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PROGRESS ENC The Daily Reflector

Working ENC Alliance in record year, Page A4 ees worldwide to Greenville, Page A2 ■ Grady-White stays steadfast with ■ Pandemic increases demand for smart safety, production, Page A5 locker products from Penco, Page A3 ■ Hyster-Yale finds new solutions in year ■ World Cat finds what it needs to keep of pandemic adversity, Page A6 business in eastern N.C., Page A4 ■ ‘Backyarding’ during pandemic helped ■ Pandemic didn’t slow down ENC Hammock Source grow, Page A7 ■ Grover Gaming attracts tech employ-





Pandemic year offered plenty of progress to celebrate

he idea behind a newspaper progress edition is to show how the region grew and improved economically and in its quality of life over a year’s time. This is our second annual section since restarting the tradition with Vision 2020. Of course, the pandemic hit just as we were wrapping up production on that issue last March. We wondered at the time whether all the progress celebrated in the edition would continue. We continued to wonder, and worry, as we began to think what would go in this year’s Progress ENC. The road through 2020 twisted and turned, but progress in eastern North Carolina was eminent, obvious and abundant. Thankfully, there is plenty to celebrate here.

The year saw major jobs announcements that will provide employment to workers throughout the region and draw new people here. Our recreational opBOBBY portunities grew BURNS in new ways as park systems and outdoor facilities expanded. Our towns and cities continued to invest in their residents, grow and evolve. We opened on the front page today with a story about a Williamston mother who is attending classes at Pitt Community College in hopes of landing one of 500 new jobs coming thanks to a major expansion at Thermo Fisher Scientific in Greenville. She

stands a chance to change her life for the better forever. A deal to help world class boat builder World Cat expand into Greenville also helped keep the Tarboro company anchored in eastern North Carolina. The effort kept 100 jobs in Edgecombe and is expected to add 60 in Pitt as the company has space to build bigger boats in Greenville instead of moving to Florida. Grover Gaming, a high-tech developer of revenue-producing video gaming systems, is expanding its facility to add 200 more jobs that create and manage games and machines licensed in multiple states. New positions are expected to draw talent locally and from tech centers like Austin, Texas, and California’s Silicon Valley. As deadly and disruptive as the pandemic has been, it produced

opportunity and opened new commerce streams. Greenville-based Penco Products, which makes a variety of custom storage lockers in Martin County, is one example. The company expects to be testing new smart lockers for touchless delivery later this year. That just, um, scratches the surface. Stories from our reporters and contributions from leaders in economic development, health care and education highlight advancements like East Carolina University’s forthcoming Research and Innovation Campus — from none other than the new chancellor himself, Philip Rogers. You’ll hear from leaders like Steve Weathers, the new director of the Greenville-ENC Alliance, and Kelly Andrews, the new di-

rector of the Pitt County Industrial Development Commission. Reports will offer glimpses into how Greenville, Williamston and Snow Hill are growing their urban cores to offer residents more, and how the communities are facilitating their growing love for the great outdoors in unexpected ways like disc golf, which in turn helps the economy grow even more. The pandemic has issued its challenges, and from what we have seen, our communities have responded. Progress has been made and it seems like 2021 has even more in store. Bobby Burns is the executive editor at Adams Publishing Group-ENC. Contact him at baburns@apgenc.com and 252329-9572.

Getting Greenville in the game Software, gaming company attracts tech workers from around the world

Grover Gaming founder and CEO Garrett Blackwelder is congratulated after the ECU Industry Roundtable presented him and Grover Gaming with its inaugural “Emerging Business Leader Award” in 2019. BY MARIA SATIRA Greenville ENC Alliance


or the past several decades, companies focusing on software technology and design innovation have created and maintained headquarters in major cities like San Francisco, Austin, New York and Atlanta. Times are changing. Recent trends suggest that employees are looking for a better quality of life and lower cost of living. Relocation data companies, including Updater and RENTCafé, believe that these workers are finding the opportunities they’re looking for in areas like eastern North Carolina. Greenville-based Grover Gaming is taking advantage of the trend. “Eastern North Carolina has always been our home and holds a special place in our company’s culture and growth,” said Garrett Blackwelder, founder and CEO of Grover Gaming. “We hope to continue that for many years to come.” Blackwelder founded Grover Gaming, a software development and design company, in Greenville in

2003. Since its inception, the company is consistently positioned as one of the fastest-growing in the nation. As a multi-year recipient of Inc Magazine’s prestigious Inc 5000 award, it ranked No. 194 in 2020. The company is also in the top 4 percent of the nation in revenue growth. Over 250 people are employed by Grover Gaming nationwide, including more than 150 based in North Carolina. That’s set to increase over the next five years due to expansion that is expected to bring 200 new jobs and $12.5 million in capital investment. “Although it’s been a challenging year for many in our industry, we’ve been fortunate to continue our growth and to continue adding to our team of humble, passionate people,” said Blackwelder. “We’re excited for our future and looking forward to adding new team members across the country and here in Eastern North Carolina.” As a result of Greenville’s welcoming ways and affordable cost of living, Grover Gaming has recruited dozens of technology


Katherine Cisneros is a 27-year-old 3D graphic design artist at Grover Gaming at the headquarters location in Greenville. As a result of Greenville’s welcoming ways and affordable cost of living, Grover Gaming has recruited dozens of technology professionals from larger cities and tech hubs across the globe.

professionals from larger cities and tech hubs across the globe. This includes software developers, game designers and artists, project managers and quality assurance engineers. United Kingdom native John Sutcliffe moved to Greenville in 2019 for a software development position. Prior to joining Grover Gaming, he worked for a company with offices in Reno, Nevada, and Manchester, England. “When I decided to move here, affordability was a huge factor,” said Sutcliffe. “You can get a house here for the same price as a studio apartment on the West Coast.” The 40-year-old has spent two decades working in software development in large cities and was ready

for a change of pace. “I felt like here I could really settle down, get a house, maybe start a family one day,” said Sutcliffe, who has 15 years of experience in game design for the slot machine and casino industries. As the director of gaming development, Sutcliffe has the responsibility of hiring game developers and programmers. As part of the interview process, he brings in candidates from across the country and introduces them to Greenville. “Generally speaking, a visit to our office convinces them that Grover is the place to be,” he said. “Just walking through the building, you can feel the culture in the air.” That’s what did it for

Katherine Cisneros, a 3D graphic design artist. The 27-year-old joined the team in February 2020. “You could feel the culture as soon as you walked in,” Cisneros said. “That was the determining factor for why we decided to make the move from Atlanta.” In recent years, Cisneros has worked at tech companies in Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Orlando. However, she’s never felt more at home than she does in eastern North Carolina. “I think Greenville has a

lot to offer, especially for people like us, because we’re looking to settle down and start a family,” said Cisneros. Her husband, Alex Casado, also is an employee at Grover Gaming. When Cisneros was hired as a graphic design artist, Casado applied for a position with Grover’s customer support team. The couple enjoys the company culture and work environment. The headquarters location on Northeast Greenville




Penco Products securing future Smart locker line can help businesses increase convenience, security for customers BY MARIA SATIRA Greenville-ENC Alliance


ne of the nation’s oldest metal fabricators has developed a product line to meet the growing demand for secure touchless delivery — smart lockers. Penco Products, based in Greenville with a manufacturing facility in Hamilton, is preparing to beta test the lockers with several local partners who can use them for services ranging from grocery and retail pickup to smart deliveries — services that saw increased demand during the pandemic and are expected to continue now that people TOM KULIKOWSKI have become accustomed to their convenience. “This is the way of the future,” said Penco President and CEO Tom Kulikowski. “If I need to pick up my dry cleaning but the business is only open until 5 p.m., I won’t be able to get there in time due to my work schedule. Yet, if there was a smart locker outside the business, they could send me a code on my smartphone.”

Advanced security Founded in 1869, Penco Products is America’s leading supplier of steel lockers, shelving products and material handling solutions. The new line of customizable smart lockers is enhanced with technology for advanced security to allow for safe and efficient options for the exchange of goods. “This concept is driven by the need for convenience, contactless exchange, and added security,” said Kulikowski. The need for storage products is universal as Penco’s markets span the spectrum of industrial, service, governmental and institutional organizations. While traditional lockers are widely used in educational facilities, fitness centers, health care, commercial and industrial locations, smart lockers allow for additional safety and convenience. Retailers and service providers can place online purchases in the lockers for customers to pick up at their convenience. Customers open the lockers with a barcode or numerical sequence sent to their smartphone. The lockers can be equipped with digital keypads and scanners. By typing in a one-time code or scanning the bar-

code the locker will open with the customer’s items inside. It’s like a modern-day mailbox, Kulikowsi said. “There is a market for this in apartments and college dorms,” Kulikowski said. “These complexes weren’t designed to handle the influx of packages since so many people are now ordering online. They don’t have the personnel and they don’t have the storage space.” Rather than packages housed at a leasing office with standard operating hours, packages can be placed in lockers outside the office. Delivery drivers would scan a package, place it in a locker, and assign a code and send it the residents. Similar to picking up online purchases at a store, the resident would receive a code via email or text, stop by the locker at their convenience, insert or scan the code, and open the locker with their package inside. In addition to self-serve pick up applications, the lockers also can be used in hospitals, medical centers and doctors’ offices, said Matthew Breece, Penco’s vice president of sales and marketing. “The opportunities are endless,” he said “We’re working a project now that is for patient article storage. When the patient checks in for their appointment or procedure, they put their personal belongings in the locker for safekeeping until they’re done and ready to go home.” Rather than receiving a one-time code, the patient would have a barcode on their hospital identification bracelet. That barcode would allow them to access the locker as needed without any fear of items being stolen or misplaced. “This is on an accelerated timeline compared to most things we do,” Kulikowski said. “Most things are more logical progressions and this is more of a leap.” Penco trademarked the term “smart locker” over a decade ago. Company leaders knew it was in their future, but they weren’t sure when it would be time to start development. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, the need increased for social distancing and contactless product pickup. The smart locker design concept launched at Penco’s Center for Design Excellence in Salt Lake City, Utah. The center is a specialized product development facility where Penco has combined design, engineering, manufacturing, and marketing resources. “We are building this technology into a lot of existing platforms,” said Breece. “The configurability is already there for us. Now


Founded in 1869, Penco Products is America’s leading supplier of steel lockers, shelving products and material handling solutions. The new line of customizable smart lockers, below, are enhanced with technology for advanced security to allow for safe and efficient options for the exchange of goods. Retailers and service providers can place online purchases in the lockers for customers to pick up at their convenience. Customers open the lockers with a barcode or numerical sequence sent to their smartphone.

it’s just marrying it with all the technology to open and close it.”

