Surry County NewsRead about new business, events and news that effects life and commerce in the western Piedmont Triad.
BizFest exhibitors from businesses and nonprofits across Surry County attend a seminar on collaboration at The Liberty in Elkin Thursday afternoon.
Amanda Pearce and Marie Palacious present a seminar on “Competing or Collaborating” during the kick-off for BizFest Thursday afternoon.
BizFest exhibitors from businesses and nonprofits across Surry County attend a seminar on collaboration at The Liberty in Elkin Thursday afternoon.
The seventh-annual BizFest will be held at The Liberty in Elkin on Thursday from noon to 6 p.m.
The event alternates between Mount Airy and Elkin, said Todd Tucker, president of Surry County Economic Development Partnership (SCEDP), which puts on the exhibition. The Yadkin Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce are co-sponsors
“BizFest is a business expo that features the business in Surry County, and focuses primarily on the small business,” said Tucker. “It gives them a chance to show off their products and services. It’s mainly a business-to-business event, but the public is always welcome to attend.
“It’s a good way for people to become aware of the companies we have here, so they can buy their products, use their services and shop local. We want to keep all that money here.”
Starting off the event is a kick‐off celebration from noon to 1:30 p.m. WorkForce Unlimited and the Small Business Center at Surry Community College will present Amanda Pearce and Marie Palacious with Funding for Good to facilitate an interactive session on successful partnerships, titled, “Competing or Collaborating? Keeping the Community in Mind and Dollars in Hand.”
“Our goal will be to explore ways to grow your business through innovative partnerships across diverse business sectors. Many business owners struggle with finding new ways to grow their business, how to find needed services and how to engage partners to strengthen your work,” reads BizFest promotional materials.
The exhibition will feature 42 vendors representing Surry County businesses.
Duke Energy and the town of Elkin will host a Business After Hours event from 4 to 6 p.m. to wrap up BizFest. The exhibitor booths will remain open during this time to allow additional networking opportunities.
“The chamber is pleased to be a part of it,” said Randy Collins, president and CEO of the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce. “BizFest is a great way to showcase our local business community. I invite everyone to come out on the 12th.”
The Liberty is located at 222 E. Main St. in downtown Elkin.
Surry Community College’s Advanced Manufacturing Day on Friday brought in 350 students from area schools to get information about training, education and jobs in advanced manufacturing.
Middle school students arrived from Mount Airy and Elkin along with high schoolers from Mount Airy, North Surry, Forbush and Elkin.
“I promise you won’t have trouble finding a job if you have the skills,” said Doug Slate, mechatronics engineering lead instructor, to a group of Mount Airy Middle School students.
He then talked numbers, telling them that graduates of his two-year program who learn the necessary skills are qualified for jobs in Surry and Yadkin County with starting pay of $21 to $22 per hour. He said if they were willing to drive to Winston-Salem, they could make $32 an hour, but admitted that was the exception. Those jobs average $21-$24 an hour.
“That’s right out of school,” he said. “With excellent benefits.”
Slate went on to say that he knew of 30 open positions — but telling the students they might have to drive to Winston-Salem or Iredell County — and the college only graduated four people last year. “It’s been that way for several years,” he said. “Eighty percent or better have jobs before they walk across the stage to get their diploma.”
Slate made the case to the students that a two-year technical degree in his mechatronics program — which he defined as a combination of mechanics, electronics and robotics — was an alternative path to a four-year degree. “People with four-year degrees are calling me and saying they want to come back and take my program.”
Martha Holt, a North Surry senior, said she was most interested in seeing the larger robots. She has worked with one of the smaller models in high school and wants to see how it applies to the real world. Martha said she was interested in bio-medical engineering, specifically making medical devices.
Jordan Crowson, a mechatronics instructor, was showing students how the largest of Surry’s four robots works. The big yellow machine is capable of lifting several thousand pounds, according to Crowson.
“We’re the only college in the state that has a set-up like this,” he told the students.
