Company’s growth and community support epitomizes “Working Together Works”
Roanoke Rapids, NC – At their annual meeting, Halifax County Business Horizons (Halifax Horizons), Inc. presented the 7th Annual “Working Together Works” award to Reser’s Fine Foods. In making the presentation, Phil Hux, Secretary of Halifax Horizons, highlighted the “amazing story a young man of 25 who started with 50 pounds of potatoes and a really great potato salad recipe. Five years later, Al Reser’s company was profitable and growing, and has continued to grow to what is today a billion dollar company.”
“Not only does Reser’s Fine Foods make a significant contribution to Halifax County’s economy, they are a great corporate citizen and support area community organizations, educational groups, and sports teams,” commented Hux.
Accepting the award on behalf of the company was Ken Braswell, General Manager, of the Reser’s Fine Foods facility in Halifax. “I am honored to accept this award on behalf of Reser’s Fine Foods.” Braswell added, “Our company has continued to grow here in Halifax County and we look forward to working with local officials, especially in the areas of education and workforce development.”
Reser’s Fine Foods is a family-owned company headquartered in Beaverton, Oregon. The company first opened its doors in Halifax County in 2001 making chilled salads. Reser’s Fine Foods has continued to grow and invest in Halifax County and in 2010, constructed the Don Pancho Authentic Mexican Foods tortilla manufacturing facility.
Frank V. Avent III, Vice President of Halifax Horizons and Chairman of the Halifax County Economic Development Commission, added, “Working together really does work and it is important that we recognize the companies, like Reser’s, that invest in our community.” Avent added, “We look forward to continuing to support the long-term growth and prosperity of Reser’s Fine Foods in Halifax County.”
Halifax County Business Horizons, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with a mission to provide funding for economic development projects in all of Halifax County. Private funds raised by the organization support business and industry recruitment and expansion and tourism development. Halifax Horizons provides critical financial support for projects that directly impact the success of our local tourism and economic development efforts.
Frank V. Avent III, Chairman of the Halifax County Economic Development Commission, was recently honored by the Halifax County Board of Commissioners for his leadership and belief that “working together works.” Read more at rrdailyherald.com...
An idea born from a chance meeting at a convention in 2011 is today culminating in the erection of the HXOap Solar Project in Halifax County. From that meeting came the company Geenex, formed in a partnership between Josef Kessen and Georg Veit, both German born and both intensely interested in solar energy, Kessen said.
"We met at a solar exhibition and exchanged cards," Kessen said. "I pulled out his card one day and said, 'Should I call him? Yes.'"
The men discussed their dreams and found a common ground, he said.
"Germany is famous for solar," Kessen said, putting their interest into context. "We decided we'd like to do this."
The men formed Geenex in 2012. They constructed a couple of small projects, Kessen said, but then started looking for a place not only to construct a large "solar farm," but also a center a sort of solar school, where students and industry professionals could come to study.
In their search, they came from California, where Kessen lives, to North Carolina, then to Halifax County. When they were introduced to the former Halifax County airport site, vacated when the new airport opened in May 2009, they knew they had found their spot, Veit said.
"To really be successful, we needed more than just space and infrastructure," he said. "We needed a base, a place where you can feel comfortable, a place you can rely on. And I think that's why we are in Halifax."
The site of the former airport was being marketed by Cathy Scott, executive director of the Halifax County Economic Development Commission. The two men liked what they saw, negotiated a deal which included a 15-year power purchase agreement with Dominion North Carolina Power, and were off and running, they said.
"We started small, and look where we are now?" Kessen said. "It was an unbelievable amount of work."
Construction at the 220-acre site, just off U.S. Highway 158 and west of Roanoke Rapids, began in June and more than 100 workers are busy putting up grids that will hold nearly 100,000 solar panels. Work on the solar farm is far enough along now that on Wednesday, Veit and Kessen invited about 100 people from the community to lunch at the Kirkwood Adams Community Center, especially those who helped move along this project. Afterward, the visitors were treated to a bus tour of the new solar farm.
When the plant begins producing energy in December, it will power about 3,400 homes, according to Veit.
The men expect this solar farm to be the largest in the state, and among the top five largest on the nation's East Coast, they said.
One of the workers on site is Cesar Mendoza, head foreman. He was driving around the site Wednesday afternoon, checking the construction going on around him.
"I will be happy to say I did this," Mendoza said. "I really enjoy it. Everything you can see here is about doing something better for the Earth — it feels good to be a part of it."
Project manager Ronnie Andrawis said he also is proud to be part of this project.
"It's like a small little community out here," he said, escorting visitors around the site. "People want a greener way to produce energy. You can just tell how the County has embraced this project. It's inspiring and will put Halifax on the map in a completely different way."
