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Surry County News

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

City votes to sell tract for office

Mount Airy officials voted Thursday night to sell property in a city industrial park to a company wanting to construct an office building where 30 jobs potentially could result.

An entity known as Terra Nova Legacy, a limited-liability company, recently made a direct offer to buy a 4.13-acre lot in Piedmont Triad West Corporate Park, located at the southwestern end of the city off U.S. 601.

The company is seeking to build a 4,000-square-foot office, customer service and retail facility on the property that is near the interchange of that highway and Interstate 74, close to Sheetz. Plans call for the structure to house an online/retail sales business operating primarily in the metal and steel building industry, according to documents provided to city officials.

It initially is to employ five to 10 people, with growth anticipated in the near future expected to raise that to 20 to 30 employees.

Terra Nova Legacy officials say there is also a potential for light manufacturing to be implemented down the road at the facility.

“I would describe it as a modern industrial building,” city Community Development Director Martin Collins said regarding what’s planned — based on conceptual drawings for the project — when briefing the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners on the proposed sale at a meeting Thursday.

The company offered to buy the property, which is appraised at $140,830, for $155,000.

After hearing Collins’ presentation, the commissioners voted 5-0 in favor of selling the site.

“The lot is located near the front of the industrial park,” Collins said.

Piedmont Triad West Corporate Park, which got its first occupant in 2002, became home to several plants over the years since, such as Willow Tex, Axis Dimensional Stone, Central States Manufacturing and CK Technologies. It also attracted two commercial tenants, Hall Propane and Rainbow Child Care Center.

Most recently, in May of last year, an expansion of Steel Buildings and Structures Inc. in Mount Airy was announced for another site sold in the industrial park, with a promise of more than 100 jobs.

Commissioner Shirley Brinkley asked Thursday night about the timetable for the Terra Nova Legacy facility, which Collins said hopefully will become reality within two years.

Terra Nova Legacy officials had indicated that if the company’s bid for the land was accepted, they expect to begin construction on the facility within about six months.

City Attorney Hugh Campbell said the company has requested a period of 30 days to conduct due-diligence tasks such as a title search.

“We feel that our project would be a valued and productive addition to the industrial park and look forward to working with the city of Mount Airy to fulfill our vision,” says a statement from Terra Nova Legacy.

Surry EDP holds Annual Meeting

Surry EDP holds Annual Meeting

The Surry County Economic Development Partnership held its annual meeting Friday at the new Surry County Government Service Center here.

With representation from all parts of the county, all four municipalities, county government and the business sector, 155 people gathered in the government center’s meeting room, many of them for the first time.

“It’s an easy time frame,” EDP President Todd Tucker said of the Friday lunch time slot. “We get a lot done in a short time. People can come out and learn about business in their communities and network with other professionals and their peers.”

Chris Cartwright, president of Prism Medical Supplies, delivered the keynote address, detailing how the business he started in Elkin by himself in 2006 has grown from having six orders its first year in business to filling 383,641 orders in 2018, and projecting 420,000 orders for 2019.

The bulk of the company’s operations remain in Elkin, according to Cartwright, but now include nine distribution centers around the country and an additional office in Las Vegas, opened in 2016 to better serve clients as the company expanded its territory westward.

“Small business opportunities are alive and well here in Surry County,” said Cartwright. “The cost of living is lower than in major mets (metropolitan areas). Overhead and rent are less, and the support you get is impressive. If you’re trying to build a business, there is a positive connotation around that.”

Cartwright said there are a lot of people looking for jobs, a lot of people who want jobs, but finding people who are career-oriented is challenging. Not showing up for work is the main reason people leave his company. Turnover is three times higher locally than in the company’s Las Vegas facility.

“If we want to do 15 interviews to fill a position, we have to schedule 30,” he said.

The company is working to build an organization of career pathing and to create a culture where people connect with more than a job. One of the biggest initiatives of the company is to connect with the community.

