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Surry County News

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

Lumsden taking part in town hall meeting

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.

Nester Hosiery of Mount Airy wins military contract

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 NesterKelly 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.

County reaches record high grad rate

Officials with Surry County Schools are celebrating the system hitting an all-time-high graduation rate this year, while Mount Airy City Schools officials are likewise pleased graduation rates there have exceeded 90%.

“Surry County Schools hit another milestone with the highest graduation rate in (its) history at 93.8%,” said Dr. Tracey Lewis, director of communications/teacher recruitment and retention for the county schools. That mark is 0.8 percentage points above last year, when the county hit what had been its all-time high at 93.0%.

In Mount Airy, the graduation rate is 90.4%, a 1.8 percentage point improvement over the previous year’s 88.6%.

Statewide, the average four-year cohort graduation rate for the 2016-2019 classes was 87.6%. All local and state percentages are taken from figures reported by Public Schools of North Carolina.

“For several years the Surry County school system has made steady gains in the graduation rate,” Lewis said in a written statement announcing the county milestone.

“I am so proud and hope all of Surry County will join me in celebrating the hard work, effort and dedication of our students, educators and schools. As we continue to reach new heights in achievement, I hope it becomes a source of pride for our community,” said Dr. Travis Reeves, SCS superintendent.

“This is just another example of how the Surry County Schools system is collectively engaged and committed to equipping all of our students for success in college and careers.”

“We work on this every year and want to make sure all of our students graduate either in four or five years,” said Dr. Kim Morrison, Mount Airy superintendent.

“In our strategic plan we have as our vision for the district that every single child graduate. We also believe that they need as many credits as possible, not just the minimum the state requires. This allows them to be successful after graduation without inflating our graduation rate. We are proud of the fact that our graduation rate is above state average and climbing.”

In the county, all four of the schools were above the 90% mark. The graduation rates for the individual schools were:

 East Surry High School graduated greater than 95% of students;

 North Surry High School graduated 91.1% of students;

 Surry Central High School graduated 92.4% of students;

 Surry Early College High School graduated greater than 95% of students.

“Increasing graduation rates are one measure of how well our schools are serving students. While graduation rates are touted by high schools, we know this success begins in pre-K and kindergarten,” said Reeves.

“Reaching this important milestone is so important for the future of Surry County. High levels of student achievement and graduation rates attract business and industry, and a well-equipped workforce in our county fosters economic growth and development. I look forward to our working together throughout this school year to continue building on this outstanding foundation to ensure even more students are prepared for life after high school.”

Surrey Bancorp declares dividend

The Board of Directors of Surrey Bancorp (Pink Sheets: SRYB) last week declared a quarterly cash dividend of 10.5 cents per share on the company’s common stock. The cash dividend is payable on Oct. 9 to shareholders of record as of the close of business on Sept. 18.

Ted Ashby, president and CEO of Surrey Bancorp, stated the dividend was based on the company’s current operating results, its “strong financial condition and a commitment to delivering shareholder value.”

This will be the third consecutive quarter for the bank paying a 10.5-cent dividend. Prior to that, the bank had paid 10 cents for four consecutive quarters, along with a special cash dividend of 12 cents per share paid on Jan. 9.

Surrey Bancorp is the bank holding company for Surrey Bank & Trust and is located at 145 North Renfro Street, Mount Airy. The bank operates full-service branch offices at 145 North Renfro Street, 1280 West Pine Street and 2050 Rockford Street in Mount Airy. Full-service branch offices are also located at 653 South Key Street in Pilot Mountain, 393 CC Camp Road in Elkin and 1096 Main Street in North Wilkesboro, and 940 Woodland Drive in Stuart, Virginia.

Surrey Bank & Trust is engaged in the sale of insurance through its wholly owned subsidiary Surrey Investment Services, Inc. The insurance agency, dba SB&T Insurance, is located at 199 North Renfro Street in Mount Airy.

Surrey Bank & Trust can be found online at www.surreybank.com.

Renfro CEO: Pivot to PPE prevented furloughs, proved versatility

Renfro CEO: Pivot to PPE prevented furloughs, proved versatility

When the potential impact of Covid-19 on his company became evident this past spring, Renfro President and CEO Stan Jewell faced the prospect of furloughing employees and idling machinery in Alabama, Tennessee and in the Triad.

