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Prospectus Business & Industry
Table of Contents 4 Small Business Center
Halifax & Northampton Counties
The second edition of Prospectus Magazine features the business happenings of the Roanoke Valley—the status since last year and a look ahead at plans for the area’s growth in 2012.
10 Turning Green Into Gold
PUBLISHER Titus L. Workman
firstname.lastname@example.org (252) 537-2505 Ext. 248
6 Building Roanoke Valley Commmerce
EXECUTIVE EDITOR Stephen Hemelt
email@example.com (252) 537-2505 Ext. 233
EDITOR Kris Smith
firstname.lastname@example.org (252) 537-2505 Ext. 238
CIRCULATION Tammy Britt
16 Outpatient Service
email@example.com (252) 537-2505 Ext. 251
14 Halifax Regional pushing for Digital Mammography
ADVERTISING DIRECTOR Carol Crittendon firstname.lastname@example.org (252) 537-2505 Ext. 225
Contributing Writers Della Rose, Jacqueline Hough, Roger Bell, Stephen Hemelt and Kris Smith Creative & Cover Design Hope Callahan
20 Airport gets new opportunity
Ad Designers Heather Rhea Wade and Hope Callahan Prospectus 916 Roanoke Ave., Roanoke Rapids, NC 27870 P.O. Box 520, Roanoke Rapids NC 27870 252-537-2505 • email@example.com Copyright 2011 Prospectus No portion of Prospectus may be reprinted in any form or posted on the internet without the permission of the publisher.
12 Community ranks top priority
26 Tailgate Buddy enters production stage
22 Empire moves forward 24 Lotus team breaks with Garysburg
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Small Business Center breaking ground throughout valley THe CenTre
by Della Rose
alifax Community College’s Small Business Center is creating lots of new opportunities for small business growth and development in the Roanoke Valley. Director Mark Stewart said his office has clients coming through the doors everyday, taking advantage of all the services the Center provides. The free services include seminars, counseling and resources, along with a heaping helping of motivation. “Opening a business is emotional,” Stewart said. “I try to keep them motivated. You can’t wait for things to happen.” Last year, Stewart said his department helped start up 16 new businesses. Each client business is in a different state of development and has different needs. Stewart and the staff members try to fill client needs and provide direction. He said he takes his job seriously and continues to help, even after the ribbon cutting.
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Stewart said most business owners are looking for grants and financing. He encourages them to understand what they are trying to do. “Sometimes they require classes,” he said, adding sometimes they also need certifications. “They have to have a foundation before they can do anything.” With the right guidance, a small business can thrive in the Valley. He gave several examples, like the Big Red Car Wash, and Shannon Warren, who’s making several thousand dollars a weekend making Simply Divine Cakes. After 13 years of working as a trucker for other companies, Joseph Floyd recently decided it was time to start making his own dreams come true, so he started his own trucking company — Joseph A. Floyd Transportation LLC. “It was a long-time dream,” Floyd said, adding it took five years of research and development before he was ready to pull everything together. He said it was help from Mark Stewart and the Small Business Center at Halifax Community College that allowed him and his family to make this move into business ownership. “Mark gave me information and guidance on funding,” Floyd said. Several new businesses are taking advantage of Weldon’s revitalized Main Street. Recently, Azia’s House of Beauty added its storefront to the mix. Ty and Leslie Johnson said they chose a storefront on Weldon’s Main Street because of family ties and convenience. The Johnsons said they appreciated the beauty of the building at 229 Washington St. Also in Weldon, Calvin Benjamin, owner of Benjamin Furniture, said he is pleased with all the traffic in his store. In Conway, Chris Buffaloe is developing Tri-County K-9, a police dog training and veterinary care facility. “Mark (Stewart) has been great,” he said. “He’s been able to help me decipher through grant/loan issues and answer the questions I had.” Buffaloe said he’s getting his business plan finalized, and it’s helped him determine costs and what he needs to charge his clients so he can make a profit. In Roanoke Rapids, Hazel Greene and Ed Waters are working their new adult day center. “We’re bringing in new clients,” Waters said, adding he is working on some of the programs the center offers.