Todd Tucker followed up by saying the partnership continues to work on its three core principles: working with existing industry and businesses, acting as a resource to small business and entrepreneurs, and marketing Surry County as a location for new businesses.

He cited 2018’s successes as ACC Coatings moving its location from New Jersey to the old Chatham No. 4 plant in Elkin and Steel Buildings and Structures purchasing 43 acres in Piedmont Triad West Corporate Park in Mount Airy where it plans to build multiple buildings and create multiple jobs. Sonoco Products, Choice Metal Buildings and Bobcat were also helped by the partnership to locate space in the county.

How Do You Reinvent a Rural Economy? $100 at a Time

How Do You Reinvent a Rural Economy? $100 at a Time

“Explore Elkin” takes small individual investments and parlays them into bigger returns for the old mill town of Elkin, North Carolina. Instead of a pop and a fizzle, the program has created a slow burn of special events, marketing, and accurate self-promotion.

The invitations, hundreds of them, had been sent. Ads were running on the radio and in the Elkin Tribune. And still 57-year-old Jeff Eidson wasn’t sure if anyone would come to the March 2017 launch of Explore Elkin. At first the guests didn’t seem sure either, even as they walked through the door of the Liberty event venue in downtown Elkin.  

“We had people show up and say, ‘I only came because I didn’t think anyone else would come, and I know you’ve been working hard on this,’” Eidson remembers with a chuckle. “When 300 people showed up that night, it made it easy to be enthusiastic.” 

At the time, a salvage company was bulldozing the shuttered Chatham textile mill, once the town’s biggest employer. Elkin’s downtown had 17 empty storefronts. The population stuck fast around 4,000, as big cities like Charlotte and Winston-Salem siphoned off residents. Asked by the mayor to head up a committee about reviving Elkin’s downtown, Eidson gave it six months. He’d seen this sort of effort before, a fireworks pop of interest that inevitably fizzled into nothingness.  

And yet the size of the crowd at the Explore Elkin event grew and grew till it was standing room only. There was an energy that brought out the evangelist in Eidson. At one point, he gripped the mic and shared a poker metaphor. “We have to throw our chips in,” he said. “We have to get involved and get engaged to develop a shared vision, and then take the steps necessary to realize that vision.” He pointed at the red poker chip stickers they’d given out at the registration table, stuck to shirts around the room. “Now ask yourself,” he said. “Are you all in?” 

For Explore Elkin, being “all in” came with a specific ask: Join Elkin Explorers, a group that would act a bit like a grass-roots economic development co-op. Instead of the typical strategy of soliciting local businesses for donations (although they do that too), Explore Elkin urges residents to put their money where their mouth is by joining a group that sponsors and creates events to draw visitors and potential residents to town. For $100 per couple, you could become an Explorer, or for $200, an Elkin Explorer Leader. Local doctor Skip Whitman jumped up and offered to match any donations made that evening, up to $10,000. “We raised $28,000 that night,” Eidson says.  

What went right? Partly messaging, Eidson believes. Instead of focusing on failures, he ticked off successes and assets that belied any “struggling former mill town” cliché. Like the school system, ranked in the top five in the state. The Yadkin River that ran through town. The trails that hundreds of volunteers had been carving out of the mountains, including one that connected Elkin to Stone Mountain State Park, the most popular in North Carolina. The location in the fertile Yadkin Valley wine region, the South’s answer to Sonoma. “I think people were starving for an optimistic message and something they could believe in.” By reminding people how much there was to love, Eidson created a feeling that Elkin was on the cusp of something better.  

He’s also used the $55,000 the group has raised in the past two years to create the “something better” themselves. Explore Elkin retained a marketing firm to create a weekly events email, because, says Eidson, “I got tired of learning on Tuesday morning about something that happened on Friday night that I wish I’d gone to.” They’ve given seed money to events. For the Reeves Theater, a historic theater remodeled into a farm-to-table café and live music venue downtown, Explore Elkin has subsidized some performances and advertised others in state magazines.  

