Businesses from across Surry County had the chance to “celebrate business and innovation” at BizFest, held yesterday at Cross Creek Country Club. The event attracted local business representatives and employees interested in networking opportunities and exploring the products and services available in this area.
The Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce partnered with the Surry County Economic Development Partnership and the Yadkin Valley Chamber of Commerce to produce the event, which is in its second year.
Booths from more than 30 local businesses transformed the ballroom of Cross Creek Country Club. Business representatives answered questions and handed out free promotional products and samples.
Cooke Rentals’ booth contained a large 40-foot, four-wheel drive bucket lift. Many of those in attendance expressed disbelief when they spotted the large lift, which appeared too large to fit through the door of the country club.
Ben Cooke of Cooke Rentals said a photo booth on display was popular with the crowd, who were able to pose for free pictures. A popcorn machine, which sent the smell of freshly-popped popcorn throughout the room, also was set up. Cooke said the items in his booth were available for rent from his business.
Another popular BizFest booth that provided an interactive experience was Mount Airy Community Acupuncture, a new business in town. The owners offered free on-the-spot acupuncture treatments to BizFest attendees.
Renae Schaffer with the Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce said she “did not feel it at all” as Dr. Diane Milhan applied acupuncture needles to Schaffer’s ear, which were intended to relieve stress and lower back pain. Schaffer later said she noticed a difference and could still feel the relieving sensations from the acupuncture treatment.
Bernard Jackson recently relocated to this area to train for the PGA Tour with Bobby Scales of Cross Creek Country Club. Jackson, who was surrounded by his colorful paintings, is an artist who will soon open a studio in downtown Mount Airy, as well as a video production company. Jackson said when the studio opens, he will host weekly Friday night jazz and poetry nights.
Other businesses with BizFest displays included Pine State Marketing, Leonard Buildings and Truck Accessories, SouthData, Advanced Electronic Services, BB&T, Acme Stone, Workforce Carolina, Granite Tactical Vehicles, Surry Logistix, Crescent Manufacturing, The Mount Airy News, Group 3 Real Estate, Haynes Strand and Company, Hardy Brothers Trucking, Piedmont Triad Regional Council, Surrey Bank & Trust, Mountain Valley Hospice and Palliative Care, Mount Airy City Schools, Roger’s Realty, Northern Hospital of Surry County, Surry Telephone, Johnson’s Xtreme Softwash, Maximum Security, Century Link, Dr. Leslie Chiropractic, TransACTions, UniHealth Home Health, BNI Southeast, Clean Shield, and Patterson Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram.
A panel discussion, sponsored by Workforce Carolina, launched the day of business celebration.
Todd Tucker, president of the Surry County Economic Development Partnership, welcomed the room full of business representatives. “We are here to celebrate the many types of businesses here in Surry County…we have a lot of diversity and many businesses that are doing very well and making waves in their industries. In this economic climate, good things are happening and they aren’t brought up enough — this is why we are here today, we are celebrating business and innovation!”
Tucker introduced Curtis Taylor of Surry Telephone Membership Corporation, a BizFest sponsor. Taylor said that after 62 years in business, Surry Telephone has diversified and are looking at other areas. “We are not just a telephone company anymore.”
Taylor said a film crew was filming the events of BizFest to air on SurryTV, channel 14.
LeeAnn Stokes, Surry County EDP vice president, recognized everyone who made BizFest possible, including volunteers, chamber and city employees, Pine State Marketing, and Cross Creek Country Club, among others.
Bucky Holcomb of Pine State Marketing thanked the multiple sponsors: Surry Telephone Membership Corporation, Cooke Rentals, Kelly Office Solutions, Leonard Buildings and Truck Accessories, 15 Beans, Granny Ruth’s Bakery, Old North State Winery, Shelton Vineyards, Maximum Security, Workforce Carolina and Cross Creek Country Club.
Michael Brannock of Workforce Carolina said he is proud to celebrate 25 years in business for Workforce and said in addition to opening the new Elkin office, the company recently expanded to High Point and Rockingham County, with a “brick and mortar location coming soon” in that area.
President and owner of Workforce Carolina, Teresa Lewis, introduced the panelists: John Springthorpe III, president of SouthData; Dan Dufresne, plant manager of Pittsburgh Glass Works; Bruce Maxwell, co-owner of Elastrix; and J Lara, head of steel production operations for Carolina Carports.
Each panelist responded to a series of questions posed by Todd Tucker and audience members.
Dan Dufresne said Pittsburgh Glass Works has been in operation since 2008, but it started as a “spin-off from PPG glass, which has been in operation since 1883.” They are the largest supplier of automotive glass in North America and rank in the top three globally, with a production plant in Elkin.
Dufresne said they were able to “make it through tough economic times by staying on the leading edge of technology” which meant they had to create a thinner glass, but still reduce road noise.
Pittsburgh Glass Works is “90 percent automated” and are looking for “computer-savvy technically-oriented people” because the industry is “not focused on simply using manual labor anymore,” according to Dufresne.
Dufresne said Pittsburgh Glass Works will have 250 employees by 2015, with “95 percent hired locally” and they have been working with Surry Community College for employee screenings and interviews.
Carolina Carports, Inc. celebrated its 16th year recently and have expanded from a small company that mainly produced carports to a large corporation that now manufactures its own steel and square tubing for its buildings and carports, according to Lara.
The “in-line galvanizing process” Carolina Carports uses to manufacture the steel tubes is rare and Lara said CCI are “one of the few companies in the United States” to have the process.
“We save money when we make the components of our own products,” said Lara.
Lara also said that Carolina Carports grew during the recession by “keeping price points consistent and keeping up with the steady demand” for their products.
Springthorpe with SouthData, Inc. said the company has around 3,000 clients in 44 states and is the “largest provider in North Carolina for government billing.”
SouthData also grew during the recession, even though “65 percent of the business is tied to the housing industry,” which saw a decline in recent years. “We focused on how we could better serve our clients, who had the need to communicate to their customers, which is frequently done through the mail,” said Springthorpe.
In order to keep up with technology, SouthData “created an automated website interface where a customer can, through five or six clicks, order letters that go out that afternoon.”
Elaxtrix owner Bruce Maxwell said his business is “essentially recycling” old truck tires by “grinding them to a fine powder…treated with polymer and molecularly linking them back into the rubber matrix” which Maxwell said creates a “product that is better than one hundred percent virgin rubber.”
Maxwell said “60 percent of rubber is made directly from petroleum” and his company is reducing the environmental impact of producing “virgin rubber.” In addition, Maxwell said that since “54 percent of waste tires are burnt,” which creates “output high in sulphur emissions,” they are able to use the old tires to create a new product.
BizFest continued through yesterday evening with special seminars and a Business After Hours event at Cross Creek Country Club.
Betty Ann Collins, president of the Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce, said the event “exceeded expectations” and she was “delighted at the turnout.”
Reach Jessica Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1933.