Partnership With Penco’s experience in building lockers of all sizes and for all needs, the tooling and manufacturing needed for the smart line already exists, but the metal fabricator is partnering with software developers to add the “smart” capabilities to the customized lockers. Breece says it’s a partnership where Penco provides the production, installation and service of the equipment and the software company provides the technology and support to meet the product requirements. One of these partners is Smiota, located in the Silicon Valley region of California. “Penco has a very competitive team and they are open to building products for the modern era,” said Smiota founder and CEO Manju Kashi. Kashi founded Smiota after a package was stolen from his own doorstep, which then led to identity theft. This experience inspired him to collaborate with other software designers and industry experts to create a cloud-based platform to prevent this type of theft while increasing safety and security. “Our goal is to provide software, Smiota Cloud Services, and back-end customization and integra-

tion to work seamlessly with Penco’s branded smart lockers and business systems,” Kashi said. The convergence of technology is being rolled out this summer for beta testing in Greenville area. If all goes well in the testing phase, the lockers could be available for purchase, distribution and installation in early 2022. “We want these lockers for beta test partners to be up and running for about six months,” said Breece. “During this time, we’ll download data out of each unit and look at how many times each locker is opened, analyze the design and ensure function.” Penco worked with the Greenville-Pitt County Chamber of Commerce to identify test partners. They’re able to use the lockers at no cost during the testing phase. In addition, the lockers will be customized to the business’ needs in terms of sizing, temperature control, interior sensors and exterior design. After the trial phase, the companies can decide if they’ll keep them. Penco hopes they find value in the product and will choose to continue with the service. “This allows companies and businesses to have a competitive advantage,” said Kulikowski. A company’s satisfaction with the product will come down to their return on investment, Penko officials

said. So Penco will analyze data during the beta testing that shows how often the lockers are used, if sales or services have increased, and when customers are using the system. “With these smart lockers, whatever the establishment is, they’re always open for business,” Kulikowski said. “It doesn’t have to be only 40

or 50 hours a week. If they exchange goods, these lockers turn their business into an operation that’s open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.” To learn more about Penco’s Smart Locker or to get more information about the beta testing phase, reach out to Matt Breece: matt. breece@pencoproducts. com



Boat building outfit anchored in ENC

World Cat found what it needed to keep expansion close to home BY PAT GRUNER Staff Writer


hat began as a plan for bigger catamarans has led to an expansion of a regional marine manufacturer that had been eyeing a move out of state. World Cat is a Tarboro-based boat manufacturer specializing in catamarans meant to provide a smoother ride for mariners. In 2020, the company was developing plans for a 40foot dual console hulled craft that was simply too large to build in their space in Tarboro. The company outsourced manufacturing to Tampa, Florida, and was on the brink of relocating out of state. As the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the country, engineers and executives were hampered by the threat of traveling south for water testing and other necessary steps in the process. “We couldn’t get all of our work done in Florida,” said Andrew Brown, World Cat president. Brown and his team saw that employees in their Edgecombe County location had come from all over the region. As he looked in surrounding areas in the state, he found Greenville. According to him, the workforce and support he’s seen from the city were the right match. “It is perfect for what we’re doing. The workforce in Greenville is so good for it. There are engineers and people always graduating from the university and people who have a strong understanding of modern manufacturing and safety.” With space being a determining factor in the move, the city’s economic development group began seeking available locations. They found the North Park Industrial Center on Staton Road, a location formerly used by Camping World and Nike shoe company. “Fortunately, we had an existing building here in Greenville that would fit the footprint that they were looking for,” said Uconda Dunn, vice president of business development with the Greenville-ENC Alliance. “It was partially being leased at the time. However, that lease was coming up for renewal and the company was not renewing. We were able to work on World Cat getting into that facility.” World Cat’s familiarity and appreciation for the workforce in the area was another factor Dunn saw as an incentive to bring World Cat to town. “We didn’t want to lose this company and potentially risk losing the 100 employees they had in Edgecombe County because we could not come to an agreement on location.” Brown says the city was welcoming in making the


Tarboro-based World Cat has moved into the North Park Industrial Center in Greenville to manufacture a 40-foot dual console hulled craft that was simply too large to build in their space in Tarboro. The facility is 232,500 square feet consisting of offices, and warehouse space which World Cat can use to keep manufacturing at a steady clip.

deal happen every step of the way. “We could not have done this without the city of Greenville,” Brown said. “The mayor’s office was so welcoming. Kathy (Howard) in utilities was a huge help. She’s probably 90 percent of why we got here. If it wasn’t for COVID I would have taken her for a steak dinner.” The facility is 232,500 square feet consisting of offices and warehouse space which World Cat can use to keep manufacturing at a steady clip. Engineers are set up in offices with design software and the two attached industrial settings will allow for 900 40-foot boats to be built at a time according to Brown. The facility will be exclusive to the larger vessels. During a tour, Brown explained that one building will serve as an assembly line and the other will be devoted to laminating products. “Everything we’re using here is compressed air,” Brown said. “As far as renovations, we are going to need $3.5 million for the laminate room, a third of which we’re spending this year. Ventilation is extremely important and we need to keep that area around 70 degrees.” Right now, 15 employees are on site in the Greenville location, primarily engineers. In October of 2020, an open house saw 200 interested potential workers show up to see the new facility and apply for jobs. “We weren’t expecting that,” Brown said. “I got here and there was a line of people waiting. I think people are really excited to see this kind of industry. We are literally fullspeed in Tarboro right now. We do the training there and move people here.” Dunn says having World Cat in town, alongside other existing marine manufacturers, is a big step in Greenville’s economic development. “I think it helps solidify our marine-related cluster,” Dunn said. “It gives us

Chris Brockway, center, meets with engineers in the new World Cat facility on Staton Road.


World Cat, which manufactures outboard power catamarans, is expanding to meet increasing demand for its 36-foot to 50-foot twin hull vessels.

an opportunity to go out and recruit more suppliers and OEM’s (original equipment manufacturers) to support Grady White and World Cat that are already here. We want to make Greenville stand out as a place that marine-related manufacturing can actually work and can thrive. Showing that we have the workforce, that we have these two very different boat manufacturers, we can support any type of marine manufacturing when it comes down to it.” “I am new to the community here and I am happy to see them here and growing this cluster,” Dunn continued. “We have really got to capitalize on our proximity to the Crystal Coast and the Pamlico River and Sound.

We have to be able to show that we can support marine manufacturing. I think this company bringing in 60 jobs and growing tremendously … back up to their full staff in Edgecombe and hiring like gangbusters here, this company is going to thrive. We just need to make sure that we are providing the support that they need.” For Brown, it’s all about the people. “The access to people and excitement from the community is just amazing,” Brown said. “We have people who love boats, who love to design them and build them. Then we have our people on the end who love the way (the catamaran) handles and moves offshore. It’s people all the way through.”

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force and educational opportunities to its available resources and affordable cost structure, STEVE eastern WEATHERS North Carolina gives companies a unique opportunity to prosper. Pitt County has more than 94,000 people in its labor force and a median age of only 32 years. Local governments and developers are ready to partner with investors. The utility services offered through Greenville Utilities Commission are an incredible asset. GUC provides electric, natural gas, water and wastewater services with a single contact to meet industry needs. As a catalyst for the region’s growth, GUC has state-of-the-art facilities and equipment, competitive rates, excess capacity in electric, water, sewer and natural gas. These are great selling points for companies looking to relocate or expand their businesses in our region. After spending time at economic development organizations in Georgia, California, Arizona, Ohio and New York, I’m grateful to now be working in what is widely considered one of the best states for business. North Carolina is continually ranked as a top state for doing business and for retaining industry. In addition, Greenville was recently named the trendiest city for Gen-Z renters by apartment listing service RENTCafé and ranked as the top city for inbound growth in 2020 by software company Updater. In addition to offering an incredible quality of life, our region has the resources that industries need to thrive and succeed in a competitive global marketplace. As we look ahead to the future, we are well-positioned for long-term growth and future opportunity. I’m proud to live and work in Greenville and am honored to be part of the economic development efforts in this area. Thank you, Greenville, for welcoming me into your beautiful and exceptional community.

t’s hard to believe that I’m approaching my first anniversary as the president and chief executive officer of the Greenville-Eastern North Carolina Alliance. On April 1, 2020, I moved here from Buffalo, New York, and started in this position. Over the past 12 months, I’ve learned many things about the area in terms of economic progress, development opportunity and quality of life. But most importantly, I’ve learned this is a remarkable community unlike any other in the nation. It’s just as much family-friendly and affordable as it is a thriving economic center and educational hub. I chose to call this community home because I am confident that no matter how large it becomes in population and prosperity it will maintain its Southern charm and welcoming ways. As a certified economic developer with nearly 30 years of experience in the field of economic development, I’m not sure that any other community in the country could have handled the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as Greenville and Pitt County. During 2020, our organization was honored to be part of several successful announcements, starting with World Cat in August, followed by Grover Gaming and Thermo Fisher Scientific in December. In total, these companies will create an estimated 760 new jobs in the next two to five years. New capital investment is estimated to be $521 million. Our organization is now working to build our pipeline of potential leads while engaging with companies that are looking to relocate and expand. Through extensive research and market analysis, our organization identified target industries that are suitable for our community and its talented workforce. This includes advanced manufacturing focusing in chemicals and plastics, machinery and metals, wood and paper products, marine-related and pharmaceutical manufacturing and medical devices and Steve Weathers is the supplies. president and CEO of the From its skilled workGreenville-ENC alliance.

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Grady-White Boats stays steadfast

Safety, production and giving back keep business afloat BY RONNIE WOODWARD Staff Writer


ny hold-your-breath moments last March related to the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic quickly turned into opportunities to reflect, respond and flourish at Grady-White Boats. In the midst of challenges during the past year, the iconic eastern North Carolina boat maker focused on how to keep its employees safe and increase its workforce by 18 percent since January of 2020. It also finalized a partnership with East Carolina University athletics, in the works long before last August’s announcement, and was able to make emergency COVID-related contributions to many community groups. The company supported the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina and the East Carolina Council for Boy Scouts and supplied emergency funds at ECU, Pitt Community College and the United Way of Pitt County. Grady-White officials said creating safe environments internally was the first priority, then working closely and creatively to meet the needs of dealers, suppliers and customers. “The demand for our boats this past year is unlike anything we have experienced before, surpassing our production capacity,” said Shelley Tubaugh, GradyWhite’s vice president of marketing. “The pandemic has been a boom for boating. This is an activity you can do with your family, be socially distanced, have fun and make great memories.” Grady-White has been a key employer in Pitt County for more than 60 years. Many employees are from Pitt County, joined by surrounding counties including Martin, Beaufort, Greene and Lenoir, to maintain one of the company’s goals of making a positive impact on the community’s economy. “We saw other boat companies close down for weeks or even months, but we were strongly committed to staying open, building boats safely for our employees, who need the money to live,” Tubaugh said. “We also knew it was important for our dealers’ businesses and our customers who eagerly wanted us to complete their boats. We worked hard to safely operate each day and feel very fortunate to be able to do our part to sustain our team and community. “The longevity and resilience of our core workforce, combined with our new, energized and committed team members coming in this past


Greenville Utilities Commission workers install utility lines near Old Creek Road in Greenville. GUC is building a new electric substation near Indigreen Corporate Park.

Utility solutions serve as foundation for growth GUC balances need for new infrastructure with customer service, cost.

Industrial Park. The substation will serve the growhere are many ing load people and organiof our zations who play difcurrent ferent roles in helping our industrial TONY community grow. Our role customers CANNON at Greenville Utilities is to as well as provide the safe, innovaprovide capacity for new tive and sustainable utility businesses who will fill in solutions that serve as the the remaining properties foundation of growth for in the area. the Greenville region. Our customer base is We do that by conalso increasing for the stantly re-investing in our compressed natural gas systems to ensure we are fueling station. The facility able to reliably serve the was completed in 2015 needs of our customers and has seen a steady while making sure we growth in use by industrial have enough capacity to customers. From buses to accommodate future cus- garbage trucks to delivery tomers. The challenge is trucks, the station was to meet growing demand built with that growing without overbuilding demand in mind. unused infrastructure. It’s Of course, when a balancing act that our building for the future, we Board of Commissioners need to be very mindful of has been able to help balancing infrastructure us successfully achieve improvements so that custhrough careful planning tomer rates remain as low and investment. The latest as possible while mainexamples can be seen taining safe and reliable around our service area. systems. Work is well underway Staff in each of our on an expansion of our four utilities (electric, water treatment plant. natural gas, water and When completed, the wastewater) has worked facility will be able to very hard to minimize or treat more than 32 million eliminate planned rate gallons of water each day. increases while continuThat’s more than enough ing the high safety and to serve our area on the reliability our customers busiest of days with room have come to expect. Our to immediately take on electric rates have even new homes as well as new gone down by more than industries. 14 percent since 2014 The recent completion without a single increase of a third point of delivery — almost unheard of substation ensures reliable these days. power delivery not only It all comes down to us for the area where the doing everything we can greatest growth is preto achieve our mission. dicted but also allows for Greenville Utilities is redundancy for current dedicated to enhancing customers. the quality of life for That means that if one those we serve by safely of the two other PODs providing reliable utility goes down, electricity can solutions at the lowest be re-routed through the reasonable cost, with system, ensuring all GUC exceptional customer customers will continue to service in an environmenhave power. tally responsible manner. Crews have started working on a new electric Tony Cannon is pressubstation along Sugg ident and CEO of GreenParkway in the Indigreen ville Utilities.