The world’s largest sock maker of some of the most recognizable brands, shuttering of retail stores and a sudden halt of consumer activity forced the Mount Airy-based company into making personal protection equipment as demand fell by 80% practically overnight. With plenty of fabric on hand, high-capacity machinery capacity and design expertise available, Renfro’s pivot to making its Nightingale brand face mask likely preserved hundreds of jobs and created opportunities for hundreds more to find temporary work.

The pivot to making face masks was among the subjects discussed during Triad Business Journal’s Manufacturing in the Covid-19 Age private roundtable, which in addition to Jewell included Egger Wood Products Director of Corporate Training Michael Holmes and LLFlex CEO Victor Dixon. Coverage of that roundtable will be featured in this week’s print edition and published online.

Designed in conjunction with Wake Forest Baptists Health, Renfro quickly retooled to make as many as 1 million Nightingale face masks per week. That turned out to be the easy part. The challenge was finding, on short notice, upwards of 550 temporary workers to assemble and package the masks in seven locations.

Workers furloughed by other companies weren’t interested, Jewell said, because they were earning more with enhanced unemployment than they would assembling face masks. So a new market was targeted — students who aren’t eligible for unemployment benefits. Renfro partnered with its placement agencies and others to approach local school systems and colleges to find labor.

“Our thought was there are a lot of people who are 16 to 20 years old who are not able to draw unemployment benefits, and maybe even a lot of them were getting ready to look for summertime work and internships,” Jewell said. “Those opportunities weren’t going to be readily available, so why don’t we try and capture some of these people that were soon to be in the market to earn some cash anyway.”

Not a profit center

The project went on from April through June before Renfro began scaling back mask production as it core business gradually returned in advance of back-to-school and holiday shopping seasons. Because the mask project kept all employees on the job and machinery running, the return to making socks was seamless.

Jewell said Renfro never intended to profit off the sudden need for PPE, but rather break even on the project. The pricing of the masks allowed the company to donate about 25% of its production in areas where resources didn’t meet need. The company also helped execute Winston-Salem’s “Mask the City,” initiative, for which it provided 390,000 units practically at cost.

The washable, reusable masks are sold online to individuals in two-packs for $15. A pack of 24 costs $180 and a case of 96 is priced at $648, a discount of 75 cents per mask.

The primary goal was to keep the lights on and the machines running. Although requiring considerable ingenuity and hundreds of employee hours, Jewell characterized the mask pivot as relatively easy.

“There was a pretty simple conversion to make the masks, but figuring out a design that does not require cut-and-sew was a challenge because there’s not a lot of cut-and-sew of any scale in this country anymore,” Jewell said. “We tried to figure out a design that did not require sewing.”

The solution was a design featuring a strap threaded through a channel at the top and bottom of the mask. To simplify assembly, Renfro enlisted the help of metal fabricator Tampco in Elkin to design and create a tool to help thread the straps quickly.

“They they made hundreds of these devices so that we could ramp up quickly,” Jewell said.

Lessons learned

Now that its core business has rebounded, Jewell said Renfro is leaving the mass production of masks for companies better equipped to produce mass quantities until the need subsides. Renfro hasn’t exited the PPE business completely, still producing some 100,000 units per month at one location with permanent staff only. With the intellectual property and experience in hand, Jewell said Renfro has the ability to ramp up mask production if necessary.

For now, its Nightingale production is targeting customization for institutional clients such as hospital systems and even colleges and universities. Among its customers are UNC-Chapel Hill, Wake Forest University and Davidson College.

An ancillary benefit from the face mask experience, Jewell said, was recognizing the company’s ability to react quickly to changing market demands.

“I think what we really learned is that we’re much more agile than we even thought, and we can be very innovative and very agile,” Jewell said. “Maybe we apply that to the sock market, but also how do we reconfigure our supply chain so that we can be much more responsive to changing needs in the marketplace? I think that’s probably more applicable and better long-erm learning to apply, rather than to chase a lot of big markets. How do we use those skill sets that we just figured out that we’re really good at and apply them in new ways?”

Wayne Farms helps area homebound students

Wayne Farms helps area homebound students

As the community of Dobson struggled with the impact of COVID-19 on local schools, a local Wayne Farms employee saw an opportunity to intervene with a $10,000-plus fundraising effort focused on remote learning and digital home education.

The fundraising effort began with Candace Murphy’s experiences in the community. Her duties as a nurse and occupational health specialist with the Wayne Farms Dobson facility put her on the front lines of the COVID pandemic, and that vantage gave her a unique perspective on the needs of local students. As social distancing policies were implemented and parent concerns grew, local officials tasked with making sure home-educated students received adequate instruction realized many families didn’t have access to the necessary technology.