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Building roanoke valley commerce one small business at a time Small Business Center by Della Rose
irector of the Halifax Community College Small Business Center Mark Stewart recently sat at his desk thumbing through files. He said these were the people who had come to him since August interested in starting a new business — there were more than 40 files. “I won’t have any trouble meeting my goal of 12 new business opening next year,” he said. “No trouble at all.” Stewart said his job is to find money for people and to help them make their dreams come true. “I love it with a passion,” Stewart said, “This is more of a hobby I get to live — the pay is a bonus.” Stewart said in the past year, he helped open 16 new businesses, get them established and stabilized. He said the whole point is to build businesses that are sustainable, so his work doesn’t end just because the business’ door opens. That includes a trucking company, a manufacturing company for a new invention, an adult day care center, a spa, a hardware store and a tax business. Stewart helped the business owners find financing through grants and loans, and set them up for successful futures. He said he accomplishes this by helping the business owner create a business plan. “I even include plans for loan repayment and taxes,” he said. “I try to be as realistic as possible.” After working with his clients to build the plan, he makes them work even harder. He expects them to know their business inside and out. “If they can’t convince me, they can’t convince the bankers,” he said. Stewart said on average a new small business generates 27 jobs directly, but if you include the jobs created indirectly — the construction and support jobs — more than 65 can be counted. “That’s not counting part-time,” he said. Looking around his office, Stewart drew attention to his collection of “Super Friends.” He said his favorite is Batman, because of his intelligence. -CONTINUES PAGE 8-
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“Opening a business is emotional,” Director Mark Stewart said. “I try to keep them motivated. You can’t wait for things to happen.”
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“He builds and makes all the things in his utility belt,” he said adding, “I look at the business plan like that.” He explained when business owners build a business plan, it’s a tool that can provide guidance, financing and contingency plans — pretty much anything the business owner needs to run their business outside the physical labor. While Stewart’s main focus these days is to help and promote people, he said he wasn’t always oriented toward helping people. He describes himself as the ultimate geek when he was growing up. When he was a child, he enjoyed reading things like General Electric’s Annual Report. “I was always business oriented,” he said, adding had he not experienced a life-changing event, he would still be in acquisitions and mergers. Stewart spoke of a family tragedy so impactful he spent the next 10 years of his life in a depression. Stewart lost his twin brother. “His name was Michael Anthony Stewart,” Stewart said. “One day I was standing on Ohio River Boulevard in Pittsburgh, ready to commit suicide. I was ready to jump off this bridge, and God told me not to. I’ve never seen angels, but I swear I saw two angels that day.” Stewart said two men came to him with a message of love from God. The next day, he went to church and “my life changed completely,” Stewart said. “Since then I got
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my mojo back.” He began to care about people, and said when he thinks of business now, it’s in terms of how to help people become successful. “When I look at numbers, I see a story. I put people behind those numbers,” he said. Stewart said in starting his new life, he felt it important to know everything he could know. He went back to school and added another master’s in Business and is working on
“One day I was standing on Ohio River Boulevard in Pittsburgh, ready to commit suicide. I was ready to jump off this bridge, and God told me not to. I’ve never seen angels, but I swear I saw two angels that day.” a doctorate. Stewart said Dr. Ervin Griffin, President of HCC, is probably one of the biggest reasons he loves his job so much. “He is my mentor,” Stewart said. He added the department’s dean, staff and coworkers at the Small Business Center are beyond valuable in his estimation. He said he could not do his job successfully without them.
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Turning green inTO gOLd in nOrTHamPTOn COunTy Wood pellets to bring 62 jobs Yearly average wage > $38K
by Jacqueline Hough
leading manufacturer of processed biomass fuel is projected to create 62 jobs in Northampton County and hopes to break ground in December or early
2012. Northampton County Economic Director Gary Brown said Enviva is busy with pre-construction activities such as building designs and getting needed permits.