Grady-White Boats has seen an 18 percent increase in its workforce since January of 2020.

year, has been an inspiring time to work together during this growth opportunity for us. We are capitalizing on this surge to expand our workforce and have positions open right now.” As it has been since the pandemic began, the company continues to have supply chain challenges daily and works closely with vendors to get needed components. The pandemic did bring about extra outreach requests for Grady-White to help local organizations like churches and YMCA groups in addition to supporting a critical need for technical upgrades at local schools for virtual learning. “We donate regularly to many organizations, but these contributions because of COVID-19 were over and above all of our normal donations,” Tubaugh said. “We believe in making investments in our people, community and company for the long haul. We’re able to do that because we work hard to satisfy our customers and run an effective and efficient company every day, even through the tough times, making the very best of it for all the stakeholders. “We’re incredibly fortunate to have had the same owner, Eddie Smith, since

A Grady-White boat hits the water with fishermen.

1968, who believes in giving back. Giving back in all these ways is a deeply ingrained part of our culture, especially in the hard times.” The United Way of Pitt County partnered with Grady-White Boats to help local agencies. “At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic our corporate partner, Grady-White Boats, reached out to the United Way asking how they could support the community during this unprecedented time,” said Dwain Cooper, director of community impact and communications for the United Way. “Their generous gift started the United Way Community Action Fund Grant to assist multiple local agencies. Grady-White Boats really gives meaning to the term corporate social responsibility.”

Grady-White Boats recently was named one of 13 winners in the 2020 Governor’s Export Awards, which honors manufacturers for their success in international markets and highlights the importance of exports to the state’s economy. Established in 1959 in Greenville, Grady-White has twice been recognized as Greenville-Pitt County Chamber of Commerce’s industry of the year award, most recently for 2018-19. Eddie Smith, received the chamber’s legend award in 2011. The company also has been awarded every third-party customer satisfaction award ever presented in the marine industry. Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592.

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Hyster-Yale: Solutions arise from adversity product in warehouses and yet not servicing that equipment. It was really putting yster-Yale traces one our customers at risk.” of the pivotal moTo change that, Hysments in its history ter-Yale put together a to the start of the Great list of best practices for Depression. It was 1929 sanitizing lift trucks, based when the Willamett-Ersted on guidelines from the CenCompany formed in the Paters for Disease Control. cific Northwest as a logging The program established a equipment manufacturer, system for cleaning highproducing a truck with a touch surfaces to prevent hoist that loggers called a the spread of germs from “hyster.” Nearly a century one user to another. It also later, it should not come made available cleaning as a surprise that a compasupplies in carrier kits ny born during adversity designed to attach to lift would continue to succeed trucks. in another global crisis. “If you will recall, back During the coronavirus then it was really scarce pandemic, Hyster-Yale, a lift to find hand sanitizer and truck manufacturer with disinfectants,” Vicars said. operations in a dozen coun“So we began to source a tries, has not only faced supply of those and make changing demands due to those available to our the growth of e-commerce, dealers to purchase so their it has forged ahead with technicians have the proper safety innovations that are CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS (supplies).” expected to have applicaThe program not only The coronavirus pandemic prompted Hyster-Yale to adapt its new pedestrian awareness technology to comply with tions beyond COVID-19. became popular with COVID-19 distancing recommendations. The system features wearable devices that vibrate to warn employees to Jeremy Clayton, aftermar- remain at least 6 feet apart. Below, the HY-Shield Clean kit is designed to be attached to lift trucks for use. Hyster-Yale customers, it reket communications analyst ceived one of the industry’s for Hyster-Yale Group in product of the year awards Greenville, said that as the “We quickly paused and uses ultra-wideband techgreat for office workers, contact with forklifts. in January. virus began to spread across in six weeks launched that nology rather thanWi-Fi or warehouse workers, Kellie Vicars, after “We were really kind of much of the world last solution,” LaFevers said. a cellular network, allows manufacturing workers,” market manager of commu- the first within the industry spring, the company took “We’re really excited that users to know within a me- LaFevers said. “As COVID nications and e-commerce, to set a standard, a practice steps to ensure the safety we could take our technol- ter where other employees dissipates, this will morph explained that during the and a procedure (for sanitiof its own employees. At ogy built for one purpose or machines are located. into still having tags but early days of the COVID-19 zation),” Vicars said. the same time, it pursued and then adjust it.” The device can be used on just notifying workers if outbreak, many operations Even as infection rates protective solutions for its The tag-to-tag system a lift truck to detect they’re coming into close kept outside personnel out decrease and vaccines customers. uses wearable devices that pedestrians nearby. contact with dangerous of their facilities to help become more widespread, Steven LaFevers, vice vibrate when employ“It’s not expen- materials or machinery or reduce potential exposure Hyster-Yale plans to keep president of emerging ees are too close sive, and areas they shouldn’t enter.” to the virus. An unintended the Hy-Shield Clean as a technology, said prior to the to each other. it’s Another innovation that consequence of those deci- way to provide workers pandemic, a team had been Proximity senhas come to life during the sions was that businesses protection from other working to develop a pedes- sors allow users pandemic is the compa- ended up postponing main- health issues such as colds trian awareness system for to determine what ny’s Hy-Shield Clean tenance and repairs of their and flu. safety in warehouses. But distance settings are program, lift trucks. “I think COVID’s really to help one of Hyster-Yale’s needed for their environdesigned to “It’s completely ungiven us the attention, of customers, a large online ment. Employees receive minimize derstandable that people better hand hygiene and retailer, provide reassurance a notification when the risk of would fear bringing in folks cleanliness and sanitization for employees who were re- co-workers, including contracting from the outside, but the practices in general,” Vicars turning to work, the compa- ones who are not within the virus for problem with that is you’re said. “I don’t think we ny adapted the new technol- their line of sight, come operators, mainte- running this equipment,” would have put such emogy for COVID-19 distancing too close to them. nance workers and Vicars said. “More than phasis if we had not been in recommendations. The tag solution, which others who come in ever, people were moving a global pandemic.” BY KIM GRIZZARD Staff Writer


Greenville at the center of some of the latest technologies ty under the name Yale & Towne (later NACCO Industries), now has more utonomous vehicles than 1,300 employees at and green energy are its Greenville manufacturnot just hot topics ing facility and divisional in the auto industry. Both headquarters. Most of its are scientific developments 75-member emerging techHyster-Yale Materials nologies team is based at Handling has embraced as this location. part of its line of lift trucks, “Our emerging technoloand much of the work gies department started in surrounding those new Greenville with just one or technologies is happening two people and now it’s a in eastern North Carolina. growing, bright area of our Steven LaFevers, vice business, just a lot of talent president of emerging locally,” LaFevers said. technology for Hyster-Yale The Greenville location Group in Greenville, said is home to a large section the company demonof Hyster-Yale in terms of strates a growing comhydrogen fuel cell technolmitment to research and ogy, from its manufacturing development. line to sales and service “I think everybody that teams. The company, which sells anything probably in 2014 acquired alternative says they’re innovative, but power technology company this company really lives Nuvera Fuel Cells, has one by it,” he said. “What we’ve of the only hydrogen fuel seen in our business is just cell-operated lines of fork a large shift focused on lifts in the country and is technologies, in and above the only fork lift manufacthe truck itself.” turer that owns a fuel cell Hyster-Yale, which first company. opened a plant in Pitt CounHydrogen fuel cell techBY KIM GRIZZARD Staff Writer



Hyster-Yale’s robotic tow tractor and reach truck is part of a growing line of automated lift trucks the manufacturer has developed.

nology creates a smaller carbon footprint, with zero emissions except water. But unlike some alternative fuel sources, it is designed to allow users to refuel quickly and go long distances. LaFevers said that in the last several years, about 30 percent of the lift truck


market has shifted to electrical because of indoor use. But most batteries only last about four hours and take at least five times as long to recharge as an engine would take to refuel. “Power within our industry is a large challenge,” LaFevers said. “Hydrogen is the best and greatest next

technology related to how you can power anything, and we’ve invested heavily, probably over $200 million in that area of our business. It’s a 20-year investment, just a long-term strategy for our company.” Another long-term strategy is to manufacture robotic lift trucks that do

not require an operator to place, lift and load. “We’re seeing a massive shift in that,” LaFevers said. “It’s going to be a huge area for our business in the next decade.” Automated vehicles are being programmed for such undesirable tasks as operating a lift truck in extreme temperatures, including inside a freezer unit. LaFevers does not foresee innovations making operators obsolete but estimates that 10 to 25 percent of lift truck will be robotic in the future. “It’s been amazing to see,” he said of the automation. “What we’re doing right now we couldn’t have done three years ago, let alone 10 years ago. It’s just exciting to see another emerging technology that we’re focused here. We’ve got offices in Texas and Portland, all over, but kind of the heart of it right now is in Greenville with eastern North Carolinians. It’s exciting.”



Tied to eastern North Carolina ‘Backyarding’ trend helps the Hammock Source keep growing amid pandemic BY DEBORAH GRIFFIN Staff Writer


phenomenon brought on by the pandemic has been a boon to an international manufacturer whose history is knotted in eastern North Carolina. The Hammock Source is hiring and training workers and boosting production because of backyarding, a rare pleasant byproduct of the stay-at-home demands that made people fall in love again with their outdoor home spaces. The world’s largest manufacturer and seller of hand-crafted hammocks, The Hammock Source was born in Greenville in 1971 with an enterprise that became Hatteras Hammocks. It grew to incorporate a half dozen brands and more products, all of them now produced at a facility that is hidden in plain sight among the pine trees at 305 Industrial Blvd. According to Todd Nifong, THS vice president of sales and marketing, the company saw a 300 percent jump in sales last year. And the trend has not slowed down. “If you look back at the last year, we still extremely high [in sales],” Nifong said in February. “Normally this time of year, with the weather starting to turn in a few places, we are starting to normalize. But our winter months were extremely strong compared to the past. “I expect the level of demand — as a percentage — to remain the same. But, we are getting ready to go into our season, so our overall business is getting ready to increase. We’ve talked to some of our big box stores already, and some that had product in the stores are already seeing it move — much earlier on than normal,” he added. As the weather warms, he expects things to kick into overdrive. Because of the sustained high demand, the company has continued to seek out employees. “We are always looking for people, and we are actively hiring,” Nifong said. This has meant good news for those in eastern North Carolina seeking jobs. THS has hired more than 35 people over the last several months and continues to recruit and train an expanded workforce. “It has been real exciting to grow our family here at The Hammock Source,” Nifong said. Part of the demand for more employees is driven by bringing home production from overseas. “We have brought more of the production back here to