“Students learn to program the robots,” he said. “But the simulation software is like a video game. This is real.”
Russell Jones, Electronics Engineering lead instructor, told Mount Airy Middle School students, “If it runs on electricity, our students can fix it.”
He then introduced his department’s robot to the students. His name is Baxter, and unlike the mechatronics robots, Baxter has a face. Above the arms that perform tasks, Baxter has a computer screen where the head would be on a human. Jones showed the kids how to pull up a menu and use it to program Baxter. But there are also eyes and eyebrows on the screen, and they are quite expressive.
As the kids took turns operating Baxter, Jones warned them to step back when he was ready to go. “It hurts when he slaps you up side of the head,” Jones told the students.
“He won’t complain. He doesn’t need to go to the bathroom. He doesn’t want a smoke. But sometimes, he doesn’t get it right,” Jones explained Baxter’s performance to the kids. And on those occasions when Baxter didn’t get it right, his eyes would turn down into a sad, pouty face.
“Any kind of metal, machinists had something to do with it,” Corey Easter, Computer-Integrated Machining lead instructor, said. “We drive the economy,” and added that Ingersol-Rand’s whole business is machining.
On the other side of the campus in the Shelton-Badgett Center for Viticulture and Enology, several area companies involved in advanced manufacturing had set up booths to talk to the students.
Ingersoll-Rand, which has a facility in Mocksville, was one of them. Stacy West said he wanted to show students there were other options for a good career and get them to think about technical careers. He said his company is growing, and they are looking for new hires in machining and maintenance. They are beginning a $30 million project converting to robotics to give them the precision they are looking for, and they will need trained people.
Jake Speaks, spokesperson for Dynamic Machining and Manufacturing in King, said “I want to spread our name to some of these students, both to the college students when they come out of school, and to the younger kids when they come along several years from now.”
Aaron Morse and Michael Cummings, both electronics students who graduate in May, came out of the Shelton-Badgett Center, feeling positive.
“I had some good conversations,” said Morse.
When asked if he had received any job offers, Cummings smiled and said, “Not yet.”
A dozen local students are part of what local officials hope is a big step toward attracting high-tech business to Surry County, and maybe keeping those students at home when they enter the workforce full time. The 12 are serving internships in local businesses in what school officials are calling the Next Generation Career Academy.
The program aims to help students get experience and training for jobs in advance manufacturing and the so-called STEM-related fields. STEM refers to courses of study in science, technology, engineering and math.
In addition to practical work experience, the students are earning a stipend from the program, funded by a grant from the Golden Leaf Foundation.
The program had its genesis in September, during a discussion by Dr. Travis Reeves, county school superintendent, Dr. David Shockley, president of Surry Community College, and career coach Crystal Folger-Hawks during that month’s Business and Education Economic Partnership meeting.
”Students will complete internships or apprenticeships designed with local business and industry partners that can and will lead to employment,” the school system said in designing its grant application, according to Surry County Schools spokesperson Sonia Dickerson.
“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,” the grant application stated.
During that September meeting, Folger-Hawks presented a timeline of events that showed the schools establishing business and economic partnerships with agencies in the community; completing an annual analysis of the business and economic development and education partnership; identifying specific industry-recognized certifications that students could earn, such as welding certification, OSHA certification, and career readiness; and by January, identifying specified work-based learning opportunities in industry sites and identifying potential student candidates and conduct intern training.
“The Next Generation Career Academy is right on schedule,” Folger-Hawks said recently in a kickoff meeting with the first group of interns. “Welcome to your first three-day intern training.”
Folger-Hawks, Reeves, and Shockley greeted the 12 students who met the criteria for the internship program. During the training provided by Surry Community College and Surry County Schools, the interns engaged in discussions and activities focused on their work ethic, employer expectations, communication skills, problem-solving, team-building, time management, lean process improvement, and even table manners.
At the end of the week the interns had an opportunity to meet their new employer/mentor at a luncheon before they started the internship on Monday, Jan. 29.