That’s when Murphy and the Wayne Farms workforce stepped in.

“As the area’s largest employer and a long-time community partner, Wayne Farms has a history of supporting local causes and programs,” the company said in a recently statement. “So when Murphy approached Dobson Complex management with the idea of a fundraiser to provide computer technology to facilitate remote learning for Surry County students, the idea took wings and employees across the local complex were on board.

“Over the course of the next few days, Murphy’s contagious enthusiasm swept through the ranks. The result—$10,000 in cash and an entire pickup truck load of writing materials, earbuds and tech accessories that will be needed by Surry County students requiring virtual learning as COVID-19 continues to run its course.”

Murphy recently joined with Wayne Farms representatives and local officials to present the cash and equipment donations. “We’re so glad to be able to help our local schools—we live and work here too, so making sure our students are equipped and ready to learn is a priority for everyone,” Murphy said.

Surry Communications honored for pandemic work

Surry Communications honored for pandemic work

Surry Communications was recognized as part of North Carolina’s Rural Broadband Week, an honor put into place via a declaration from Gov. Roy Cooper in early August.

Broadband, the high-bandwidth transmission that enables access to high-speed internet, has been critical to North Carolinians during the COVID-19 pandemic. Everything from healthcare to remote learning has moved online in recent months to limit person-to-person interaction.

Cooper’s Aug. 8 proclamation stated that broadband allows its users more affordable and efficient access to education, healthcare, public safety, commerce and government. The proclamation also states that those without broadband face a digital divide that hinders them from accessing necessary resources.

The goal of Rural Broadband Week, held Aug. 17-21, is to highlight the accomplishments of the broadband providers across the state that work tirelessly to provide high-speed internet access to its members.

Surry Communications, one of seven broadband membership cooperatives in CarolinaLink, N.C.’s Broadband Cooperative Coalition, serves the communities of Elkin, Mount Airy, Pilot Mountain and Lexington.

In addition to Surry, the seven cooperative members include: ATMC (Atlantic Telephone Membership Cooperative), Randolph Communications, Riverstreet Networks, Skyline/Skybest, Star Communications and Yadtel Telecommunications.

These cooperatives provide advanced technology services to many of the state’s most rural areas. Coalition members serve more than 150,000 rural homes and businesses in this region and are committed to expanding rural broadband to unserved and underserved communities throughout the state.

“We are proud of our coalition members and their efforts to continue the expansion of broadband to rural North Carolinians,” commented Dwight Allen, executive vice president of CarolinaLink. “Access to high-speed internet is vital for education, healthcare and business and with fiber optic technology our cooperatives are paving the way for the future of rural North Carolina.”

Over the past year, CarolinaLink members received $35.3 million dollars in state and federal grant funds and will invest an additional $17.4 million in matching funds for rural broadband expansion projects.

Through grant funds provided by the NC GREAT Grant Program and the USDA’s ReConnect and Community Connect Programs, more than 15,000 North Carolina homes and businesses will soon have access to fiber optic high-speed internet. CarolinaLink members also self-fund more than $30 million in rural broadband projects annually.

CarolinaLink members serve residents and businesses in thirty counties throughout the state and employee more than 1,000 North Carolinians. In addition, five of the seven coalition members are Gig-Certified through the Rural Broadband Association. Four of the cooperatives are also nationally recognized as Smart Rural Community Providers, which highlight member projects that make rural communities vibrant places to live and do business through the implementation of innovative broadband-enabled solutions.

Four Triad community colleges receive apprenticeship grants from Duke Energy

Four Triad community colleges have earned a share of more than $900,000 in grants from Duke Energy  to support apprenticeship programs at eight schools across the state.

The grants fulfill the company’s 2017 commitment to fund $5 million in apprenticeship programs at North Carolina community colleges. Sharing $399,500 are:

  • Alamance Community College ($179,000);
  • Davidson County Community College ($125,000);
  • Forsyth Tech Community College ($50,000);
  • Surry Community College ($45,500).

The funds will help support their programs that partner the schools with businesses to develop the workforce of tomorrow.

“We are so grateful for Duke Energy’s support of our apprenticeship programs,” said Peter Hans, president of the N.C. Community College System. “Students in the programs receive hands-on learning while earning a paycheck and gaining specialized skills. Apprenticeships have increased rapidly at community colleges because employers recognize their value in building the workforce of the future.”