Nifong said. With the hiring of more staff, the company has been able to shorten backorders, but demand is still high. “It is a good stressful,” he said. “Although, it has been a challenge to bring people on during this time period. We have so many facets of the business right now where we can use people.” Skills needed include sewing, weaving and assembling. “With our hammocks, everything is handcrafted right here in our Greenville facility,” Nifong said. “We make yarn into rope. We handcraft the spreader bars. The same goes for our outdoor furniture. We get the lumber then it is cut and assembled here. A lot of hands — a lot of skilled hands — touch everything that goes out the door.” Nifong said customers have been patient as the company has worked to shorten its lead time. “People are willing to PHOTOS BY DEBORAH GRIFFIN/DAILY REFLECTOR wait in this environment. Floricela Flores handcrafts a hammock at The Hammock Source manufacturing facility in Greenville. They are wanting to cultivate their home spaces. the United States,” Nifong It is not something they said. “We are now producare doing on a whim. ing metal stand pieces in They are investing in their our metal-working shop.” home.” In January, THS partHe realizes some might nered with NCWorks to not understand why it have a drive-up work-aptakes so long to make a plication event. “That hammock. “It takes a lot was successful. We had of time and handwork for over 60 participants. That one to be made,” he said. was a big chunk of where “Our craftsmen are proud we hired from,” he said. of what they do.” “We’ve done some other Perkins III is happy the things as well (to attract company has been able new employees) like partto stay in Greenville, his ner with Pitt Community hometown. College.” “Greenville has been Inside the company’s good to me and I’ve tried multimillion-dollar, 80,000 to be good to it. We started square-foot facility, here, and hopefully we can hammocks and outdoor stay here,” he said. furniture are produced He said he feels the and assembled by hand company has been preparfor customers throughout ing for an event like this their primary markets for years. in the United States and Several factors — online Canada. presence, growing the outNifong said the soaring door furniture line, having demand has not slowed. USA-made and eastern “People are still staying North Carolina-made prodOrlando Ortiz Castillo sews stitches material for a handmade hammock at The home. They are nesting ucts and hand-rafted items, and creating more space at Hammock Source. According to Todd Nifong, THS vice president of sales and “all came together and marketing, the company saw a 300 percent jump in sales last year. And the trend their home.” worked well for us during has not slowed down. A natural extension of this time,” he said. the home is an outdoor When COVID-19 first hit, space, he said, which some “Hammocks are a place of his old Toyota station ries. he said, “My goal was to marketers have dubbed for people to relax and let wagon. THS also has a line of stay open safely. We were backyarding. “People are all those worries just kind By 1987, Hatteras Hamenvironmentally friendly, able to keep everybody enjoying this — it is like of fade away,” Nifong said. mocks was the world’s durable outdoor furniture healthy and happy — they have reconnected “We have rope hammocks, top hammock producer. made from recycled plastic knock on wood — so far.” with their home.” quilted hammocks and Now Jay Branch is the bottles. Perkins said he feels the He said he thinks the tufted hammocks.” president of the company “We are keeping botcompany will keep some pandemic has brought The Hammock Source and Walter Perkins III is tles out of landfills and of the changes made, such about a fundamental started in 1971 when its chief executive officer. the oceans,” Nifong as employees being more change in the way AmeriGreenville’s Walter PerPerkins III grew up making said. “Even the furniture spread out. cans think. kins, a buyer for the Amer- hammocks alongside his shavings and scraps are Nifong added, “In the “I don’t use these words ican Tobacco Company, father. recycled. We don’t waste Greenville, Pitt County lightly, but there has been visited the Carolina coast. Hatteras Hammocks, anything.” community, there are a a paradigm shift in our His mother asked him now THS, grew to include He said the company has lot of talented people. It is culture. People are asking to pick her up one of the such brand names as Paw- not been able to keep up impressive. themselves, ‘What is most rope hammocks sold there. ley’s Island, Nags Head, with the demand for their “It is a strong commuimportant? What do we He bought one for himself, Key West, Cast Away and outdoor products. “The nity, and it is a resilient want to do with our time?’” too, and began tinkering. EcoTrekker hammocks, demand from this time last community. We at The Hammocks are the prod- He sold his handcrafted not to mention Real Deal year on has been unprecHammock Source are uct in the highest demand. hammocks out of the trunk Brazil hats and accessoedented in our business,” proud to be a part of it.”



Results are in: Pitt-Greenville is place to be


Arthur E. Schupbach gets his COVID-19 from Brian Floyd, president of Vidant Medical Center and COO of Vidant Health. Volunteer Morgan Lilly enters data in the background.

conomic development has many goals — recruiting and retaining industry, supporting workforce and community development, promoting entrepreneurship and enhancing quality of life. At its core, economic development is a team sport, and it is all about relationships. The Pitt County Development Commission has been at the forefront and behind the scenes of economic development in Pitt County for decades and counts on the leadership and support of many partners. Everyone, in fact, is a stakeholder in economic development because it affects so many

facets of our lives. Economic development is adapting to a “new normal ” in light of KELLY the most ANDREWS abnormal past year. More than ever, the economic development team in Pitt County is addressing health and safety, social issues, declining rural areas, the skills gap and the digital divide. Despite all of 2020’s challenges, Pitt County continues to move forward. In a recent study,

Policom, an economics research firm, ranked all Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA) based on the long-term tendency for an area to consistently grow in size and quality. In that study, Pitt County, also known as the Greenville, NC MSA, moved up 40 spots and landed in the top 50 percent of the ranking for the first time. In another recent study, conducted by the Milken Institute, Greenville made a 17-point jump into the top third of Best Performing Small Cities. The study tracked economic performance in areas such as job creation, wage gains and

high-tech growth to determine the rankings. Greenville’s high-tech concentration, ranked third out of 201 small cities, shows impressive growth in the knowledge-based economic sector. As we look ahead, Pitt County’s economy is stable, diversified and evolving. We are gaining new residents, industries, and visibility as a destination for investment. Pitt County’s future is bright and we see new opportunities on the horizon.

through the delivery of county programs and services. The unique challenges the SCOTT COVID-19 ELLIOTT pandemic has unwillingly exhibited in our community continues to fuel the innovative driving powers that are ingrained in Pitt County culture. Vital decision-making made way for effective use of CARES Act funding for COVID-19 testing and mitigation. Critical planning, scheduling and placement of testing sites reached underserved, marginalized populations.

The implementation of mobile testing sites across the county and improving the timely receipt of test results validate this continued support. Vidant Health and the Pitt County Health Department formed a unified front to vaccinate eligible community members through large-scale clinics at the Greenville Convention Center. In addition to this inclusive approach, clinics have also been provided in clinical and community settings bridging access to care among under-resourced groups. Pitt County continues to strive to be “A leader in the state; Best in the east.” The county’s collaborative leadership and its

Board of Commissioners acknowledge the ongoing circumstances which continue to unfold due to the pandemic. Future needs of the county will be addressed through a formal strategic plan development process in the upcoming year — needs such as examining the need for broader and more efficient broadband connectivity in unserved and underserved areas of the county. During this era of uncertainty, Pitt County continues to leverage its core priorities with a focus on today and an intentional commitment for tomorrow.

Casado says affordability played a factor in their relocation to Greenville as Continued from A2 they were able to purchase Boulevard includes modern a home in a desirable neighworkstations, state-of-the-art borhood. technology, space to relax “Houses in the same price and recharge, breakrooms range in Atlanta were not and snack bars and a fitness as nice,” said Casado. “We room. Company executives were lucky to be able to want to create an atmofind something in our price sphere that is inviting, enerrange here that was a really getic and fun in a city that good fit for us.” features similar qualities. The cost of living in “Greenville is almost a hy- the Greenville area is well brid of small and large,” said below the North Carolina Casado, a tier-two support average and the national analyst. “You have the things index. This is attributed to of a large city with a good affordable rent and housing downtown area and lots costs, lower taxes, competof things to do. But it also itive utility rates and quality doesn’t feel overwhelming health care. with the number of people.” In addition, Grover Gam-

ing finds that this region is easy to market with the superior quality of life, access to outdoor recreation and enjoyable climate. “Don’t discount a small town compared to a big city. There are a lot of benefits,” Sutcliffe said. “It’s quieter, you don’t get caught in traffic every day. It’s been an improvement in my life, personally.” Grover Gaming is passionate about having its employees involved in the community and engaged in personal and professional development. The company hosts family days, spirit weeks and corporate celebrations to allow team members the opportunity to enjoy where

they live and work. “We place a premium on community involvement, not only in eastern North Carolina, but in all of the markets where we have partnerships,” said Blackwelder. “It’s important for us to keep our employees engaged in the communities where they live and work.” As the Greenville community thrives, grows and flourishes it’s no wonder why tech companies and their employees are interested in moving to this eastern North Carolina city and working for a nationally ranked and recognized company like Grover Gaming.

Pandemic highlighted Vidant’s ability to Pitt County a leader in the state, best in the east innovate, respond Health network tested, vaccinated and continued to deliver advanced care, including Gamma Knife treatments for cancer and robotic kidney transplants.


he COVID-19 pandemic forced our region, state, nation and world to adapt. Vidant Health is no exception and the past year has been highlighted by our ability to innovate in the face of COVID-related challenges to ensure we can respond to the pandemic, improve the health and well-being of eastern North Carolina and restore vibrancy to our community and economy. Innovation in health care during a historic pandemic means a couple of things: finding new ways to treat and prevent the novel virus while continuing to deliver high-quality care for other deadly diseases and conditions. Keep in mind, COVID is not the only killer. Rather, serious chronic conditions like cancer, heart disease, diabetes and more are prevalent, particularly in our region. A healthy community is a more economically vibrant community, and Vidant plays an important role as an economic engine in the east and in improving the health of our citizens and communities. Early in the pandemic, we proactively scaled back elective procedures, ramped up cleaning and safety measures and created a safe environment for our team members and patients. This helped ensure we could still provide needed care for those we serve. At the same time, we invested heavily in world-class testing infrastructure. These highly accurate tests embedded in our communities allowed us to rapidly provide care and better understand how the disease spreads. Our team-member parking lot was converted into a drive-up testing site serving thousands of community members per day at its busiest time and the results were delivered within 24 hours. Testing helped us understand the disease and its prevalence. While we never stopped providing life-saving care, the knowledge gained from testing provided us the opportunity to safely expand our non-COVID services. Our health system

includes nine interconnected hospitals, hundreds of clinics and is anchored MICHAEL by Vidant WALDRUM Medical Center, a level-1 trauma center and academic medical center. Vidant boasts not only state-of-the-art COVID testing and care, we have advanced technology such as GammaTile and GammaKnife for cancer patients, robotic kidney transplants, advanced heart failure treatment options and more. In fact, Vidant is nearing its 2,000th patient for GammaKnife, a treatment designed to treat brain tumors. We are able to bring this high-quality care to our region of 1.4 million people in large part because of our partnership and collaboration with many organizations. Foremost of these partnerships is our important relationship with the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University. Our greatest hope for a brighter 2021 comes in the form of the COVID-19 vaccines, which are both safe and effective. As we did with testing, Vidant has invested heavily in building a high-quality vaccination program that is embedded in our communities. The regional vaccine program is highlighted by the Vidant/Pitt County Large-Scale Vaccine Clinic at the Greenville Convention Center. This venue epitomizes our values to be efficient and to provide excellent service for eastern North Carolina. As we work to reimagine our future without COVID and to assure we care for the non-COVID needs of our patients, I am grateful for our team members and community partners. Their hard work and dedication is phenomenal. A brighter year lies ahead as we work together to control COVID and to treat other health issues our communities face. Michael Waldrum, M.D., is CEO of Vidant Health.

Early in the pandemic, Vidant proactively scaled back elective procedures, ramped up cleaning and safety measures and created a safe environment for our team members and patients.


itt County has proven through strong interconnected community partnerships how inclusive civic engagements addressing the health and well-being of its residents echo its mission. The Pitt County Board of Commissioners identifies, develops and targets initiatives to implement solutions. Programs such as the Local Reentry Council, Farm and Food Council and the Community Paramedic Program demonstrated why the National Civic League recognized Pitt County as an “All-America County” award winner in 2020. This recognition will live on for years to come through ongoing partnerships in the community as well as


Kelly Andrews is the executive director of the Pitt County Ecomonic Development Commission.

Scott Elliott is the Pitt County manager.



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To arrange a tour, please call the Admissions Office at 252-522-4222 ext. 202 or email admissions@parrottacademy.org.

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PROGRESS ENC The Daily Reflector

LIVING ENC ■ Hurling hatchets helps draw people to

toss away stress, Page B2 ■ Snow Hill efforts spur development downtown, Page B3 ■ Several projects underway to revitalize Williamston downtown, Page B4

■ The region is capitalizing on outdoor

recreation, Page B5 ■ PCC expands its role in workforce training, community service Page B6 ■ Growing popularity of disc golf sprouts new economic opportinities, Page B8



ECU embraces future with partnerships, investment in tech, pharma, research



Doug “Thor” Emerson, right, an employee at Stumpy’s helps Kateland Pollard and Jesse Craft with their technique.