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â€œCountless details are unfolding moment by moment,â€? he said. The company hopes to break ground before the end of the year on a new wood pellet manufacturing facility at the Northampton County Commerce Park. Enviva plans to invest $60 million in the plant in the next three years, which will be designed to produce 400,000 metric tons of wood pellets annually. The project was made possible in part by a $300,000
grant from the One North Carolina Fund. Salaries will vary by job function, but the average annual wage for the new jobs will be $38,484. The Northampton County average annual wage is $27,976. Brown said everyone in the county that he has spoken with is excited about the opportunity. “We are looking forward to them being successful and being a great corporate citizen for Northampton County for years to come,” Brown said. Enviva needs more manufacturing capacity to fill growing demands for high-quality, industrial grade wood pellets each year from clients across the United States and Europe. Enviva, which recently achieved Sustainable Forestry Initiative Certification, will source locally all raw materials
“We are very grateful to Enviva for selecting Northampton County as a place for jobs, and so people can invest in the community.” used in producing the pellets, which will add additional jobs through its logging and forestry supply chain. Enviva’s goal is to put North Carolina on the map as the leading exporter of biomass fuel, said John Keppler, chairman and CEO of the company. “We are delighted to grow business here,” he said. Glenn Gray, plant manager for the new facility, said once permits are attained, company officials hope to start construction in December. The average wage for employees will be more than $17 an hour. Gray said they will be working with local community colleges to provide training for employees. The company also has a facility under construction in Ahoskie, which opened in October. Fannie Greene, chairwoman for the Northampton County Board of Commissioners, welcomed the company to the area. “We are looking forward to a long and lasting relationship,” she said. State Sen. Ed Jones, D-Enfield, was pleased with Enviva coming to the area. “We are very grateful to Enviva for selecting Northampton County as a place for jobs, and so people can invest in the community,” he said.
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Community ranks as top priority by Roger Bell
or KapStone Kraft Paper Corporation management and employees, being a business entity in Roanoke Rapids isn’t enough. They want to be and have always been a part of the community. “The mill has been a major component of the fabric of this community for 104 years now,” said KapStone Mill Manager Anitra Collins. “There are many generations and their families who have worked here, and the employees and their families all work together in the community to make it the best place to live.” The mill began in 1907 as the Roanoke Rapids Paper Manufacturing Company, the first mill in the country to manufacture Kraft pulp. Using local southern pine, the mill produced high quality paper and was acquired in 1977 by Champion International. Champion upgraded the plant’s materials and equipment, and in June of 2000, the mill became part of International Paper’s container board and Kraft Papers business. KapStone Paper and Packaging Corporation acquired the mill in January, 2007, and operate it as KapStone Kraft Paper Corporation. The plant sits on 1,900 acres in Roanoke Rapids and Gaston, employs 489 people with a payroll of $49 million and an average hourly wage of $25.50. KapStone pays $1.5 million annually in property taxes. Even with the tax load, Collins said the mill is pleased to be located in Roanoke Rapids. “This is a great place to do business,” Collins said. “Not just because of the natural resources, but there are things about the community from an infrastructure aspect that make it great for business. In order to attract and retain the best people — and for us the key to our success is our people — the community around the mill has to be thriving and a positive environment for our employees. We can’t look to the community alone to provide that, we have to help provide it.” In order to help improve the community, employees of the mill, along with management, gave $110,000 to the United Way and Consolidated Charities alone. Gate greeting collections have also been taken up during crisis events such as the shooting of Officer John Taylor and the earthquake in Haiti. “We provided help after the (April 16) tornado and (Hurricane Irene),” Collins said. “We know our employees chipped in and helped family and friends during those incidents, as well. We have excellent teamwork within the mill and when you have people who are excellent team players
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in the job, it doesn’t just stop here at KapStone.” The mill also participates in events such as Earth Day, reaching out to elementary school children in the area as a way to educate them on the importance of recycling and the work done by forestry agents. Halifax County Economic Development Director Cathy Scott said the mill is one of the Valley’s anchor Contributed photo busiFrom left to right, Robert Sledge and Neal Davis, of nesses KapStone Kraft Paper Corporation, speak with a group of and students at Belmont Elementary during KapStone’s Earth has a Day Observance in April 2011. tremendous impact economically on the entire county. “When KapStone shut down for maintenance, all our hotels were full with vendors doing work at the shut down,” Scott said. “The spin-off effect in the community was quite visible. If you look at the first industry in Halifax County, KapStone is at the heart of it.” Beyond the economic impact of the mill, Scott said she feels KapStone’s community involvement makes them one of the premier businesses in the Valley. “They are excellent corporate stewards,” Scott said. “They support community activities and are involved in corporate boards and organizations, and their people and their company touches all walks of our community.” While Collins said the company is proud to be a part of the community and to participate in improving the area, she expressed thanks to the community. “We’re very appreciative of all the support we receive from the community,” Collins said. “I know that the log trucks up and down the Avenue are not always easy to maneuver around, but there has been a lot of support from local businesses that provide goods and services to us. Our neighbors, who put up with the noise and the trucks, have been great. We want to continue to work with the community to make the Roanoke Valley the best place to work and live.”