The group also organizes its own slate of activities meant to enliven downtown, including monthly Food Truck Fridays, a Music at the Market event, and a biannual comedy show. “They do a lot of things that bring people downtown and indirectly help downtown businesses and help us,” says Debbie Carson, co-owner of the Reeves. Nor is their focus downtown only. For the upcoming North Carolina Trail Days, an outdoor-centric event to be held the weekend of May 31, Explore Elkin hired a coordinator.  

In Eidson’s mind, the purpose of Elkin Explorers is primarily “to train our people to be ambassadors.” Eidson himself demonstrates, talking up strangers at the gas pumps on I-77 near Elkin. “Where are you from?” he asks. “What brought you here?” If they’re staying, he rattles off three or four things he thinks are special downtown, “whether it’s Harry’s Place for crab legs or the Reeves for music. Hopefully they’ll think about staying and come back. If we can get 500 or 1,000 people doing that, we’ll have something.” 

To that end, Explorers periodically creates events for members only, including an appreciation dinner, a trail walk, and a family float on the Yadkin River. According to Leslie Schlender, the town’s economic development and planning director (and an Explorer), the morale-building effect is potent. Going on a fully serviced river trip “gets everyone excited: ‘Wow, we live in this great place! We have a river right in our backyard, and this fun community with people who are willing to get out and enjoy it.’ As much as the money is used for events, there’s this community side of being an Explorer because people see how great it is to live here.”   

Since the launch of Explore Elkin in spring 2017, the number of vacant properties downtown has dropped from 17 to 8. Anecdotally, “around town people are far more positive than they were before,” says Natalie Eidson, Explore Elkin’s 27-year-old “chaos coordinator” (and Jeff’s daughter-in-law). “I think people are interested in opening businesses and storefronts. You’re seeing new businesses come in and renovations happen. They just seem more excited than they were before Explore Elkin.” 

The mill won’t be coming back to Elkin. And if they want to capture the location-independent rat race escapees, Eidson knows they need more market-rate housing. But his small-town, “I’m all in” approach seems to be making a difference in Elkin. “I think about that phrase a lot when I’m asked to do things in this community,” says resident Crystal Morphis, an economic developer who runs her consulting business from a historic building in Elkin’s downtown. “Sometimes I’m asked to volunteer for a committee or help with an event, and I ask myself, “Am I all in? Am I really all in? Yeah, I’m all in.”  

Citizen of the Year Award takes a turn

Citizen of the Year Award takes a turn

The fate of Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce’s highest award took an unexpected turn when it became known the award recipient wouldn’t be attending the ceremony intended to honor him.

The recipient of the Chamber’s Citizen of the Year award is a closely guarded secret until the award is announced at its annual meeting each year, and as a result of that secrecy, some maneuvering is required by Chamber President Randy Collins and the chamber board, to insure the award recipient will be present.

This year’s recipient, John Priddy, however, could not attend the event Thursday night.

“We discovered that John was going to be out of town for his daughter’s wedding in Florida,” said Collins.

The award was presented to him at the new headquarters of Mount Airy City Schools after a Surry Sunrise Rotary meeting there on Jan. 16 by Kendra Clabo, representing Workforce Unlimited, sponsor of the award.

“He was very surprised,” said Collins.

“He was shell-shocked and speechless,” said Dr. Travis Reeves, Surry County Schools superintendent and one of Priddy’s nominators.

That award ceremony was videotaped, and the video was played at the Chamber’s annual meeting at Cross Creek Country Club on Thursday to a mostly surprised audience.

As to how the secret of Priddy’s award ceremony had been kept sucessfully under wraps, Reeves said, “We swore everybody to secrecy. Maybe it was out of respect to John. I like to think it was that.”

“John is what I consider a servant-leader,” added Reeves. “He leads with his heart and gives a shining example for others to follow.”