Heaving hatchets lets locals throw off some steam BY NATHAN SUMMERS Staff Writer


unique sound can be heard when walking down or driving through Greenville’s Dickinson Avenue in the uptown sector. That sound is hatchets hitting wooden targets from across a room, and probably the reactions of the people throwing them too. The now nationwide trend of recreational hatchet hurling, however, didn’t come here trying to sell itself to the city so much as the city sold itself to its owners. According to Stumpy’s Hatchet House co-owner Trish Oliphant, she and her husband already owned their flagship hatchet-throwing venue in their home state of New Jersey and a few others elsewhere when they came to Greenville for the first time. The Oliphants were attending the grand opening of nearby restaurant Ford & Shep to support a nephew when they met the owner of the space down the road that would one day become the next Stumpy’s. He showed them the space, and they left town with plans for a Stumpy’s in Greenville. Since then, the steady upward growth of uptown Greenville, literally in the case of numerous new high-rise student-living complexes like the nearby Dickinson Lofts, Stumpy’s has entrenched itself and even fostered a younger, college clientele. “We really fell in love with that uptown area of Greenville and really saw the potential in it,” Oliphant said of her first trip to Greenville. “I don’t think there are many times in people’s lives where you feel you can be part of something growing, something much bigger, something that’s not there yet but it’s soon to come.” The rest has been history, as the Greenville location of the hatchet house has helped attract a younger dynamic thanks to its proximity to campus, student-living complexes and brew pubs now in the vicinity. Stumpy’s, which is opening its doors back up for regular hatchet-throwing based around the latest CDC guidelines, even offers a college night discount as well as family specials on Sundays. Although not yet opened at full capacity based on the those guidelines, Oliphant said the buzz has steadily returned as businesses have begun to reopen after some full shutdowns due to COVID-19. “I think we’ve all learned how important friends and family are and how important it is to have these social gatherings,” said Oliphant, noting there has even been a rise in weddings at their venues nationwide. So strong is the Oliphant’s bond with the city, they have a granddaughter who plans to attend ECU in the fall. “We love the whole young vibe of the ECU students,” said Trish Oliphant, who owns the hatchet house along with her husband, Mark, and Kelly and Stu Josbeger. “We think the downtown area gives them a lot of things to do. Through

Stumpy’s is located downtown Greenville.

people we’ve met there that have gone to ECU and decided to move to Greenville, and employees of ours who have graduated from ECU and decided to stay in the town and make it their home, I think that says a lot about a place.” Oliphant said it was important to build a business that wasn’t just “a place for sweaty dudes” and said a lot of thought was put into the aesthetics of the venues in order to make them comfortable and attractive to everyone of every age. The passion for throwing hatchets at targets as a social activity happened about as organically as could be imagined. The two couples are members of the same yacht club and began throwing axes one night in one of their back yards. It became a regular thing. “After a long day of sailing, they had us to their house for cocktails and food. The guys were out back chopping wood for the chimney and started throwing the hatchet at a tree stump from a tree that came down in Hurricane Sandy,” Oliphant said. When she went outside to see what the hooting and hollering was about, she said the husbands told her, “We’re throwing hatchets.” The women wanted to throw them too, and a whole new world opened. As the company celebrates its fifth year this year, it does so with 28 total locations open now with seven more on the way. “In 2015, there were zero places that had indoor hatchet throwing in the entire United States, so we continued doing it, and lots of friends would join us or ask to come over and throw hatchets with us,” she said. “Neighbors were poking their heads over the fence and saying, ‘Hey guys, what are you doing?’ Kind of as a joke, I said, ‘We should find a way to bring this inside.’ “There was a real need for social activity, and not just going to the movies with another couple and sitting in a seat and watching a movie, but something to do that was fun and exciting and kind of primal and organic.” With the success of their New Jersey location in 2016, the owners decided to start franchising in 2017, and she said the combination of throwing a hatchet and drinking a beer caught on everywhere they tried it. With the Jersey location as the original venue of its kind at the time, it was booked for two months in advance at one point. A recent study suggests that Gen-Z (people born from 1997 to 2012) is renting

in Greenville at a higher rate than anywhere else, meaning places like Stumpy’s could be booked for the foreseeable future. RENTCafé-sourced data based on rental applications said Greenville saw the sharpest spike in apartment applications submitted by Gen-Z in 2020, an 84 percent increase. With fewer than 100,000 residents, researchers said Greenville is the only college town in this ranking. “This ranking is another example of the livability and affordability we have here in Greenville and Pitt County,” GreenvilleENC Alliance president and CEO Steve Weathers said in response to the study. “Our area, home to East Carolina University and Pitt Community College, is positioned to help young people thrive and succeed. As they rent homes or apartments, attend higher educational programs, or begin their careers, we want to retain them. There is a place for them in our workforce and community long term.”

s I settle in with my family after returning to eastern North Carolina as the 12th chancellor at ECU, I can’t help but notice the change and growth that are happening in the place whereI grew up. It is abundantly clear there’s a new energy emerging that’s connected with the way we’re tapping into the region’s potential. The national higher education sector is a $650 billion industry that provides a PHILIP high-value ROGERS return on investment to the people and communities it serves. Not only are institutions of higher learning often the major employers in their regions, but they also cultivate entrepreneurship, drive innovation and serve as the bedrock of today’s knowledge economy. East Carolina University takes this role seriously. It is the heart of our mission and it’s more important than ever before to remain laser-focused on this work. The economy here has changed many times. Once known for lumber and naval stores, then agriculture, we now have several important economic sectors, from health care and pharmaceuticals to manufacturing and technology. At ECU, we are embracing that transition with the development of our Research and Innovation Campus, where Intersect East is going to transform former tobacco warehouses near 10th and Evans streets into a space where business innovation and university research can meet and mingle. The public-private partnership’s eight-year master plan includes the development or repurposing of 14 buildings and an investment of more than $150 million. The completed project is expected to create up to 1,500 jobs with a financial impact exceeding $141 million annually with $3 million in annual tax


A rendering shows the design for ECU’s Science and Biotechnology building, now under construction at of 10th and Evans streets.

revenues. Across the street, ECU’s Life Science and Biotechnology Building is taking shape and will be finished later this year. The $90 million, 141,400-squarefoot facility will house the Department of Biology and will feature wet bench and computational laboratory spaces for researchers across a variety of academic disciplines. As we focus on the future of our region’s economy, we cannot overlook the importance of the pharmaceutical industry. ECU recently received a nearly $1.9 million grant from the Golden LEAF Foundation for the creation of a pharmaceutical manufacturing training center. The Eastern Region Pharma Center is designed to teach students and pharmaceutical employees advanced manufacturing techniques and address a need for pharmaceutical workers with four-year college degrees in an area known as the BioPharma Crescent in eastern North Carolina. Pitt, Johnston, Wilson, Nash and Edgecombe counties are home to a variety of pharmaceutical companies, and along with community colleges in the region, we are working to ensure that our students’ skills are a perfect fit for their workforce needs. We are building a culture of creativity,

including an Honors College that places focus on innovation and the design process as well as a Living Learning Community that prioritizes innovation. Our annual Provost Challenge engages teams of students to address key campus issues, e.g., enrollment or student mental health. We have an annual business plan competition, the Pirate Entrepreneurship Challenge, which offers investment opportunity for student teams aspiring to launch a new business. All of this programming is supported by an institutional infrastructure that currently (or soon) will include the Miller School of Entrepreneurship, the Isley Innovation Hub and the Crisp Small Business Resource Center. ECU’s new Digital Market is the most recent addition to this infrastructure and is devoted to bringing ECU’s faculty and staff innovation to the light. Commercialization of new ideas is the explicit intent. ECU’s mission centers on student success and regional transformation. The two go hand in hand, and as we prepare our students for the future, we’re also helping ensure the success and growth of our regional economy for years to come by being future-focused and innovation-driven. Philip Rogers is chancellor of East Carolina University.

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Snow Hill capitalizes on local energy BY DONNA MARIE WILLIAMS Staff Writer

When Dennis Liles became mayor of Snow Hill 12 years ago the town had seven vacant buildings in the downtown commercial district. Today those buildings are filled and house some of the more than 40 small businesses operating within the town of Snow Hill. The increase of businesses is proof the town’s revitalization efforts and the community’s commitment are ensuring Snow Hill is a thriving and vibrant place to live, work and shop, the mayor said. “It’s been through progress and trying to recruit. It’s done by people who want to bring their businesses to Snow Hill, and we’re thankful for that,” Liles said. “Empty buildings are not good,” he said. “If you do have them full, that helps, too, and it helps people be able to get the things they need. We’re excited about it overall and we continue looking at ways to make it better.”

Snow Hill’s Ole Time Market invited Greene County artisans and farmers to set up shop downtown Snow Hill annually.


Workers with Tinoco Construction initiated the facade improvements at the former Little Shoppe of Flowers.

house into a landscaping supply business. While recruitment plays a vital role in downtown development, the town and business owners also have placed an emphasis on storefront appearances. Through the years, the town has taken a proactive approach like facade grants Investment to increase downtown’s attractiveness. The N.C. While most think of Department of Commerce downtown Snow Hill as grants have helped improve Greene and Mill streets, the facades of Harper the commercial district Insurance and Pathway extends down a portion of Ministries as well as work Second and Third streets in progress at the Greene St. and includes a variety of Diner, the Minschew buildbusinesses, restaurants and ing and the former home of service providers. Little Shoppe of Flowers. “It’s very important to Tinoco was hired to perrecruit businesses like form the improvements at these, small or large. I think the flower shop and he and having the diverse inventory his crew discovered termite of businesses is what makes and structural damage. our community great,” said Communication began beSalvador Tinoco, owner of tween the town and building Tinoco Construction, La owner to correct the issue. Flama Mexican Restaurant, Tinoco and the building’s Upper Crust Pizza & Burger owner struck an agreement Bar and La Monarca Ice that resulted in Tinoco Cream & Fruit Bar. taking ownership. “The diversity we have “I didn’t want to see anin our community — that’s other building be torn down. what makes it great,” Tinoco I don’t believe in tearing said. “I don’t think I can find down buildings that have another small town with our the possibility of being great assets.” again,” Tinoco said. “I beIn the last five years, the lieve in our downtown and town has seen five new busi- the more business we can nesses come downtown. keep and retain the better.” They renovated the buildings they occupy, transform- Collaboration ing an old convenience store into a dog boarding facility The town and Tinoco and converting of a wareentered into an economic

development agreement that resulted in a $40,000 loan from the town to Tinoco. With the money, Tinoco agreed to secure the safety and exterior appearance issues and preserve the historic building. As part of the agreement, Tinoco will have to keep Snow Hill commissioners informed of construction occurrences and repairs. The loan will have to be repaid. “This really helped out for many reasons. The climate and attitude that they are willing to work in a public-private partnership — that is the main thing I took into consideration,” Tinoco said. “Attitude means a lot. That means they are willing, ready and able, not only for me but for those who are ready to take on these challenges.” When work is complete, Tinoco Construction will continue facade improvements at Greene St. Diner and the Minschew building. The town extended its assistance further by allocating a portion of its COVID-19 relief funds to be used as mini-grants for Snow Hill businesses that were struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The town has distributed 27 grants to small businesses. It also used money from the sale of a town building to replace its Christmas lights with sparkling snowflakes, purchased a 14-foot Christmas tree to be located

beside Hardy’s Appliance and Furniture and new swag lights to be displayed at the intersection of Greene and Second streets. Revitalization also encompasses the town’s commitment to repairing aging infrastructure, included the paving of the public parking lot beside Hardy’s Appliance and Furniture and water and sewer projects. “That parking lot was one of the biggest moves we made to entice (people) downtown. I think that’s a big thing,” Liles said. “Infrastructure is big because that’s how you keep people downtown.” The town is working to replace an old water main along Greene Street that runs to the bridge to Southeast Fourth Street. The main has broken in the past and was being consumed by rust. “That line that is in the ground is 100 years old or so,” Town Manager John Bauer said. “It will have long-term benefits.” It is one of the many projects in the works, Liles said. “I’m excited. To me infrastructure is one of the biggest things — our children 20 to 30 years will get the repercussions of that better than we will. Those lines are 100 years old. You got to replace them.”

Community Efforts to revitalize Snow

Pandemic spurred valuable growth in virtual medicine


he foundation of community health centers is giving people the level of care they need — when and where they need that care. Our practices recently expanded “virtual” services — seeing this as another way to serve our community. Virtual care is using a smartphone, tablet or computer to talk with a patient “face-to-face” in the comfort of their own home. James D. Bernstein Community Health Center in Greenville has offered virtual services for years — as have all Greene County Health Care clinics (Greene County Health Care in Snow Hill operates Bernstein’s clinical services). Virtual care isn’t appropriate for every patient, but COVID-19 showed us it is a good option for some patients. As a family medicine doctor, I use virtual visits for my homebound patients and those who struggle with transportation and mobility. I may also use virtual visits as a follow-up appointment to: ■ Ensure that changes we’ve made to the patient’s care plan are working. ■ Review a patient’s blood sugar and blood pressure logs. ■ Check in regarding a patient’s mental health status. ■ Check on medications, especially if a patient

forgets to bring them to an in-person appointment. ■ Talk with the patient’s KASSIE support JOHNSON system of family and friends, with the patient’s approval. Virtual visits are a good option for seeing patients in their environments. I checked in the other day with a patient who was having some anxiety issues. As we talked, I realized she was stroking a cat in her lap. She was using the pet as a way to cope. I might not have known that without a virtual visit. These visits also allow patients to take care of their health needs without making them pause their lives. As health care moves forward, we expect that patients may want to consider virtual visits. The best starting point is talking with your health care provider to see if and when virtual visits are a good option for you. Dr. Kassie Johnson is a family medicine physician specializing in sports medicine at Bernstein Community Health Center. Dr. Johnson also serves as associate medical director for Greene County Health Care.