Prior to the students going out to the locations, Folger-Hawks met individually with businesses, toured their facilities, and designed internship opportunities. She matched students to specific careers in the businesses that are participating in the Next Generation Career Academy.
Those businesses include: AES Inc., Chatham Nursing and Rehabilitation, Insteel Industries, Johnson Granite, Leonard Buildings & Truck Accessories, Nester Hosiery, Smith-Rowe, SouthData and Surry Telephone Membership Corporation.
Golden Leaf funds will pay stipends directly to students for their work-based learning internships, as well as funding the costs of textbooks in community college and/or high school courses, and funding transportation costs for students. Several businesses are also paying students for their internship experience.
After one day of his internship program, Noah Reece texted this message to Folger-Hawks, “I’m telling you what I did today I wouldn’t trade for anything else. It was a blast, I love what I did, and hopefully, it will be what I continue to do. Thank you so much for this opportunity. I am really hoping they will take me full time. I have decided just on the first day this is what I want to do. I can’t thank you enough.”
“We got off to a great start with our Next Generation Career Academy extended internship program, and now Surry County Schools is in the position to work with local businesses to develop an apprenticeship program,” said Folger-Hawks.
“It’s exciting to know that we are giving students real-world work skills and they are immediately employable.”
Facing formidable competition from the likes of a mansion, a warship and the natural wonders of mountains and seashore, Mount Airy Main Street prevailed as North Carolina’s number one attraction in a USA Today 10 Best Contest that was released at noon on Friday.
“This is so exciting for businesses in town and for the city,” said Jessica Roberts, executive director of the Mount Airy Tourism Development Authority (TDA). “We are very proud to be named number one in North Carolina, and this media exposure will be wonderful for the city of Mount Airy.”
“It was a real grassroots effort to get the word out locally and to our fans around the world; fans of Mount Airy and fans of ‘The Andy Griffith Show’,” said Roberts of her agency’s campaign to earn votes for Mount Airy downtown.
Also named on the 10 Best list were #2 — Battleship North Carolina, Wilmington, #3 — Biltmore Estate, Asheville, #4 — Sarah P. Duke Gardens, Durham, #5 — Grandfather Mountain, #6 — Blue Ridge Parkway, #7 — International Civil Rights Center & Museum, Greensboro, #8 — Cape Lookout National Seashore, #9 — Great Smoky Mountains National Park, #10 — Corolla Wild Horses, Corolla.
“I’m just tickled to death,” said Travis Frye, programs and events director for the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce. “I was kind of in shock. We were up against Biltmore and all those others.”
Frye added that coming out ahead of those heavy-hitting attractions is a reflection of the spirit of the local community.
It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t always a sure thing. During the final weeks of voting in the reader’s choice contest, Mount Airy had dropped down into third place, temporarily bested by Biltmore and some of the other contenders as voting progressed.
“We watched what they were doing, and then we did more of it,” Roberts explained how she and her team took advantage of that time while lagging behind the frontrunners. “We sent out texts, emails, posts on social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. We asked the Chamber to help, talked to different people and businesses locally so they were all doing what we were doing.”
This is not Mount Airy’s first time at the rodeo of public opinion. Several years ago, the city was one of six finalists competing for the title of Friendliest City in America. The results of that competition did not turn out so well for Mayberry, with Walla Walla, Washington, ultimately named the winner. But the experience did not go to waste.
“When we were nominated for ‘friendliest city,’ right away we put together a plan for media exposure to let the media know we were in the running,” said Roberts. That plan has been honed and sharpened over the years in subsequent campaigns, and on Friday it paid off.
“I think being named number one in the category is huge exposure for us,” said Roberts. “We could never pay for this kind of publicity.”
“We try to get people to come, and then we try to get them to stay longer and spend more money,” said Roberts of the efforts of the TDA. “Anything a tourist touches while they are here helps the local economy.”