Since 2004, Duke Energy has provided $45 million in funding to North Carolina community colleges.

Next Generation academy celebrates job signings

One of the most exciting events in a young person’s life is getting that first job offer. Recently, several area youth experienced that thrill when the Next Generation Career Academy hosted its third job signing event.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, interns, employers, and special guests participated virtually. Twelve recent graduates signed commitments to full or part-time employment with seven local businesses that participated in the Next Generation Career Academy’s internship program.

Due to COVID-19, this year was unlike any other year with regard to the second half of the school year and student internships. The academy’s internship program officially ended March 14 due to COVID-19, and at that time there were 38 interns in positions. Seventeen students were able to continue working for their employers. The following recent graduates and their employers were recognized:

• Carley Johnson – Chatham Nursing and Rehab. Her mentor was Brooke Johnson, social services director. Carley accepted a certified nursing assistant (CNA) position with Chatham Nursing and Rehab. She is a graduate of North Surry High School and will attend Surry Community College to study nursing.

• Michaela Stone – Chatham Nursing and Rehab. Her mentor was Brooke Johnson, social services director. Michaela recently graduated from North Surry High School and will attend Catawba College in the fall to study nursing. Michaela accepted a CNA position with Chatham Nursing and Rehab.

• Dylan Toney – Hardy Brothers. His mentor was Justin Lewis, maintenance director. Dylan accepted a trailer service technician position with Hardy Brothers. He is a Surry Central High School graduate and will attend Forsyth Tech in the fall to study diesel and heavy equipment technology.

• Branigan Raasch – JR Lynch and Sons. His mentor was Mark Lynch, vice president. Branigan accepted a laborer and welder position with JR Lynch and Sons. He is an East Surry High School graduate and will attend Surry Community College in the fall to study construction management.

• Lacey Caviness – Northern Regional Hospital. Her mentor was Patty Creed, director of critical care. Lacey graduated from Surry Central High School and will attend Surry Community College in the fall. She worked in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), and plans to transfer to Appalachian State University to become a physician’s assistant. Lacey accepted a CNA position with Northern Regional Hospital.

• Kiersten Lester – Northern Regional Hospital. Her mentor was Jenny Triplett, director of skilled nursing. Kiersten accepted a CNA position with Northern Regional Hospital. She worked in the Skilled Nursing Unit and is a graduate of East Surry High School. She will continue her education at Surry Community College to become a nurse.

• Katelyn Ward – Northern Regional Hospital. Her mentor was Liz Persaud, director of the Birthing Center. Katelyn is a graduate of East Surry High School. She worked on the Obstetrics Floor and will continue her education at Surry Community College to study nursing. She accepted a CNA position with Northern Regional Hospital.

• Jonathan Lara – Smith-Rowe, LLC. His mentors were Jody Phillips, vice president, and Richard Smith, project manager. Jonathan served as a field support intern and accepted a construction yard laborer position with Smith-Rowe. He graduated from Surry Central High School and will work full-time while attending Surry Community College in the fall.

• Reagan Richardson – Smith-Rowe, LLC. Her mentors were Jody Phillips, vice president, and Richard Smith, project manager. Reagan accepted a welder position with Smith-Rowe. She is a graduate of North Surry High School and will continue working toward her welding degree at Surry Community College. Reagan is also the first North Carolina Department of Labor intern under the age of 18 approved to work in a welding facility. Vice President of Smith-Rowe Jody Phillips was instrumental in getting the legislation passed that enabled Reagan to be approved by the Department of Labor to begin her internship at Smith-Rowe at are 17.

• Caleb Byrd – Surry Communications. His mentor was Frankie Southard, customer service manager. Caleb accepted a customer care representative position with Surry Communications after being employed for one year. Caleb graduated from East Surry High School and will seek to further his education by pursuing a degree in diesel and heavy equipment technology from Forsyth Tech Community College.

• Cheyenne Seal – Surry Communications. Her mentor was Frankie Southard, customer service manager. Cheyenne graduated from North Surry High School and will continue with her education by attending Surry Community College to pursue business administration. She accepted a Customer Care Representative position with Surry Communications after starting her internship experience as a sophomore at 15 years of age.

• Jordan Koehler – Ultimate Towing and Recovery. His mentor was Gina Nichols, manager. Jordan accepted a mechanic position with Ultimate Towing and Recovery. He is a graduate of East Surry High School and will attend Forsyth Tech Community College to study diesel and heavy equipment technology.