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HaLifaX regiOnaL PuSHing fOr digiTaL mammOgraPHy Death rate from breast cancer 17% higher locally than rest of state Special to Prospectus
alifax Regional Foundation is conducting an initiative to raise money for digital mammography. The first phase of the initiative has been completed with employees of the Medical Center pledging more than $117,000. “We are proud of our employees and appreciate their generous response,” said Will Mahone, president. “Their response sets an example for the community. Our employees demonstrate their commitment every day through their services to patients. In addition, they have given their own money to make a difference in the lives of thousands of women in our community.” The goal is to raise $650,000. “With the success of the first phase, we are confident that the initiative will reach its goal,” Mahone said. The need for the latest technology to diagnose breast cancer is evident in the region. The death rate from breast cancer is 17 percent higher in the local area than the average for North Carolina, Mahone said.
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In the Roanoke Valley, there are more than 40,000 women over the age of 37 who need mammograms. “Breast cancer touches the lives of probably every family in our region,” Mahone said. “With this superior technology to diagnose breast cancer, Halifax Regional can play a leading role in improving the health of women.” Digital mammography is considered superior to conventional film x-rays for detection of breast cancer. In digital mammography, x-rays are turned into electric signals that are stored in a computer similar to how consumers use a digital camera. Mammography is the best way to detect breast cancer at its earliest stage. The American Cancer Society recommends mammogram screenings beginning at age 40 for women of average risk for breast cancer. Halifax Regional is a not-for-profit organization that exists to improve the health of the community. Contributions to the campaign, conducted by the Halifax Regional Foundation, are tax deductible. For more information, call 252-535-8476 or visit halifaxregionalfoundation.org.
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Halifax Regional Medical Center
Outpatient Services project moving forward
by Della Rose Work continues on the expansion of Outpatient Services project at the Halifax Regional Medical Center. Hospital public relations representative John Lambert said construction is going well, and considerable progress has been made in spite of bad weather. There was considerable celebration July 28, as the
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medical center broke ground on their expanded Outpatient Services project. The $6.5 million expansion will add more than 15,000 square feet to the outpatient facility. There have been a few challenges because of the construction. Lambert said approximately 25 parking spaces were lost temporarily, making parking difficult in the lot adjoining the Emergency Care Center/Outpatient entrances. â€œTo compensate, approximately 15 spaces in the visitor
lot have been reserved for patients and families unable to park in the ECC/Outpatient lot,” Lambert said. “The main entrance to this lot has been blocked off, and a temporary entrance road has been created for emergency vehicles and visitors in the ECC/Outpatient lot.” Lambert said the parking area is now about 40 percent complete, and when everything is complete, about 50 spaces will be created. Lambert also said a temporary fence is separating the construction and parking areas. “It was necessary to cut down a number of trees at the northwest corner of the lot, so that eventually there will be 47 new spaces for patients and visitors in this lot,” he said. “We ask that only patients and visitors to the ECC and Outpatient Services unit use this lot. All patients are being discharged through the main entrance of the medical center to increase safety.” Lambert said once the additions are completed, traffic flow will be improved by a separation of the drive-up area for the Emergency Care Center and the Outpatient entrance. Registration areas will be expanded and will have increased privacy, and a new reception area will be developed for the lab. The family waiting room for surgical patients is nearly complete, according to Lambert. He said it will be used temporarily as a reception area for lab and blood work. He added construction is also progressing on the new area for surgery — preparation and recovery. “When complete, there will be eight bays for recovery and a total of 16 beds for preparation for surgery,” he said. Lambert said steel has been delivered for the new registration area, which is the site of the current atrium.
