMC), have committed to continue growing an electric vehicle charging network in rural areas around the state. This fast charger is one of the units that is helping expand that network and is part of a $1 million investment the co-ops are making in electric vehicle charging infrastructure across the state. Eight of North Carolina’s electric cooperatives also were recently awarded funding through the North Carolina Volkswagen Settlement to install additional charging stations along major highway corridors.
Growing the EV network helps with NC’s Electric Cooperatives’ goal of reducing carbon emissions by 50 percent from 2005 levels by 2030 and being at net zero carbon emissions by 2050. This is part of a new Brighter Future initiative recently launched by the 26 North Carolina electric cooperatives, including
SYEMC, that aims to preserve the reliability and affordability of electricity while also achieving important sustainability goals.
The new EV charger has seen heavy use since it was energized, especially on the weekends. EV users can search for chargers on their online maps when traveling and planning trips, and the ChargePoint fast charger in Dobson is now appearing on those mapping systems.
This will mean a boost to Surry County’s tourism and economy. EV drivers will be able to make stops in Surry County, and while their vehicle is charging up, they can visit Circle K as well as other nearby stores and restaurants.
Circle K in Dobson is the first one in North Carolina to host a DC fast charger, and among the first locations for Circle K in the United States. Circle K is already a global leader in EV charging with stations in Europe hosting EV capacity. In Norway alone, Circle K stations have more than 450 chargers.
“This is the first EV charger in the Coastal Carolina Business Unit,” said Jill Peterson, fuel director for Circle K. “In this market, we are evaluating what impact EV charging capacity may have on our local business and driving traffic to our site. Our expectation is that we will see lift over time as adoption rates increase, and we look forward to helping all our customers fill their needs, whether for fuel or electric charging.
“We are excited to partner with Surry-Yadkin Electric on this project, and we look forward to seeing how traffic at this location may improve with the new option to our EV customers,” Peterson said.
“This is something big to celebrate,” said Travis Bode, key accounts and energy services coordinator for SYEMC. “We’re not only honored for ourselves and for Circle K, but for Surry County. It’s nice to know that here in Dobson, Surry County, a tenth of a mile from I-77, is the first one in North Carolina.
“It’s a nice boost for area businesses and for the county,” he said.
The EV charger project was a year in the works. SYEMC reached out to Circle K after an assessment determined there was a need for a fast charger along the I-77 corridor.
“It’s nice to work in a county like Surry County, where it’s not just us, it’s everybody. You’ve got county leadership, you’ve got corporate leadership, all working together for one common goal that fits everybody else,” Bode said.
“Our goals at Surry-Yadkin are what are our member needs, and what are our community needs, and what can we do to get there,” he said.
Evan Fitzgerald, innovation and business development analyst with North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives, noted that NC cooperatives are leading the country in cooperatives owning and operating EV infrastructure throughout the state. By the middle of 2021, there will be about 20 fast chargers throughout the state operated by cooperatives, he said.
He also pointed out the chargers’ importance to economic development as drivers will stop in communities along their travels.
Surry County Commissioner Larry Johnson, chairman of the board of commissioners, also talked about the importance of the EV chargers. He foresaw a time when one charger will not be enough, and more will need to be added.
“I think it is wonderful for folks to stop right here in Surry County and see this beautiful county and this beautiful country that we have right here. While they’re recharging their cars, they can go to the businesses nearby and recharge themselves with a cup of coffee or a pack of Nabs,” Johnson said.
Prior to the installation of the EV fast charger, SYEMC had four Level II chargers on its system – two at the Fairfield Inn in Elkin, one at the Hampton Inn off Zephyr Road in Dobson, and one at the SYEMC headquarters in Dobson.
An additional Level II charger will be installed this year at the visitors center parking lot at Hanging Rock State Park. This will be the second installed at a state park by an electric cooperative in North Carolina.
Northern Regional Hospital President and CEO Chris Lumsden will be a panelist on a virtual town hall meeting sponsored by the North Carolina Hospital Association set for Tuesday at 1 p.m.
The event is part of a series of virtual town halls to be held across the state, with Tuesday being the first. It includes leaders in the hospital field from the Piedmont region of North Carolina, which includes Mount Airy and Surry County.
“Through these and other activities, NCHA and our members will create conversations with North Carolinians to improve healthcare delivery and illustrate how healthcare providers are building the future of healthcare in our state,” the hospital association said in announcing the events.
The town halls are part of an initiative by the association to better connect hospitals, healthcare systems and the public, with the aim of improving healthcare in the state. More information is available at NCHealthcare.org, including how to register for Tuesdays virtual town hall.
Mount Airy-based Nester Hosiery has won a contract from the Defense Logistics Agency for its Farm to Feet brand of socks.
The order for its Kodiak and Fayetteville styles is in support of the U.S. Army’s need for technically advanced socks for soldiers. Details of the order were not disclosed.
From sheep’s wool sheared in the Rocky Mountains to all processing done within 300 miles of Nester’s sustainability-focused knitting facility in Mount Airy, each pair of Farm to Feet socks is made using a 100% domestic supply chain.
“We design, develop and manufacture the very best socks using only U.S.-sourced materials,” Farm to Feet CEO Kelly Nester said. “Those who serve in the armed services require socks that support their mission without fail. As a result, service members are some of the most discerning critics as they require socks that can stand up to the rigors of deployment. Receiving this contract further solidifies our belief in our products.”
Named after the home of the Naval Special Warfare Cold Weather Detachment, Kodiak is a heavyweight sock knit with the traditional sock construction that produces heather textures with nylon plaiting and stretch yarns in the outer layers, and merino wool yarns on the inside. The nylon reinforcing yarns knit into the stretch shell increase durability, while the wool fibers that sit closer to the skin provide maximum comfort and insulation.
The Fayetteville is adapted from Farm to Feet’s hiking sock, the Damascus. Made with 19.5-micron merino wool on an advanced 200-needle knitting machine, the Fayetteville provides the comfort of a thicker sock in a lightweight package. It features micro-channel circumferential ventilation, targeted hexagonal reinforcement and an improved comfort compression for reduced fatigue and added comfort.
Founded in 1993 by Marty Nester, Kelly Nester’s uncle, Nester Hosiery employs more than 200. Nester manufactures socks for more than two dozen brands including Farm to Feet, which it launched in 2013.
Surry County Economic Development Partnership, Inc.
1218 State St.,
Mt. Airy NC 27030
PO BOX 7128