“Through my relationship with John as chair of our foundation board, I know that he has given countless volunteer hours to the foundation and has done a lot of behind-the-scenes work. He also volunteers in our schools, works with many students on business projects, and goes out of his way to help students. He is passionate about helping students understand credit, to understand college debt is real, and to help them find ways to circumvent it.”

He’s not out for accolades or credit,” continued Reeves. “He has given his time and energy for over 40 years. That’s worth recognizing.”

“John Priddy has been one of the most unsung heroes in Mount Airy,” said Kate Appler, district administrator for the Guardian ad Litem program in Surry and Stokes County and a member of Mount Airy Board of Education, as well as being one of the people who nominated Priddy as Citizen of the Year.

“I worked with John most on the United Fund, but he has worked quietly and under the radar on countless committees and countless boards. He has touched so many people in so many ways as a volunteer,” added Appler.

Priddy was president of United Fund of Surry twice and chairman of the campaign in 2004-2005. He was a member of Jaycees from 1978-1984, serving as president and getting the Club’s Distinguished Service Award. He served on the Yadkin Valley Economic Development District and was vice president of planning and evaluation in 1982 In 1984, he served as fundraising chair of the $1 million renovation and first indoor pool for Reeves Community Center. He also served as chair during his 20 years on the Reeves board.

Priddy served on the board of the Salvation Army for more than 25 years and was chairman of the board. He has served on boards for Habitat for Humanity, Surry Friends of Youth and Homebuilders Association, as well as co-chair and fundraising chair of the original Crime Stoppers for Mount Airy/Surry County. He is a member of Surry Sunrise Rotary.

Most recently he has been involved with Surry County Economic Development Partnership, serving as chairman, and recently finished serving on their executive board.

Priddy is currently the chair of the Surry County Educational Foundation, having been a member since 2014. He is also currently the chair of the Education to Industry Partnership, the chairman of the Business Advisory Council for Surry County Schools and has mentored Project Lead the Way at North Surry.

Priddy also was a basketball coach for 10 years. His son, Stephen, carries on a legacy of coaching as the longtime head of Surry Central’s wrestling program, including conference champions this season.

“John Priddy represents the very best in our community. He has a servant’s heart and a passion for helping others. We are pleased he was selected as Citizen of the Year,” said Collins.

“Okay, you got me. I was surprised,” said Priddy on video aired Thursday night. “That was a surprise. I love this community, and I definitely love my family.”

As to why Priddy volunteers so much, he said, “I like being around folks who have the same heart.”

John Priddy grew up in Danbury and graduated from Guilford College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics. He married Sandra Keaton in 1968. They have three children, Stephen and spouse Bretta, Corey and spouse Michelle, and Megan and new husband Andrew Hock. John and Sandra have four grandchildren; Logan, Ella, James and Rachael.

Priddy started his career with NCNB Bank in Mount Airy in 1977. In 1983 he went to work with United Savings. His bank then merged with BB&T. He was transferred to Elkin in 1998 as the city executive and then moved back to Mount Airy in 2000 with the title area executive for Surry, Alleghany and Wilkes Counties. He retired from BB&T in 2015 as the senior vice president, area executive after 32 years of service with BB &T.

Appointment of George Crater as Airport Manager

The County of Surry is pleased to announce the appointment of an Airport Manager who will oversee operations on behalf of Surry County at the Mount Airy/Surry County Airport. George Crater has been named to the position, effective January 1, 2019.

Mr. Crater has been employed as Planning Director with the Town of Elkin since 2006. In this role, he was responsible for management and oversight of Elkin Municipal Airport. His airport oversight experience includes: short and long-range planning for general aviation challenges, directing administrative and financial activities, new hangar development, capital improvement program, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and North Carolina Division of Aviation (DOA) grant compliance, and coordinating with engineering firms.