The Next Generation Career Academy originated from an idea and partnership between Surry County Schools Superintendent Dr. Travis L. Reeves, Surry Community College President Dr. David R. Shockley. The academy was created out of a recognized need from local businesses looking for skilled workers. The academy provides high school students the opportunity to gain work experience to foster connections between classroom learning and the world of work.

“It is a unique opportunity for our schools and our community college to work together seamlessly to do what is right for our students, our businesses, and our community,” said Career Coach Crystal Folger-Hawks. “It is a pleasure to work with our businesses but it is especially a privilege to work with the students.”

“It has been a pleasure partnering with Surry County Schools and all of the businesses and industries,” Shockley said. “I see this effort as a continuing evolution of what we are trying to do at Surry Community College to provide the technical education and expertise that would allow businesses and industries to flourish. Through our efforts, we can compete, help our area flourish, provide the quality of life that our citizens deserve, and earn a good living wage that provides socioeconomic mobility. This is one of the most exciting experiences I have been a part of in my educational career.”

“Surry County Schools is a next-generation school district equipping all students with the skills necessary to be successful whether they pursue college or careers,” Reeves said. “The Next Generation Career Academy is one way we meet these most important student needs. What an exciting time to live, learn, and lead in Surry County. Students are gaining invaluable experiences that they will be able to take with them wherever they go in life, and I couldn’t be more proud of them. Especially during the recent changes in the economy, it is uplifting to see our talented students commit to working in our community.“

Elkin accepts 2019 NC Main Street Award

Elkin accepts 2019 NC Main Street Award

NEW BERN — Elkin was one of nineteen communities to receive awards for excellence in downtown revitalization at the North Carolina Main Street and Small Town Main Street Awards Ceremony recently. North Carolina Department of Commerce Secretary Anthony M. Copeland and Assistant Secretary of Rural Economic Development Kenny Flowers presented the awards in categories that include economic vitality, design, promotion and organization.

“While the world struggles with the COVID-19 crisis and its economic consequences, the important work of programs like North Carolina Main Street continues,” Secretary Copeland said. “We’re proud of this year’s award-winners, whose innovative leadership generated public and private investment, spurred job creation and facilitated residential development to energize the state’s downtown districts.”

The North Carolina Main Street and Rural Planning Center at the N.C. Department of Commerce helps small towns create vibrant central business districts by using local resources to preserve their historic fabric and build upon their unique characteristics. A panel of judges chose this year’s award winners from more than 50 nominations submitted by Main Street communities across the state.

Assistant Secretary Flowers says the annual Main Street Awards are a chance to showcase best practices in building rehabilitation, downtown revitalization strategies, historic preservation and creative marketing. “Common to every successful Main Street program are authenticity and partnership, and these communities exemplify the best of those qualities,” Flowers said.

The Explore Elkin initiative was awarded Best Innovation this year for its contributions towards economic vitality by creating Explore Elkin memberships, hosting community meetings, accumulating data/community input, organizing downtown events, scheduling music and volunteers, creating new marketing resources, and increasing and promoting activities weekly in downtown and beyond. Explore Elkin organizes numerous events in downtown, and has created solid partnerships with The Reeves Theater, The Liberty, Main Street Advisory Board, Downtown Elkin Business Association, Yadkin Valley Chamber of Commerce, and Foothills Arts Center. Explore The award was accepted by Natalie Eidson, Brittany Rogers, and Brittany Russell. CAVU Marketing, Creative ED Consulting (Crystal Morphis) and the Town of Elkin were also acknowledged as contributors to Explore Elkin’s success at the award ceremony.

Laura Gaylord, Elkin’s Main Street & Community Manager, sent in the nomination. “We are blessed to have such a dedicated team. They are all busy enough with their jobs and home life, and sometimes adding on the responsibilities of Explore Elkin must feel like a secnd full-time job to them, but these successful women continue to amaze us with boundless energy and creativity. We are so thankful for Explore Elkin’s positive effect on our community, but as with any event, you need a good team to pull it all together. I’m happy these three were able to attend the conference and accept this well-deserved award, but we can’t forget to thank those who organized the initiative in its early stages when Mayor Bishop asked Jeff Eidson to take on the challenge.” Laura continued, “Having the NC Main Street Program and the NC Dept of Commerce recognize Explore Elkin is truly an honor for our community.”

“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
336.401.9900

Contact Us

Surry County Economic Development Partnership Inc. 1218 State St., Mt. Airy NC 27030
PO BOX 7128
336.401.9900

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