“This is an opportunity for us to come together as a community,” said Frye of the latest accolade bestowed on Mount Airy by a national publication.“People still long for that small-town feel,” he summed up. “And we’ve got that.”
Stan Jewell remembers the days when consumers viewed socks as a mere afterthought — an item haphazardly tossed in the shopping cart on the way to a more important purchase.
“It was ‘do I need my white socks or my dress socks?’” said Jewell, the newly minted CEO of Mount Airy-based Renfro Corp.
But today, buyers see socks as a fashion statement, he said. And they’re willing to spend more than just a few bucks for the fancy footwear emblazoned with elaborate graphics, designs and patterns. Hiker friendly socks that provide blister protection and resist odor-causing bacterial buildup? That’ll be $22.50. A pair of cashmere-merino wool blend socks with a classic ribbed pattern? $58, please. Compare those prices to a six-pack of men’s big and tall crew socks from Walmart for $7.47.
Indeed, there is a movement afoot to provide consumers with socks featuring various fashion designs or high-tech fabrics that promise better comfort or performance for a specific activity like running. That trend, in turn, has provided fertile ground for startups focused on selling socks marketed with words like “fun,” “novelty” and “premium.” The trend has forced sock manufacturers like Renfro Corp. — whose strength has been their ability to produce mass quantities of socks in traditional channels such as department stores — to look at their sales strategies with fresh eyes and add specialty niche socks to generate revenue and stay competitive.
That’s been a top priority for Jewell, who this summer took the reins at Renfro, a global manufacturer of private label legwear products. Jewell is focused on growing market share of brands like New York City-based HotSox, which features sock collections featuring everything from Van Gogh paintings to Scottie dogs. Some manufacturers, like Mount Airy-based Nester Hosiery, are hiring new executives to boost sales for premium sock lines. Others, such as ProFeet in Burlington, have launched new hosiery to appeal to consumers who love the outdoors. Some are even partnering with sock startups to provide production capabilities and earn a cut of the profits.
Socks are crowded segment
The fight for sock market share is taking place clear across the Triad, which is home to a crowded field of sock producers. Take, for example, the small city of Mount Airy, with just over 10,000 people. Mount Airy is home to Nester Hosiery, a high-end sock maker in the premium performance sock category, and has also long hosted a sock operation for Winston-Salem-based Hanesbrands. Look farther south to find Greensboro-based Kayser Roth, a hosiery manufacturer that operates plants in Burlington and Asheboro. And manufacturer Harriss & Covington, a producer of SmartWool socks, is based in High Point.
Sock companies here and across the country are pursuing the premium socks trend to help them generate revenue in an industry hard-hit by the shift to overseas manufacturing.
“We are trying to balance our portfolio a little bit more because the basic category of light gray athletic socks is shrinking,” Jewell said of Renfro, which makes socks for the likes of Fruit of the Loom and Walmart.
The company, which employs about 500 of its 4,500-person workforce at the company’s Mount Airy headquarters and distribution center, isn’t willing to depend solely on volume production alone.
“We’re still the biggest player in that market, but we are trying to grow our more interesting segments of the business in the performance and fashion category faster,” Jewell said.
Consumer tastes drive demand
The good news is that there is still plenty of money to be had: The global socks market was valued at $42 billion in 2016, and it is expected to expand at a compounded annual growth rate of 6.7 percent from 2017 to 2025, according to Transparency Market Research of Albany, N.Y.
The companies able to sell lines of socks that can be differentiated will be the winners in the uber-competitive category.
“Now that you can charge more and get more for it, no longer is the low-cost manufacturer in control,” said Roger Beahm, a marketing professor at Wake Forest University. “Now, when someone is looking at a pair of socks, they are looking at what’s the value-added? What am I getting that I might not normally get in another pair and does it add value? Is it the decoration? Is it the sock itself? Or a technological ingredient that allows the sock to perform better? Does it better reflect my lifestyle? Does it help me escape? Those are values that are being delivered now.”
He added that socks are also seen as an “affordable luxury.”