Of the HGTV Show “Home Town”

Hill have come from town government, residents and businesses owners like Tinoco, who is developing an area known as The Square. His plans involve “creating a destination where we have an outdoor pavilion, entertainment and have a place for people to come and have a good time without going out of town.” The project is ongoing but involves downtown businesses along Greene, Mill, Second and Third streets. “It includes everybody. It makes all the businesses inclusive to have an opportunity to expose their products and services to the people,” Tinoco said. Other business owners are enhancing their property. “There are people that own businesses that are making improvements too, and it shows and helps the town also,” Liles said. By working together, commissioners, business owners and residents help to create a combined effect that’s greater than the sum of individual contributions. “It’s that whole synergy of putting it together and putting all these pieces together like a big economic puzzle,” Bauer said. With grants from Duke Energy Progress and the N.C. Attorney General’s Office and assistance from the N.C. Wildlife Commission, Snow Hill has been able to establish the Contentnea Creek Nature and Trails Preserve. Located off of Second Street, the project protects 92 acres of floodway and floodplains and approximately 6,000 linear feet along the blue-line stream

of Contentnea Creek. It will allow the town to revitalize its boat landing area with the addition of a handicap-accessible pier and install kayak launching sites and walking trails. “We didn’t have to put a dime in it. We applied for it and we got it,” Liles said. “This walking trail could be a big thing. It could bring a lot of different people in to eat and see the Town of Snow Hill.”

Creativity The town hopes to offer several events to residents and the wider community including its Christmas parade, Christmas Extravaganza and Ole’ Timey Markets. “They were successful when we had them. Everybody that participated in it enjoyed it. Each year, we do it, it seems to get a little bigger,” Liles said. Business owners like Crystal Ford of Greene St. Diner have contributed by creating events like the Green St. Diner’s Annual Downtown Halloween Fall Festival, which drew about 1,000 people before the pandemic. “It’s awesome,” Liles said. Town officials, residents and business owners are hopeful for Snow Hill’s future. “I believe this community has the potential to be a mega-super power. I believe Snow Hill is in the right geographic position to incubate a lot of businesses. We want to make it so attractive others want to come and grow and expand in our community,” Tinoco said.



Downtown rising: Williamston mounts a comeback City investments, ECU program help spur development. BY SARAH HODGES STALLS Staff writer


new chapter is just beginning in the story of downtown Williamston. Nearly a century ago, businessmen like the Margolis Brothers made the downtown district a center of fashion-forward shopping, drawing patrons from throughout the region. As time passed, the face of Williamston’s downtown changed just like so many others. In the past year or so, a revival of sorts has begun in the heart of Martin County’s largest town. One part of that revival has been the efforts to improve facilities such as the home of the police department and fire department. Mayor Joyce Whichard-Brown said the city has made street repair and other much-needed improvements; however the biggest projects are currently underway. “The relocation of our Williamston Police Department into a new building on the corner of South Haughton and West Main streets and the renovation of our Williamston Fire Department on Washington Street,” she said. Whichard-Brown applauded the town staff, calling them “extremely skilled and successful in seeking grants to aid in facilitating these two projects” in order for the burden to not fall completely on the town. The new police station sits at the doorstep of Williamston’s downtown center — where a revival is taking place. In just over a year, downtown Williamston has seen a variety of new businesses choose to call the


move the eyesore and make room for growth. The process was long for town officials, but they knew it was the way to clear a path for the future. Other changes to facilitate growth have broadened the traditional way of thinking for the town. “So the first one that comes to mind is when we adapted the zoning ordinance for the central business district to permit microbreweries,” Dickerson said. He believes this is a big step because it opens up new audience to the downtown area. Dickerson calls the town’s greenway “such a benefit” since it connects downtown to the Roanoke River landing area. While the business community continues to grow downtown with options such as Cakes by Becky, The Small Shop on Main which is a retail shop with an array of items from vintage antiques to local handmade items and The Tangled Mane — downtown’s newest hair salon — and even a motorcycle shop, longtime establishments such as Miller’s Sporting Goods and Roberson Brothers Service Station are still caring for local residents. Williamston Downtown Inc. is supported by the town. Its mission is to stimulate and promote downtown business growth, encourage development and redevelopment of under-utilized properties, provide assistance to stakeholders, and support the sustainable revitalization of National Register Historic Downtown Williamston. As an organization, it sets out to serve, renovate and celebrate the historic downtown area. Visit https://williamstondowntown.org.

In the past year or so, a revival of sorts has begun in the heart of Martin County’s largest town.

Cakes by Becky, located at 118 Harrison St., has seen a steady stream of customers since it opened in August.

historic area home. Zach Dickerson, planning and downtown marketing coordinator, is one of the people at the center of this effort. One of the many roles Dickerson has taken on for the town is that of liaison to new businesses. He often helps make connections between newcomers and resources to enhance their success. One resource benefiting the regeneration of downtown Williamston has come from ECU. “We have had three teams of students from the RISE29 program from the East Carolina University to come in and assist our businesses,” said Dickerson. Although it’s operated through the university’s Entrepreneurship Program, assistance may come in many forms. “The business submits an application to ECU based on their needs, and the RISE29 program matches students according to the needs,” he said. This program meets specific needs of a business — at no cost — while allowing the student to achieve school credit. The student

questions RISE29 has been able to help answer. Currently paired with a business student, the pair is getting help with things like accounting and inventory. “She is looking at whether or not we are charging properly,” said Williams. “She is going to also help us develop an inventory system.” Gurganus explained their RISE29 student would also help them write a business plan. “This is a free program for us and she gets school credit,” said Gurganus. “And she is very good at what she does.” At the end of the semester, the RISE29 student will move on but the owners will be left with enhanced tools to help their business continue to thrive. Changes in the past year have been made to facilitate growth for the downtown area. One of the most celebrated has been the demolition of an abandoned building on Main Street. When the town saw no other avenue to rectify the situation, they Sarah Hodges Stalls can be assumed ownership of the property reached via email at shstalls@ and secured grant funding to rencweeklies.com.

also is paid through the grant. The program and the assistance provided to the businesses in Martin, Beaufort, Hyde and Pitt counties is made possible by a grant from the Golden Leaf Foundation, according to Dickerson. One of those businesses assisted by RISE29 has become downtown’s sweet spot. Last August, Cakes By Becky — a specialty cake shop and bakery — opened its doors in a most memorable fashion. “We opened right in the middle of a hurricane,” said co-owner Johna Gurganus. As Hurricane Isaias made its way through Martin County in August, Cakes by Becky opened at 118 Harrison St., just behind Main Street, with no electricity. Ever since the opening, co-owner Becky Williams said there’s been “a steady stream” of customers. “It’s been great.” Cakes by Becky features Williams’ specialty cakes for all occasions along with daily treats filling up and now lunch sandwiches. Although skilled at baking, the business end left the pair with

Innovation Campus aims to transform education in Martin County Schools.” middle college, relationThe center was originally ships with Martin Commudeveloped to be a shared nity College and local and f you build it, they will CTE Center for Riverside regional businesses, Guard come. and South Creek high said. To take an iconic line schools. “Our goal is to have from the movie “Field of Fonseca, named superall students to come and Dreams,” the Martin County intendent last November explore what the campus Board of Education is aim- to replace the retired Chris will have to offer,” Fonseca ing to transform education Mansfield, has added a said. in Martin County Schools broader vision. Proposed curriculum arfor current and future gen“His vision has added eas include health sciences, erations of students. the use of the center to inbusiness/entrepreneurship, Dubbed the Martin corporate STEAM (Science computer technology/drone County Schools Innovation Technology Engineering technology and advanced Campus, the 60,000-square- Arts and Math) for all stumanufacturing. foot facility — located at dents in the district,” Guard While MCS will use 407 East Boulevard — is said. current staffers for the expected to open later this This can cover, but is not building, they have not year, according to those limited to, early college, been announced, nor has involved with the venture, which is expected to cost $6.2 million upon completion and renovation of the building and parking lot. Community College “The targeted date for completion in the original Greene County Center contract is the end of May 2021,” said Jim Guard, who will serve as director of Career and Technical Education and Director of Instructional Technology. In addition to Guard, others closely involved with the project include Superintendent David Fonseca; LCC Workforce Development Center Clay Wagner, director of 602 West Harper St., Snow Hill, NC Student Services and Hank Edwards, director of (252) 747-8800 Maintenance/Facilities and • Home of North Carolina Motorcycle Safety Transportation. Education Program “This is the most exciting thing I have been a part • Provides local Department of Corrections of in my almost 28 years in-service training of public education as an agriculture teacher, • OFFERS TRAINING IN: Barbering, building administrator and EMS, Gunsmithing, Nurse Aide II, director,” Guard said. “This Nail Technology, and Notary Public facility has the opportunity to transform education in Martin County Schools for years to come.” Guard continued: “We are going to start small and dream big. We want to be an educational hub for all students in the district from kindergarten through 12th Greene County Center grade.” 818 Hwy 9 1, Snow Hill, NC The project has also developed into a personal (252) 747-3434 goal for Guard, who, along • Home of Greene Early College and with wife Amy are the NCWorks Career Center guardians of Elijah, currently in seventh grade at South • OFFERS TRAINING IN: Career Readiness Creek Middle/High School. Certification, Computer Classes, Computer “My wife and I are Integrated Machining, Human Resources excited for the potential for Elijah to be able to take Development, Medical Billing and Coding, courses in the building to Nurse Aide I, Pharmacy Tech, Phlebotomy help shape his future,” he Technician, Transitional and Career Studies, said. “We want this for all and Welding Technologies students in Martin County BY JIM GREEN Staff Writer




the curriculum. “We are not quite there yet,” Fonseca said. Added Guard: “This is part of the personnel department and the staff until

determined by the Board A.R. Chesson Construcof Education, the superin- tion Company of Williamtendent and director of hu- ston and Oakley Collier man resources. This will Architects of Raleigh/ drive the final specifics of courses and curriculum.” See INNOVATE, B7



Region capitalizing on outdoor recreation Growing trail systems, parks harness enthusiasm for hiking, biking, paddling. BY PAT GRUNER Staff Writer


atural trails and greenways tattooed across eastern North Carolina are slowly converging into a canvas that supports the region’s economy while promoting its health, history and connection with nature. Greenville’s growing trail system is a leading example of how communities have capitalized on worldwide enthusiasm for outdoor experiences, according to greenway advocates and developers. The system has expanded from the original 1.4-mile Green Mill Run trail between Elm Street Park and Green Springs Park to include nearly 6 more miles of pathways that circle from the Town Common to J.H. Rose High School. The city currently is adding another 1.5 miles that runs from the Town Common to the Greenville VA Clinic, and it is building a primitive trail that will connect a 3-mile loop at River Park North with the new Wildwood Park, a 163acre outdoor adventure park several miles to the east. The new phase of the South Tar River Greenway to the VA Clinic will see the greenway stretch from Pitt Street to Memorial Drive. “They are going to build a hanging metal bridge that is going to have a ramp that goes down and then travels under Memorial Drive, both roads, and then comes back up so that people can take their wheelchair, ride their bike or walk (under) Memorial Drive and then over to the veteran’s clinic,” said Jill Twark, chairwoman of the Friends of Greenville Greenways. That construction is expected to be finished in August or September. Greenville’s trails are part of a bigger national picture. The South Tar River Greenway is included in the East Coast Greenway, a series of trails running from northern Maine to Key West, Florida. According to Sarah Sanford, North Carolina and Virginia coordinator for the East Coast Greenway, Greenville is a great example for how a trail system can benefit a city. “This is an opportunity where land use really comes into the conversation,” Sanford said. “Greenville is the perfect example of this. It’s right on the South Tar River, flooding happens a lot. In the past few decades it is happening even more. So … when you have a greenway in a flood plain, versus residential housing or businesses, a greenway can bounce back from flooding in a couple of days. If you have a foot of water in your house or in a business development area, that’s not going to happen.” “I know when I worked with the parks and recreation staff locally they told me, when the river floods, there’s sediment deposited on the trails,” Sanford said. “But they tell me that gets cleaned up in a matter of hours or just blows off. Greenville plays an important role in the Complimentary Coastal Trail that splits from the spine of the East Coast Greenway, encouraging bicyclists and others to tour the Carolina coast. “In many states, it does make sense to offer a complimentary route,” Sanford said. “Our main users are long-distance cyclists and North Carolina is one of the states that has such an incredible coastline which attracts a lot of them.” The Pitt County town of Fountain has its own national connection through TRACK Trails, a series of trails aimed at recreation that gets kids back into


Campers relax on one of the platforms established along the Roanoke River between Virginia and the Albemarle Sound by the Roanoke River Partners.