Mr. Crater has additional experience that will be beneficial in his role as Airport Manager. These include public relations with airport tenants, storm water administration, member of Northwest Piedmont Rural Planning Organization Technical Coordinating Committee (TCC), land use planning and code enforcement, and experience as a volunteer firefighter with the Elkin Fire Department.

Mr. Crater graduated from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration/Economics and has a Certificate in Municipal Administration from the School of Government at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

County Manager Chris Knopf said, “I would like to welcome George to our team, and we look forward to working with him. His experience in public sector airport management will bring much needed day-to-day oversight to the airport’s operations.”

Mr. Crater stated: “I am looking forward to this opportunity of working with Surry County and surrounding municipalities. It is exciting to be involved in the Mount Airy/Surry County Airport program and all the projected growth. The aviation program is and will continue to be an asset to many surrounding communities. Again, I am excited for this opportunity Surry County has given me.”

The Airport Authority has been operated as a blended component unit within Surry County Government since May, 2017, following the results of an audit review of the airport’s operations. At that time, the Authority relinquished day-to-day management and fiscal oversight to Surry County. In the recent past, airport management has been contracted out to a third party, Ra-Tech Aviation. Ra-Tech will continue in their capacity as the Fixed Base Operator (FBO) at the airport, providing aeronautical services such as fueling, common hangar space, tie-down and parking, aircraft maintenance, flight instruction, etc.

The Mount Airy/Surry County Airport is located at 146 Howard Woltz Jr. Way, Mount Airy. For additional information, contact: Sandra Snow, Assistant County Manager, at 336-401-8202.

Grant helps secure ACC Coatings’ relocation to Elkin

Grant helps secure ACC Coatings’ relocation to Elkin

An existing business will be calling Elkin its new company headquarters after the town was awarded a $125,000 grant to help renovate a building for its use.

The North Carolina Rural Infrastructure Authority (RIA) approved 21 grant requests of nearly $7 million last week, and the grant for the former Chatham Plant 4 building along East Main Street/N.C. 268 Business was one of those approved.

The 19,500-square-foot building has been vacant for three years and was owned by Surrey Bank & Trust prior to its purchase by ACC Coatings out of New Jersey. The company manufactures water-based, food-grade liquid coatings for direct food contact applications, such as antifog applications inside of premade-salad bags found in grocery stores, explained Leslie Schlender, director for economic development for Elkin.

ACC Coatings, which was established in 2005, plans to move its entire operation from Middlesex, New Jersey, to Elkin, which will create 10 jobs and be an investment of $1,059,641, according to a release from the Surry County Economic Development Partnership.

The $125,000 grant is part of the RIA’s Building Reuse Program, said Schlender, who completed the grant application on behalf of the town and ACC Coatings. The funding will be put toward a total renovation project of about $400,000 to get the building, which sits just to the east of the entrance to Chatham Park, ready for use.

“It’s a wonderful program the town has been successful in using,” Schlender said, noting that other Elkin projects have included Prism Medical Products, Pittsburgh Glass Works (now Vitro) and Burchette & Burchette Hardwood.

About 80 percent of its existing employees will relocate with the company to Elkin, bringing ACC Coatings closer to some of its customers, Schlender said. “They told us the cost of doing business in North Carolina was attractive to them,” she said of another reason for the relocation.

There is a need for good housing for the relocating employees, she said, both for professional apartments and homes for purchase.

“From the start, David Steele [ACC Coatings CEO] and his team have been wonderful to work with, and given their frequent trips down from New Jersey in this transition, are already becoming welcomed and involved members of our community,” Schlender said.

Elkin Mayor Sam Bishop said, “ACC Coatings is a great fit for this building, and we are thrilled they have seen what we know, that the cost of living, quality of life amenities and the access we have to the I-77 shipping corridor, that Elkin is a great place.”

Schlender said as the company transitions, it will be operating out of its New Jersey location and its Elkin location to ensure a seamless shift for its customer base, and that it could take up to a year for the full move to take place.