“With additional space to prepare for and recover from surgery, the waiting time for patients having outpatient surgery will be reduced,” Will Mahone, president of the medical center, said. At the ground breaking event, Mahone donned a hard hat and sat in the operator’s seat of a bulldozer to symbolize the start of construction. “This project is centered on comfort, convenience,
“With additional space to prepare for and recover from surgery, the waiting time for patients having outpatient surgery will be reduced,” Will Mahone, president of the medical center said. privacy and safety for our patients,” said Mahone, adding the project theme, “Expanding our Space; Improving your Care” will be on materials in the medical center. “This is a significant investment in improving the health of our community,” Mahone said. “At a time of economic uncertainty, Halifax Regional is moving forward with confidence in its responsibility to provide modern, quality health care services.” Outpatient Services project manager Barbara Moore said Halifax Regional’s outpatient services grew to more than 40,000 in 2010 with 40,200 surgeries.
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She said facility changes will better accommodate traffic since emergency room and outpatient entrances will be separated, and 50 more parking spaces will be added. Inside facilities will be spacious and provide a more streamlined process. Expansions in waiting areas, patient rooms and recovery area will better accommodate family members. Architect Charles Reed said, currently, surgery staff and patients share the same space before and after proce-
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dures. Sometimes doctor consults have to take place in hallways, and there’s not enough privacy. He said with the new facilities, patients will have better privacy, their families can be with them and things will move more smoothly. “It helps alleviate patient anxiety,” he said. As Halifax County’s largest employer, HRMC has more than 1,000 full and part-time employees and an annual payroll of $50 million. The facility upgrade is scheduled for
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Airport gets new opportunity for growing business
Doug Hempstead, president of LSA America, said welding is a critical part of his company’s operations. by Jacqueline Hough
t was the teamwork of various Halifax County entities that led to sport aircraft manufacturer LSA America to move their business to the county. “Here, it was how can they help us bring jobs to Halifax County?” said Doug Hempstead, president of LSA America. “In other places, it was what can they do for us?” It was a team that included the N.C. Department of Commerce, N.C. Community Colleges, the Small Business and Technology Development Center, the N.C. Rural Center, the Halifax County Economic Development Commission, Halifax County Business Horizons, Halifax
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County, the town of Littleton, the Halifax Northampton Regional Airport Authority and North Carolina’s Northeast Commission. The company is leasing the former Littleton Industrial building while preparing to move production operations to the Halifax Northampton Regional Airport in 2012. Hempstead said many don’t realize how important it is for an area to have an airport. “It is critical to the growth of the area,” he said. LSA America manufactures and markets Allegro® Light Sport Aircraft, which are sold primarily to recreational users and flight training schools. Hempstead said the aircraft’s performance, quality, low
LSA America manufactures and markets Allegro® Light Sport Aircraft, which are sold primarily to recreational end users and flight training schools.
maintenance costs and lower operating costs continue to bring new sales and increased market share despite the recession. When LSA plans were announced in April, they called for 34 new jobs and an investment of $400,000 during the next three years. Hempstead and his wife Betty, who is the CEO and CFO of the company, have sold Allegro planes under the LSA name for four years and purchased the Czechbased manufacturing operation. The Hempsteads also operate B Bar D Aviation, a flight school in Sanford. “It has been a challenge. We are pleased with where we are now,” he said. “We are not looking for airplane builders, but people with a good work record and mechanical aptitude.” The Hempstead’s goal is to build two aircraft a month by the end of 2011. “Ultimately, our goal is to build four a month or one a week,” he said. Recently, LSA America received a special award for safety practices from SUN ’n FUN, a 501(c) (3) not–for–
“Ultimately, our goal is to build four a month or one a week.”