The Green Mill Run Greenway attracts walkers, bike riders and runners interested in enjoying outdoor recreation. Greenville’s growing trail system is an example of how communities have capitalized on worldwide enthusiasm for outdoor experiences.

nature. Fountain’s Trevathan Pond leads walkers around about a mile on the edge of swampland. “It’s good for birding, walking and generally getting out,” said Alex Albright, a Pitt County Commissioner for District 4. “Physicians now are prescribing getting out and for kids to walk. It helps cut down on obesity. If you’re out for a drive, it is a nice place to see signage for and get out for a bit.” Grifton’s John Lawson Trail is the other newest TRACK Trail in Pitt County, which has a total of four, including the River Park North trail and the loop at Alice Keene Park south of Greenville. All the trails can be found on kidsinparks. com, which is promoted by state and national park services. In Snow Hill, TRACK Trails have hit something of a plateau as expansion comes to the edge of Contentnea Creek. According to Mark Anderson, director of Greene County Recreation, more trails have been steadily added to the surrounding woods to allow more space and shade depending on the time of year. “We have a kiosk now where you can come through on the trails,” Anderson said. “We have various pamphlets we can send to the state where the patrons check for birds, wildlife and so on … The trails are owned by the county so maybe, someday, we can have a bridge moving forward to expand.” Sanford said that an undersung element of these trails is economic development. “In general, we’ve received really great support in Greenville,” Sanford said. “Greenville is a great example of an eastern North Carolina kind of smaller city that (understands) ‘Oh, we get the trails and we get the tourism and the economic development piece too.’ Pitt County in particular understands to host these long-distance cyclists who tend to bring good money to the community.” One community that is actively seeking its own piece of that pie is Winterville. Planning is still in the works on a greenway system, but Evan Johnston, parks and recreation director for the city, says connectivity is a major focus. “It could lead to the connection of other parks, shopping centers and the like,” Johnston said. “A U-shaped trail would have one leg between Cedar Ridge and Irish Creek … You would be able to access the other section at the terminus of East Main Street which could connect H. Boyd Lee Park.” It would be the first step in connecting a county focused on health with an outdoor walking and cycling path.

Canoe trails connect Martin County to world While a greenway can connect people by land, Martin County has used its proximity to the Roanoke River to promote tourism, education and recreation. Roanoke River Partners is a grassroots organization founded in April of 1997 as a response to economic downturn. The

five counties bordering the Roanoke came together to build a new enterprise for the region — a series of canoe trails and floating campsites that span from the Virginia line all the way through to the Albemarle Sound. “I like to call it collective synergy,” said Carol Shields, former director and current project coordinator for Roanoke

River Partners. “We focused on building our brand that says ‘this part of North Caroina is a great place to be outdoors.’ We recognized it as a way to bring money in and saw that (our) trails could be an answer to some of the troubles we were having.” The first platforms for camping were built in Halifax County by volunteers. Fifteen platforms now adorn the 200-plus mile water trail. According to Shields, the program’s success has led to the trail system being a national model for similar projects. It is also successful at bringing in local and out-of-town business — sometimes from way out of town. “I remember four guys from Canada who drove down,” said Shields. “They had two rental cars, blew up their rafts right there and reserved five nights on

the river. It is a brand that draws from beyond the U.S. and is very attractive to people in other areas with outdoor experiences who want a change of pace.” The trails are also being used to illustrate the Roanoke’s deep history with the Underground Railroad. “We are adding elements of our cultural story,” Shields said. “We want to learn about our history and what happened here.” For Shields, while the economic impact is great, she feels the trails offer a deeper look at the beauty of Martin County. “There was a time we felt we did not have much here,” Shields said. “It is a great asset in itself to engage people who feel that way and help them get away from that. Go out and feel the sun on your back. Catch a fish, fry it up and eat it.”

(252) 531-4590



BIOTECHNOLOGY www.pittcc.edu



PCC expands role in workforce training, community service W hen Pitt County leaders pushed forward the development of an industrial education center 60 years ago, they envisioned an institution of higher learning dedicated to preparing a skilled workforce that would produce a stronger local economy and better quality of life. In short, they were hoping for precisely what Pitt Community College is today. In addition to LAWRENCE creating a 20.1 perROUSE cent return on investment for students with regard to their future career earnings, PCC’s most recent economic impact report showed it made a $277.2 million impact on the community during the 2015-16 fiscal year. Through forward-thinking leadership, quality programming and a supportive citizenry, Pitt has grown to become one of North Carolina’s largest community colleges. We continue to fulfill the hope state Sen. Robert Lee Humber expressed during a 1963 groundbreaking ceremony at PCC that “everyone, excluding no one” have a chance to earn a college education and enrich the life of the community. PCC has something for everyone with 70 curricula encompassing health care, business, construction trades, public services, fine arts and college transfer courses to a vast selection of continuing education courses, Adult Basic Skills programming, Small Business Center counseling, and English Language Acquisition instruction. As demonstrated by our three-year partnership with the Achieving the Dream National Network, Pitt is

Prior to the pandemic, Calvin Mayo, coordinator of PCC’s computer integrated machining curriculum, welcomed VISONS high school students to campus each summer for tours of his program.

portable industry credentials in just four weeks. College administrators also haave emphasized establishing apprenticeships, whether it’s internships for HVAC students with PCC NEWS SERVICE/ Piedmont Service Group or During a year in which a severe respiratory ailment attacked people around the a custodian apprenticeship globe, PCC’s Respiratory Therapy program stood tall. From sending current students program with Greenville’s to the front lines of the fight against the coronavirus in the spring to being honored Eastern Carolina Vocational by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care for credentialing success, Center. In fact, increasing the RT program proved yet again why PCC is a leader in health care education. the number of students and organizations participating a champion for educationresponded to feedback ufacturing companies. We in internships is a priority al equity. The college is from local pharmaceutical also operate a Pharmaceuti- outlined in our ATD action dedicated to increasing its employers and added phar- cal Services Training Center plan. effectiveness in delivering ma-focused courses to the in Greenville to provide a Two years ago, PCC quality education and supbasic lab testing procedures variety of hands-on training, received a $200,000-investport services to all students. and specialized training the including the process for ment from Duke Energy And with the same zeal, it’s biotech program already manufacturing oral solid and Piedmont Natural committed to responding featured. dose tablets. Gas to connect students quickly to the needs of And just when it apShort-term training in with hands-on training and local business and industry peared things couldn’t get skills requested by local career development opthrough customized trainany better for our biotechindustries has long been a portunities. In accordance ing initiatives intended to nology students, the college priority for PCC in our mis- with grant guidelines, help them prosper and expartnered with Greenville’s sion to prepare a pipeline of the funding was used to pand while attracting new Mayne Pharma, Pitt County talented and qualified work- purchase an electrical and companies to the region. Schools and the Greeners for the region’s advanced HVAC systems trainer in Shortly after the turn of ville-Pitt County Chamber manufacturing industries. support of the Pitt Regional the century, as North Caroli- of Commerce on a new One shining example is Apprenticeship Program, na turned to biotechnology scholars program. Students the Advanced Manufacturwhich was created to develto fill the void left by its selected as scholars receive ing Institute to get individu- op skilled workers in career declining tobacco, furniture a two-year scholarship, als ready for jobs currently fields specified by local and textile industries, PCC full-time internship and op- available at companies like workforce leaders. started a biotechnology pro- portunity for employment Carolina Vinyl Products, Listening to the training gram. In the 19 years since, it at Mayne Pharma after Grady-White Boats, The needs of our community has grown in terms of facili- graduation. Hammock Source, Mestek and partnering with key orties, equipment and opporOur efforts to prepare a and Penco Products. The ganizations in our region is tunities to prepare students skilled biotech workforce institute includes instruction at the core of our eagerness for work in laboratories at also include a BioWork in manufacturing concepts, to create new and unique the more than 600 biotech certificate for those seeking problem-solving, OSHA 10, training programs. It was companies that now operate work as process technicians math for manufacturing, and the impetus behind the four in The Tar Heel State. in biotechnology, pharmaLean/Six Yellow Belt certitransfer articulations we More recently, PCC ceutical and chemical man- fication to give participants agreed to with Martin Com-

munity College in February as well as the 2+2 agreement we recently signed with East Carolina University’s College of Business. Earlier this month, some of the state’s educational leaders saw firsthand the power of partnerships when they visited the campus to tour the PCC-PCS Technical Academy. After starting out with 20 students from two Pitt County high schools the first year, the academy welcomed 43 juniors and seniors from all six Pitt County public high schools the following year. It provides students with training not offered by their respective high schools and gives them an opportunity to complete an associate degree one year after receiving a high school diploma. PCC has accomplished much with regard to giving people a purpose and higher quality of life since March 2, 1961, when the State Board of Education granted its charter as Pitt Industrial Education Center. We’re looking forward to 60 more years of educating and empowering people for success as Pitt County’s community college! Lawrence Rouse is president of Pitt Community College.

A slice of the good life. Have one.

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Four-pronged attack makes progress against human trafficking


C Stop Human Trafficking envisions a state free of human trafficking through creating communities actively working to abolish human trafficking. NC Stop Human Trafficking accomplishes this with four action items. The first is education. It features education programs for general community members, service providers, professionals and youth that highlight the indicators of human trafficking; vulnerable populations; and societal intersections that lead to human trafficking, such as drug abuse and homelessness. It also assists in developing MELINDA SAMPSON coalitions in the state. Human trafficking is a multi-faceted issue that requires a wide array of professionals to come together to bolster victim services and community prevention programs. NC Stop Human Trafficking’s oldest and strongest coalition is the Pitt County Coalition Against Human Trafficking. NC Stop Human Trafficking advocates for stronger anti-human trafficking legislation on state and federal levels. Change begins with sound policy decisions, and when governments begin to set the tone around what is untenable, then social order follows suit. NC Stop Human Trafficking has developed relationships with state elected officials, as well as federal officials in an effort to keep the anti-human trafficking sentiment alive and well in North Carolina’s representation. It also introduces fair trade products into the local market. Fair trade certified produce and products ensure that none of the items were grown, harvested or made using slave labor or child labor while guaranteeing a fair and living wage for the workers. Fair trade support is human trafficking prevention. NC Stop Human Trafficking also reinvests in fair trade by selling it as a social enterprise through the Fair Traders Project in which all money made goes back to fund NC Stop Human Trafficking’s programming. For more information about NC Stop Human Trafficking, visit ncstophumantrafficking. org. For more information about Fair Traders Project, visit fairtradersproject.org. For more information about PCCAHT, visit pccaht.org. Melinda Sampson is Community Outreach Coordinator for NC Stop Human Trafficking


Continued from B4

Rocky Mount are completing work on the building. The room breakdown and 60,000-square-feet of teaching space is as follows: ■ Three administrative offices, two conference rooms and support staff rooms. ■ Two training rooms: one accessible to the public for use, one large room for special events, district level training for teachers/administrators/students and if the Board of Education needs to have a larger space for a public meeting. ■ Two shops: These can be used for advance manufacturing, metal fabrication and robotics. ■ Labs: Two labs will be set up for biotechnology. ■ Simulated hospital: There will be a two-bed simulated hospital room that can expand to three beds going forward. ■ Dedicated computer labs: Two large dedicated computer labs. ■ Two areas that can be “sectioned off” for outside groups to use during the day such as MCC or a training company. ■ Maker space areas: spaces that allow students under teacher supervision to construct/build/test items and/ or projects that they learn in class. ■ Collaboration rooms: These are areas where students and/or staff can meet to share and develop new ideas and programs. These areas have writable surfaces to allow for the free flow of discussion, information and creativity. ■ Canteen area: An area for outside food service and the ability for students to eat and work. ■ Televisions: Classrooms will have wireless TV for direct instruction in the classroom. The center will not be using traditional projection devices. ■ Staff will have designated work areas to develop innovative ideas/plans for students to implement. ■ Classrooms: There will


Chris Matthews, Careet and Technical Education Specialist for Martin County Schools, uses drone technology to give a visual tour of the inside of the MCS Innovation Campus in Williamston.

be seven traditional classrooms with interactive teaching technology. Fonseca said the goal is to develop a career and technical training center which will provide students with the opportunity to take courses that can lead to a career after graduation or a post-secondary education at the community college or traditional college. “Students will develop the ability to earn industry certifications, and students in kindergarten through 12th grade with a STEAM interest will be able to attend the center to participate in real-world courses and workshops, to conduct experiments and more,” Fonseca said. “This center will bolster our science education in the district, and also this will develop into a recruiting tool for students to attend Martin County Schools.” Wagner expanded on Guard and Fonseca’s thoughts. “Think of it as a local field trip where students come in and work in a hands-on environment that may not exist at their school,” he said. “We want our students to have those experiences and want to get them excited for the career and technical fields so

Farmville, We've Got It All! Embracing progress while holding on to small town values makes Farmville a great place live, work andagrow Visit us to and experience community with

small town charm, full of culturewith & history. Visit us and experience a community small town charm, full of culture & history.