“We are very excited that ACC Coatings is opening a new location in Elkin in the former Basalt Products building,” said Todd Tucker, president of the Surry County Economic Development Partnership. “We have worked with the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, the North Carolina Department of Commerce, Surry County, Surrey Bank and the town of Elkin to help them with this new location.

“Surry County is a great location for companies, and we are glad that we could be a part of this important project.”

Schlender said, “ACC Coatings are a perfect example of how a professional company can move to a rural community and be successful.”

Also, she said she is excited because this project has jobs with it. Some of the other companies who looked at purchasing the building had planned on using it for commercial storage.

The town will benefit in another way, as ACC Coatings is working with town officials to ensure an easement for the driveway into Chatham Park and to a future entrance for a planned RV park on adjacent property along the Yadkin River, Schlender said.

“ACC Coatings spent many months searching for the optimal location for our growing company,” said Steele in the news release. “Surry County, and in particular Elkin, offered to my company an excellent combination of building size, and location and price that was better than all of the other potential sites that we evaluated.

“Our customers are spread throughout the United States and the convenience of the interstate highways just minutes from the building provide us with multiple shipping options that will help us keep our shipping costs under control, and will also insure a steady and seamless supply of our incoming raw materials used in the production of food-grade coatings,” he said. “Surry County is a great location for companies, and we are glad that we could be a part of this important project.”

Steele commented on the “added and unexpected bonus” of a “warm and welcoming reception we have experienced from the town of Elkin and the local people and businesses. All of these people have shared their own positive experiences in setting up their small businesses, and they have welcomed us into their community.”

While thanking all of the partner organizations in making the grant and project successful, Steele in particular noted the helpfulness of Tucker and Schlender for “their help, advice, guidance (and patience) in helping me get this deal completed.”

Surry County Economic Development to Host Manufacturing Week

Surry County, September 24th,2018 – Manufacturing Day is an annual national event executed at the local level supported by thousands of manufacturers as they host students, teachers, parents, job seekers and other local community members at open houses, plant tours and presentations designed to showcase modern manufacturing technology and careers.

In celebration of Manufacturing Week, the Surry County Economic Development Partnership will offer multiple events in conjunction with local schools and manufacturers during the first week of October. The coordinated activities during Manufacturing Week include: tours of local industries, education fairs and a Manufacturing Day community event on the main campus of Surry Community College, Friday, October 5th. Approximately ten companies will open their doors to elected officials, community leaders and the public as part of an effort to change people’s perceptions about today’s manufacturing environment and draw attention to the outstanding opportunities that a career in manufacturing can provide. Middle school, high school, and college students (including four k-12 school systems) will have the opportunity to tour Computer- Integrated Machining, Electronic Engineering Technology, Mechatronics Engineering Technology, and Welding departments at Surry Community College, as well as engage with local companies for Job Connection on site during Manufacturing Day, October 5th, 2018.

Manufacturing is alive and well in Surry County, and our local economy is positively impacted directly by the manufacturing community. There are over 4,377 people employed in manufacturing positions in Surry County, making up 14.7% of our total labor force. The average weekly wage for those employed in manufacturing is $768.15 in Surry County.

Surry County has a rich tradition of manufacturing quality products and is home to the men and woman who make these products every day. We are proud of our history, variety of advancing products and a dedicated labor force to make this possible each day.  Manufacturing Week is also a dedicated time to also expose the technical training available through our schools and community college and also a chance to highlight rewarding and lucrative careers with Surry County Manufacturers.


For more information contact the Surry County Economic Development Partnership (336)-401-9900   Website: or

Visit for additional information about National Manufacturing Day 2018

Responding to the workforce needs of employers along I-77

WestRock Hires Eight Surry Community College Mechatronics and Electrical Systems Students

Eight engineering students at Surry Community College landed advanced manufacturing jobs in April at WestRock’s Merchandising Displays Division in Winston-Salem, right before the college’s spring commencement services in May.