profit organization based in Lakeland, Fla. The organization is best known for its annual International Fly–In and Expo. “We are very proud of this,” Hempstead said. The project was made possible in part by a $136,000 grant from the One North Carolina Fund. While wages will vary by job function, the average annual wage for the new jobs will be $28,118 plus benefits. The Halifax County average annual wage is $27,404. “This will be a boost for Littleton and the ultimate location of this company at the Halifax Northampton Regional Airport will serve as a catalyst in growing other aviationrelated businesses,” said James Pierce, chairman of the Halifax County Board of Commissioners. Rick Gilstrap, chairman of the Halifax County Economic Development Commission, said LSA America is a testament to the strong working partnership between the state commerce department, the Halifax County Economic Development Commission, the Small Business & Technology Development Center and the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center. “Each of these organizations, individually and collectively, played a very important role in the successful location of the company in Halifax County,” Gilstrap said. Littleton Mayor Betty Willis is excited Littleton will be home for LSA America, even if it is temporary. “The company will find a welcoming home in Littleton,” she said. “We look forward to being a part of the company’s early growth and success. We are flying high.”
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empire moves forward new jobs on horizon by Della Rose
fter holding a ground breaking ceremony in November of 2010, Empire Foods is moving towards opening its new facilities in the Halifax Corporate Park sometime in June of 2012. Halifax County Economic Development Director Cathy Scott said the groundwork needed to build the facility is underway. She said construction of sewer lines from Reser’s to the Halifax Corporate Park began in October. Site work began in November for the Empire Foods building, Scott said, adding the sewer system and the building will be completed at the same time in June. The industry will open about 200 new jobs for the area, Empire officials said. At the recent Halifax County Business Horizons eighth annual meeting, John Austin, president of Empire Foods, said his company is pleased to announce their state of the art packaging process extends the shelf life of food much longer than initially expected — more than a year. Austin said the company will focus on serving large institutions, school systems, the military and large restaurants chains like The Cheesecake Factory. Austin said because the company’s microwave packaging process preserves color, taste and nutrient values better than conventional methods of packaging, their clients will be able to serve higher quality food products to customers. Empire’s packaging method provides a longer shelf life without refrigeration.
The industry will open about 200 new jobs for the area.
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Austin said further, his company’s award-winning technology takes the food preservation industry to a new level. Before Empire Foods patented technology, the microwave process could be used on nothing thicker than applesauce. Empire’s technology, developed at North Carolina State University, makes it possible to use the microwave process to preserve chunks of food — not just liquids. The company is hoping to partner with local farmers to package blueberries, strawberries and possibly other fruits and vegetables. “We appreciate the opportunity to have this in Halifax
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North Carolina Center for Automotive Research
Lotus team brakes in Garysburg Story by Roger Bell Photos by Jacqueline Hough
he North Carolina Center for Automotive Research is driving toward growth, seeking to add clients for its testing and research facility in Garysburg and bringing dollars to Northampton County. The center’s Chief Operating Officer Simon Cobb said the facility is finalizing a deal with Lotus Racing to set up its testing headquarters at the center, a deal he finds very exciting. “We invited them to base their operations in our facility,” Cobb said. “We competed against Houston, Texas, for that, and they chose us.” Cobb stressed it is only Lotus’ racing team, not Lotus themselves, coming to the center, but he’s pleased to see a racing team coming to use the facility’s road course and resources. “Racing is a very challenging business,” Cobb said. “Often a corporate entity is running a race team, and often a race team operates differently from a corporate entity.” However, landing Lotus is not the end of Cobb’s efforts, having recently spent a week in Detroit soliciting clients for the facility. “We have a lot of equipment available to our clients,” Cobb said. “Alignment equipment, tire and wheel balancing equipment, and we have a lot of connections locally, which is an asset. It helps us find materials for people who
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don’t know the local area.” Cobb said the facility’s location, right off Interstate 95 and close to Roanoke Rapids, also helps draw interest from automotive clients. Cell phone coverage and Wi-Fi throughout the facility’s buildings and grounds also is a selling point, and of course there’s the test track. The area’s weather is an asset, as well, Cobb said. “Soon it will be snowing in Detroit,” Cobb said. “In Roanoke Rapids it’s mild. (The industry) has access to lots of testing facilities (in Detroit) but we’re located in a climate zone that’s very moderate, which is very important for winter testing.” Gary Brown, Economic Development Director for Northampton County, said he’s seen steady growth since the facility’s 2009 start, and is anticipating seeing Lotus in place by year’s end or by the first quarter of 2012. As for the center’s overall impact, Brown said it’s too early to say for sure. “We knew at the outset the facility would grow incrementally and the activity would likewise grow and the economic impact would be realized over a longer period, Brown said. The recognition the project has brought to the state of North Carolina in general and this region in particular has been very gratifying, and we believe portends great things ahead.” Cobb said the center’s lack of a quick return for the region
The Operations Building at the North Carolina Center for Automotive Research in Garysburg.