East Carolina University & Pitt Community College campuses located downtown



EASY ACCESS TO BOTH MEDICAL & INDUSTRIAL CENTERS IN GREENVILLE To learn more or to schedule a tour, call 252-753-6700 or email dhodgkins@farmville nc.gov

Clay Wagner, Hank Edwards, Jim Guard and Dr. David Fonseca, from left, look over plans for the soon-to-be completed Martin County Schools Innovation Campus in Williamston.

when they enter high school, we can provide them with courses that will lead to a career for them. “We don’t want students to leave Martin County to find a job; we want them to stay and work here and in the surrounding areas. And also, if the county shifts in some of its ecomomic development, this facility gives us the flexibility to shift with it in terms of the courses we offer.” Guard concluded, “Our ulti-

mate goal is to work with our economic partners, teachers and students to help revitalize the economic engine in Martin County by helping them provide a workforce and help them attract an industry.” The name of the facility came from a survey the district conducted with students, staff and administrators per MCS policy. Contact Jim Green at jgreen@ncweeklies.com.



Ace in the basket As disc golf popularity soars, area adds courses and tournaments, boosting economy




sport that has seen an upward trajectory for more than three decades saw its popularity soar last year as people looked for a fun, easy and inexpensive way to enjoy the outdoors. Played on sprawling courses where social distances come naturally, disc golf more than doubled in popularity in 2020, said Max Crotts of the (GVDG) Greenville Disc Golf Association, a nonprofit, 275-member association that helps promote the sport through events, clinics and volunteer efforts. “Disc golf was one of the few activities that was still accessible during the COVID shutdown,” he said. “It was always protected by the governor’s order for people to be able to go to the course and play.” The Professional Disc Golf Association reports that active members more than doubled from 2019 to 2020, said Crotts. “From the activity we have seen at our courses, I would say our foot traffic over the last year has also close to doubled,” he said. It is a game for everyone, from complete novice to professional. “It is very easy to get into the sport and it is a very cheap sport to enter. The sky is the limit when you are interested in taking it further,” he said. Tournaments that would in the past only come close to filling “now fill within a matter of minutes of being open,” Crotts said. Even the number of events has close to doubled in the last two years in North Carolina, he said.

Good things happen in Farmville, even during a pandemic


Last year’s Down East Cup winner, professional disc golfer and discmania sponsored Taylor Rafaleowski practices at the Farmville Disc Golf Course for last year’s Down East Cup tournament.

“All of them raise money or food for local food banks,” he said. GVDG raised $1,500 for Pitt County Social Services food bank. Kent Roberson opened a private disc golf course near Williamston in the Farm Life community in 1996. “There is seldom a day that goes by somebody doesn’t come and play,” he said. “A lot of people are just passing through — on their way to the beach, or on their way to the mountains. A lot of them stop in and play — therefore they probably spend money while they are in the county.” His course was the site for a 50-person tournament for in March. “We started doing this tournament back in 1998. At the time, there were about 12 privately owned courses in the state. Now there are over 200,” he said. Players spend the night in hotels or camp, eat in local restaurants and fill up with gas, Roberson said. This June at the 26th annual Farm Life Disc Golf Open, a two-day tournament, “We will have people from as far away as Arizona to play,” he said. Roberson does not charge anyone to play on his Many course options course, but he asks people There are no shortage of to call or text him to let him courses in area, either. Pitt know who they are, where County has five courses; they are from, and what Beaufort County, Wilson they are driving, so he can and New Bern all have two keep track of who is on his courses each. Rocky Mount land. has five, and Kinston is in GVDG holds between the process of installing nine and 12 big tournaments a second course. Martin a year, attracting locals and County’s Farm Life area people from out of town. boasts a private course. “We are always working to The Oakwood School in get another course so we Greenville has put in almost can run bigger and better half of the 18 baskets reevents to attract more peoquired for a full course, and ple to the area,” Crotts said is expanding when possible, North Carolina has said Crotts. GVDG has held produced some of the top clinics at the school to teach disc golfers in the country, the sport to students. and a lot of them still call “Last year, we launched a North Carolina home, Crotts new initiative called GVDG said. Charlotte is sometimes Kids — to promote and the referred to as the Mecca teach the game to the next generation,” he said. The biggest economic impact of disc golf is drawing people from out of town, using tournaments and high quality courses. “People want to come and experience our courses and see what the area has to offer,” Crotts said. “The more courses we have, the more attractive it is for people to visit, stay in motels, and spend money in our shops. Last September, GVDG’s Down East Players’ Cup, which brought 209 competitors from all over North Carolina and surrounding states had a $75,000-$100,000 impact on the community, according to the Greenville Sports Commission. This year’s cup will be even bigger. Slated for October, it will grow from a twoday event to a three-day, and host 288 competitors. Many other tournaments throughout the year also have an impact. Most recently, GVDG held an Ice Bowl for the 17th year in a row. Held at the Ayden course, Crotts said Ice Bowls are a national initiative, with 300-400 held between January and March.

of disc golf with over 30 courses in the area. And one of the major manufacturers of discs is in Rock Hill. The Greenville area is becoming competitive on the state level, he said. “I would call us a rising star,” he said. “We have consistently put on high quality events for years. And we are now getting to the place we have more facilities where we can run bigger and bigger events. The one thing missing is a true, championship caliber course. West Meadowbrook has the only pro-level layout. “Everywhere else, like Farmville and Ayden, are more advanced-amateur layouts, so we can attract a lot of [different levels of] players. One or two more courses would help us attract bigger tournaments and more people to the area,” he added. Ayden Town Manager Matt Livingston said people from far and wide have come into the community to play. “And we hope they see something here that will bring them back,” he said. “We hope they try some of our famous barbecue while they are in town.” He said any time a town can offer added amenities, like the disc golf and Ayden’s new dog park, the draw is stronger. “And, there is some synergy with the other parks around,” he said.

Newest facility The Farmville Municipal Disc Golf Course is the area’s newest course. It opened March 2020, as much of the country began closing because of COVID-19. Town Manager David Hodgkins said the course has been a boon to the town at a time when the pandemic crashed the nation’s economy. “Although we don’t

charge to use the course, and we don’t receive any revenue directly from it, the business community has certainly benefitted,” said Hodgkins. For the past year, hundreds of athletes have been drawn to Farmville to play the new course. “They shop in our stores and eat in our restaurants, they buy our gas,” he said. “As they are traveling through, we hope they might see something that brings them back.” The town enlisted GVDG to help design the 18-hole, 35-acre course. Crotts, who has played disc golf since he was 3, began competing in 2003. He has played in two world championships and plays at least twice a week. He said the pandemic did help the sport flourish, but he also credits growing numbers to the sport itself. “Anybody can play,” he said. “It’s for those who have just learned to walk, to the age of 99.” Seniors are one of the fastest growing groups in the sport. “It is low impact, there is no running, and it is a no contact sport,” he added. A disc golf game can be played in about half the time of regular golf, he said. An average round lasts between an hour and-a-half to two hours. It is also much cheaper than regular golf. “The venues are free, and the equipment costs just a few dollars,” he said. On average, a brand new disc costs about $8. Crotts said he is not surprised about the increased interest in the sport he has loved since childhood. “It is such a fun activity — it is easy to get hooked on,” he said. “If you make one really long putt — it’s exhilarating. It makes you want to try and do it again.”

n last year’s publication, I wrote an article in early March 2020 and I noted that “only good things happen in Farmville.” Obviously, since then, things have changed in Farmville and elsewhere in many fundamental ways. To say that COVID-19 DAVID has HODGKINS changed the world would be a huge understatement. In a little more than a year, COVID has upended our day-to-day lives, from the wearing of masks, social distancing, a heightened awareness of hygiene, more remote meetings, limits on social gatherings and, unfortunately, more isolation. When it was evident that COVID-19 was becoming a major issue, the town determined a new way to operate within the guidelines set forth by the CDC as well as county, state and federal authorities. While our major concern was protecting our employees and citizens, we also worked hard to continue to keep services available to our citizens. Keeping some sense of normalcy would be important, especially since we had no way of knowing how long we would be dealing with COVID-19. Our employees continued their daily routines with a constant awareness of their personal safety, as well as that of others. However, in Farmville, we have done what we can to make the best out of a very unusual situation and the town definitely didn’t “go into a bunker.” Over the past year, the town has moved forward with several high profile projects including completing construction on our new 17,000-squarefoot Farmville Public Library, continuing the design process on the new Farmville Fire Department headquarters to facilitate emergency response, continued improvements to the 18 hole Farmville Disc Golf Course and adjacent fishing pond, renovations at Town Hall to relocate the DMV office to better serve the public and improve work conditions for our Town Hall employees, and renovations at the Farmville Community

Center that houses several recreational programs for all ages, among other new projects. In addition to these projects, the town is pursuing major upgrades at several parks, construction of a splash pad adjacent to the Boys & Girls Club and J.Y. Monk Park, the establishment of a new interpretive nature trail adjacent to the disc golf course and construction of a greenway system that will eventually ring the perimeter of the town. Regular programming in our Community Center is slowly returning as CDC and other public health guidelines permit and our popular summer camps and spring sports programs are on schedule to be reactivated in a safe and responsible manner. Good things are happening on the local business front as well. Despite COVID, the town saw a number of new businesses established in town and existing ones flourishing, especially in the downtown area. A new independent pharmacy and a local hardware store have entered the downtown area as well as an ice cream shop, a ladies’ clothing shop, a vintage toy store and several other small businesses. The town’s popular façade grant program, the building improvement incentive grant program for rehabilitation of vacant buildings and the target business incentive program continue to be effective catalysts to encourage renovation of town storefronts and building interiors each year, which has leveraged a significant amount of private investment for downtown. Several long-vacant buildings have been sold in past years and have been or are currently being renovated for new retail and office tenants. These efforts have created a true economic development success story. Finally, the Town of Farmville will be celebrating its 150th Birthday in February, so we are planning a series of terrific events leading up to the big day. Stay tuned for more information on all the festivities. I hope you can see that truly, good things are still happening in Farmville. David Hodgkins is Farmville’s town manager.



Plymouth Mill employees volunteered to restore areas along the Roanoke River in Plymouth, improving the health of the river and beautifying the community’s green space. In 2020, the Plymouth Mill contributed approximately $50,000 in grassroots giving to local communities. The Plymouth Mill supports more than 330 local jobs. The Plymouth Mill is self-sufficient in meeting electricity needs for the facility, with nearly 100% of the mill’s energy coming from renewable sources. Domtar’s Plymouth Mill has an estimated regional economic impact of $634 million.



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Progress 2021 - The Daily Reflector  

Progress 2021 - The Daily Reflector