Five of the students are studying in college’s Mechatronics Engineering Technology program, while three others are training in the Electrical Systems Technology program. They will all be working as Maintenance Technicians.

Newly hired Electrical Systems students are Michael Cummings of Rhonda, Aaron Morse of Pilot Mountain, and Alfonso Popoca of Boonville, while recently hired Mechatronics students are Shay Wilson of Mount Airy, William Davis of Mount Airy, Kevin Hernandez of Yadkinville, Jesus Fuentes of Yadkinville, and Andrew Overby of Yadkinville.

“On behalf of Human Resources and the Maintenance Department, I would like to once again say thank you for allowing us to visit Surry and meet with your extraordinary students,” Veronica Hritz, Human Resources Administrator at WestRock said. “Our Maintenance Department was in need of highly trained, quality people, and you were able to step in and fill that need.”

WestRock (NYSE:WRK) partners with customers to provide differentiated paper and packaging solutions that help them win in the marketplace. The company has 45,000 team members who support customers around the world from more than 300 operating and business locations spanning North America, South America, Europe, Asia and Australia.

“We have worked very hard to prepare our students for advanced manufacturing jobs such as the opportunity at WestRock,” said Doug Slate, Mechatronics Lead Instructor at Surry. “All of our Mechatronics students eligible for our upcoming graduation already have, or have been offered jobs. I am so happy for them all.”

Surry Community College offers the Mechatronics and Electrical Systems programs at the Dobson campus, along with the Yadkin Center campus in Yadkinville. At each location, students can earn a two-year degree in Mechatronics. Electrical Systems is a new program offering for Yadkin Center, beginning Fall 2018, when students can start their Electrical studies in Yadkin County.

Slate explained that Mechatronics takes the electronics, mechanical and robotics part of advanced manufacturing and teaches students how they tie together.

“Mechatronics students are highly skilled, high-tech trouble shooters. They need to be self-motivated individuals who are inquisitive and want to know how things work and like to work with their hands,” Slate said. “Companies also want workers who understand predictive maintenance, which is a key focus of Mechatronics. The field of study pays well – workers skilled in Mechatronics start at an average of $25 per hour.”

Joey Boles is the Lead Instructor of the Electrical Systems program at Surry.

“Graduates of the Electrical Systems program at Surry Community College qualify to do most anything in the electrical field such as electrician, industrial plant maintenance technician, electrical engineering assistant, renewable energy consultant or solar panel installer,” Boles said. “Both Electrical and Photovoltaic tracks take two years of study to complete, and with some of the courses being the same, students can get a double major by taking five more classes.”

The Electrical track includes basic wiring for residential, commercial and industry and covers all aspects of the wiring phases. Someone with this degree can get into any electrical system field. These classes cover programmable logic control and prepares students to become an industrial electrician or work in any type of business. The Photovoltaic (PV) or solar track covers more on the renewable energy side with wind turbines and micro hydropower systems.

With a looming electrician shortage in the United States, students studying to be electricians have a huge opportunity to be successful. The need for electricians is expected to grow by 20 percent between 2012 and 2022, according to estimates by the United States Department of Labor, yet the number of young people obtaining electrical licenses is in drastic decline. Graduates of Surry Community College’s Electrical Systems program have a bright future with an abundant job market due to this demand. An electrician’s average pay is around $50,000 annually.

High school juniors and seniors can benefit by taking Mechatronics Engineering and Electrical Systems classes – tuition-free – through the Career & College Promise at the both the Dobson and Yadkin Center locations. Each program area offers a two-year degree, one-year diploma and certificate options.

If you have questions about the Mechatronics Engineering Technology program, contact Doug Slate at (336) 386-3302 or If you are inquiring about the Electrical Systems program, contact Joey Boles at (336) 386-3267 or

Registration for the summer and fall semesters is going on now at Surry Community College. The deadline to register for summer classes is May 18 with summer classes beginning May 21. Fall registration is open until Aug. 3, and fall classes begin Aug. 15. For more information, go to the registration page or call (336) 386-3264.