“You can pay $16 for a pair of socks. While that’s expensive compared to what a commodity sock would be, it’s still not going to break your budget,” Beahm said.
Jewell’s ability to generate new revenue for the company through specialty socks will be imperative to the longevity of Renfro, which is owned by private equity firm Kelso and remains one of the largest manufacturers of private-label socks for retailers like Walmart, Target and Kohl’s.
Founded in 1921, the company derives about 50 percent of its annual revenue of $500 million from the traditional sock business. That’s down from a portfolio that previously relied almost entirely on the basic sock category, Jewell said. The remaining half of Renfro’s business comes from sports, outdoor and workwear performance socks and fashion, high-end socks, Jewell said.
Jewell said Renfro’s non-basic categories of performance socks, such as New Balance and Nike athletic socks, currently make up 20 percent of the company’s overall business while fashion socks, like Polo/ Ralph Lauren products, make up about 30 percent. He estimates that the fashion sock category will grow to about 35 percent over the next five years while performance socks will grow from 20 percent to 30 percent.
He said he sees plenty of potential for fashion-oriented socks, which are often bought by those who want to add some personality to one’s ensemble and express one’s interests and tastes.
“I don’t have to think of some new combination or style of pants or shirts,” Jewell said. “I can put a new pair of socks on that is pushing my fashion sense a little bit, but it’s not a big risk, it’s not a big expense.”
Other consumers want to make a deliberate statement, he said.
“Hey, I like pizza and beer so I’m going to have pizza and beer on my socks,” Jewell said. “I like Picasso, so I’m going to have Picasso on my socks.”
A display shows off Hot Sox, which are manufactured at Renfro.
Jewell plans to generate more money from fashion-oriented socks largely by enhancing the marketing of companies Renfro has bought over the past decade. In 2007, it bought New York City based HotSox, whose main sock customer is Ralph Lauren, followed by the acquisition of California-based K. Bell in 2010. In 2014, Renfro struck a license agreement with New Balance to design, manufacture and market new and existing lines of socks for the athletic apparel brand.
Jewell said Renfro is now working on an initiative to co-market specific socks with New Balance shoes.
“When we took over the New Balance license, there wasn’t traditionally very close cooperation between the sock manufacturer and the New Balance parent company,” Jewell said. “So we’ve worked really hard to build a stronger connection, and we have aligned our product categories directly to their shoe category, so that’s new. And we are designing socks to go specifically with footwear products they are designing.”
Renfro’s advantages: Scale, speed
Jewell isn’t worried about the sock startup competition. If anything, it helps Renfro, he said.
“We are learning a lot from watching those guys and seeing what’s really sticking,” he said. “That helps inform us on what our strategy should be and how we move forward.”
He added that Renfro has the ability to scale up quickly if there is a sudden spike in demand for specialty socks — something startups can’t do as easily.
“They are really going to have problems scaling up, either with capital issues or distribution,” he said.
That’s Renfro’s strength, Jewell said. It is equipped with a total of four factories, two of which are in the U.S. and are 100 percent owned by the company: A facility in Fort Payne, Ala., is used for mass production of basic socks while a facility in Cleveland, Tenn., focuses on specialty socks. The company is also part of joint ventures in both China and India that allow Renfro to mass produce socks for companies like Walmart.
“When Walmart comes to us and says ‘we want to focus on ‘Made in the USA,’ we have the ability to do that and do it in our own factories here,” Jewell said. “We don’t have to try to piece it together or outsource it.”
Meanwhile, small companies often outsource manufacturing operations, he said. While some of the firm’s larger competitors have factories, they are typically not in the U.S., Jewell said.
He added that Renfro has an advantage over sock startups because of its longstanding relationships with department stores.
“It’s very expensive to sell to department stores, when they want to charge back for unsold inventory and returns,” he said. “Small companies just can’t afford to do a lot of business with Macy’s or Dillard’s.”
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.
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 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.
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.
“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