says a lot about the chance area officials took putting the facility in Northampton County. “Obviously, this is quite a brave initiative to build this facility in a region with no major history of involvement in that sort of thing,” Cobb said. “We’ve had
1,500 visitors and 800 users since May of 2010, and we’re nowhere near as busy as we want to be. We have plenty of room for growth, and recently we had a company from Phoenix come in, which proves we’re getting on the radar and getting noticed.”
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Tailgate Buddy enters production phase I
by Della Rose
t was only a short time ago inventor Brian Hux unveiled his new invention the Tailgate Buddy. The tailgating accessory system that can fit in a truck tool box has become a topic of interest in the area as Hux and business partners Shane Lassiter and Robbie Keeter work toward building dreams for themselves and the Roanoke Valley. Lassiter, an experienced fabricator and pipe fitter, drew schematics and constructed the current prototype. Hux said he has invaluable partners in the company and he appreciates all Lassiter and Keeter are doing to build the company. Hux said numerous companies have offered to buy the patent and other towns have tried to entice them to build in their area, but the team is bent on building a manufacturing firm in the Roanoke Valley that will provide plenty of well-paying jobs for people here. They said it’s taking a lot of faith to hold fast. “We had to have faith through all of this, because none of us has an inheritance,” Lassiter said with a laugh. Lassiter related he and the others were born and raised in the Roanoke Valley and said this is where they all want to stay. “I’m a family man,” he said. It will be some time before the company will be able to handle “We wanted to the stress of building its on manufacturing make sure all facility, however, so for the steel used in the first year of production, Hux said the work the production is will be subcontracted American made,” to local companies. He added at least this Hux said. way, his company is still supporting the local economy. He said there were other concerns, as well. “We wanted to make sure all the steel used in the production is American made,” Hux said. “Every dollar
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Della Rose | The Daily Herald Tailgate Buddy inventor Brian Hux, company Vice President Shane Lassiter and Halifax Community College’s Small Business Center’s Director Mark Stewart demonstrate how strong Tailgate Buddy’s patented “cross-bar” technology is.
spent on American work, helps American workers.” Hux said he and his partners are working on marketing strategies and plan to produce about 200 Tailgate Buddies per month, starting in November. When asked how he came up with the idea for the Tailgate Buddy, Hux said it arose from the necessity to find
Della Rose | The Daily Herald Company Vice President Shane Lassiter, left, and Tailgate Buddy inventor Brian Hux demonstrate to Halifax Community College’s Small Business Center’s Director Mark Stewart how easy it is to assemble the Buddy.
a seat. One day, when he was coming from exercises at scuba training for the rescue squad he needed a seat. “The gear was so heavy. The picnic area was taken, and I thought how nice it would be to have somewhere to sit,” Hux said. “My truck was right there and it came to me like a vision. I saw it.” Tailgate Buddy — Hux’s vision — is an easy-to-use tailgating accessory system. It uses patented cross-bar technology that allows the buddy to convert for multiple uses — from cargo space to fishing to grilling out and, yes, extra seating. Hux said the uses for the interconnecting system are nearly limitless, and the accessories can be locked down to prevent theft. He said the company got off to a rocky start with an
unscrupulous “inventor’s” company that tried to steal his idea. After that, the idea sat on the back burner for some time. Later, Hux went to Halifax Community College’s Small Business Center. “That’s when things got rolling,” said Hux. He credited Mark Stewart and the Small Business Center for the guidance to make this dream a reality. From business plan to production, Hux said Stewart has gone above and beyond to insure the Tailgate Buddy’s success. Hux said he and his partners continue to consult with Stewart and value his guidance as they move forward in this adventure. For more information, call 252-862-7874.
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