Rollout of Triad talent alignment reveals timing, touts sector councils

A crowd of more than 200 economic developers, educators and business leaders gathered at Grandover Conference Center today for the unveiling of a Triad talent alignment strategy that seeks to develop the region’s workforce to match industry needs over the next 10 years.

The strategy represents over a year’s worth of work to understand where the Triad’s workforce has been, where it’s at and where it’s going, in order to better train the Triad’s workforce.

Some of the highlights of the study showed the Triad, since 2007, saw a net decline of 60,000 jobs, but has added 50,000 jobs since the recession. The largest industry clusters in terms of jobs are health care, retail, entertainment and back office. The study also showed the region can expect labor shortages in industries such as health and biomedical, manufacturing and production, engineering and professional services.

And demand for health care professionals is expected to be the strongest through 2026, with an expected 15,000 new jobs in the field during that time.

Penny Whiteheart, executive vice president of the Piedmont Triad Partnership, addressed the crowd, rolling out a six-goal strategy developed in conjunction with the project’s steering committee and consulting firm Jones Lang Lasalle.

Whiteheart said the six goals will be implemented over a decade, but today’s rollout focused on three broad goals to be implemented within the next year and a half.

Goal one will be to ensure employer engagement in the Triad is coordinated, consistent and results-oriented. To achieve this goal, Whiteheart said, three sector councils are expected to be established by the end of 2019 to target specific industries. Those partnerships, which will consist of industry leaders in the region, will focus on collaborating with institutions to better align workforce development to their needs.

Whiteheart told Triad Business Journal the first two industry councils will likely focus on the health care and advanced manufacturing industries, but how quickly industry leaders are able to move forward on the partnerships will ultimately determine which industries will first establish their own councils.

The end goal is to have four industry councils established, which will likely entail an individual focus on four broad industries driving growth in the region: health care; manufacturing and advanced manufacturing; transportation and logistics; professional services and back office.

Goal two of the three goals to be implemented over the next year and a half will be re-engaging populations within the workforce that are either unemployed or underemployed. To accomplish this goal requires a strategic communication campaign to increase awareness of the opportunities for career advancement and to highlight and promote the value of post-secondary training and education for the workforce.

And goal three will be increasing awareness of the Triad as an attractive place to live, work and play. The crux of accomplishing this goal is developing a talent attraction and retention website that will serve as a central landing point to connect the region’s talent to employment opportunities. This type of website, Whiteheart said, is already being utilized in the Triangle and Charlotte area, and, in addition to attracting talent, can also serve as a marketing tool to land companies interested in moving into the region.

Triad Business Journal has previously reported the six goals developed from the workforce study, but up until now has not had specifics on a timeline of how and when the goals will be implemented. Click here for the full list of goals.

Other speakers at the event included PTP President Stan Kelly, HAECO Americas CEO Richard Kendall, Piedmont Triad Regional Council Executive Director Matthew Dolge and Action Greensboro Executive Director Cecelia Thompson.

Chris Chung, CEO of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, was also in attendance. Chung spoke with TBJ about the role EDPNC plays in helping the Triad land projects by directing companies that are looking to expand to the Triad area. Chung noted that though the Triad’s workforce and lower business costs keep the region competitive, it often suffers from lack of out-of-state name recognition compared to areas such as Charlotte and Triangle.

But, as noted by PTP President Stan Kelly in front of the crowd of attendees, the Triad and central North Carolina in general have the assets to be the next logical place of growth for the state.

“If we do a better job of telling our story, our workforce numbers will grow,” Kelly said.

In addition to the PTP and Action Greensboro, the project was funded by economic development agencies across the Triad, including the Piedmont Triad Regional Council, Winston-Salem Business Inc., the High Point Economic Development Corp. and others.

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

Andrew Clabough

President, Willow Tex

Contact Us

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

Contact Us

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

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