One of the partners in this project is ET Solar, an energy investment company based in California and headed by director Kevin White.
"Solar is growing like no other energy industry," White said. "Our goal is by 2050, all energy is renewable energy. ... Hopefully, this is an epicenter in North Carolina where people can come and learn."
Learning is a big part of the project, Veit said. The solar farm also will include a 5,000-square-feet learning center where professionals and students, including those associated with Halifax Community College, can come study for jobs in the industry and school kids can learn about solar power in general, he said.
Permits are being sought for the Halifax Solar Center, and Veit said he hopes it will open in the spring.
"I think students of this area will have a clear advantage," Veit said of the solar industry's future. "We want everyone to know about solar; we really want to educate children."
Washington, DC - The National Association of Counties (NACo) selected Halifax County, NC as one of 35 counties nationwide for a study of county involvement and challenges and solutions in economic development across 3,069 counties. Counties are an essential component of the support system for economic development, as detailed by the NACo report released today, Strong Economies, Resilient Counties: The Role of Counties in Economic Development. The 35 case studies provide a more in-depth view of county challenges and solutions in economic development.
For the Halifax County Case Study, please click the following link: http://www.uscounties.org/strong-economies/profiles/HalifaxNC.pdf
4 pages Executive Summary - Read More
Full Report - Read More
Web Interactive Maps with 35 Case Studies - http://www.uscounties.org/strong-economies/ Double click on any of the featured counties for a customized case study
The study’s national findings include:
The National Association of Counties (NACo) developed this research in partnership with the Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. The study draws on the results of a NACo survey of the 3,069 counties conducted between September and October 2013 and 35 case studies of counties or regional economic development organizations with county government involvement.
The addition of Geenex Solar, along with its Solar Center of Excellence, to Halifax County’s industry list is promising new jobs and education for interested residents. Company CEO 31-year-old Georg Veit said Geenex is in the process of converting the former Roanoke Rapids Airport into a 252-acre solar farm with an education and training facility called the Solar Center of Excellence.
Veit said the solar power generation site will utilize one of the most reliable systems in the industry and sell the energy it produces to Dominion Power, but he sees this site being so much more than just for power generation.
He said he feels in the embodiment of the former airport site there was a time when it was vital to the area, and he looks forward to that being the case again.
He said he looks forward to a time when it becomes a vital part of community life, and brings visitors from across the nation.
“It’s a many fold type of center,” he said. “We want it to bring people there. We want it to be part of the community, a place to do something, maybe wander around and meet people and talk about what’s going on in the world.” He said the Solar Center will have a life of its own and it will be the driver for future development in Halifax County and beyond.
Sustainable curriculums will be developed there and it will be a place where trainees will get hands-on experience in a safe environment. He said this will be accomplished through partnerships with local schools, the community college and state universities.
From the operations base at the Center, he said people will be able to monitor solar facilities in places across the country. Veit said in order for that to happen, solar energy has to make sense to people, and they need to understand why these shifts are happening.
He said that’s why the Center of Excellence will also house a place for visitors to see displays on how solar energy works. He said his company plans to expand and will develop other partnerships throughout the United States, but the Halifax County site will be at the core of Geenex operations.
“This will be the heart,” he said, adding his company has intentions of being a quality neighbor in the community.
Active retail space for active lives is coming to the Roanoke Valley with the rebranding and purchase of the former Farm Fresh building at Premier Station, which has led to the lease of a large portion of the complex to Dunham’s Sports.
Nick Brown, president and broker in charge of NDB Commercial Real Estate in Raleigh, said he brokered the deal on the premise of creating a “Sports Plaza at Premier Station.”
Brown said 56,388 feet of main space will be used by Dunham’s Sports — the largest sporting goods chain in the midwest.
The company was founded in 1937 in Waterford, Mich., and features a full line of sporting goods and a variety of active and casual sports apparel and footwear in 16 states and 170 stores.
“Along with Dunham’s Sports, we are trying to build a theme that will host active shoppers and hopefully attract active tenants,” Brown said. “These types of tenants could include everything from gyms, chiropractors, nail salons, hair salons, martial arts and an entire range of companies trying to attract active customers.”
Brown said long believed this kind of project would be successful in the Roanoke Valley.
Demographics for the region, according to Brown, show within five miles of Premier Station there are more than 27,000 people with an average income of more than $48,000.
Further, he said, Premiere Landing boasts retail sales of more than $6 million yearly. The area pulls from many regions in all directions from northern Virginia down the Eastern Seaboard.
Add the traffic on Interstate 95 and Highway 158, and Brown said there is good reason to believe this venture will succeed.
“I’ve always personally liked Roanoke Rapids,” he said, adding he has been working on this project for many years. “I think it will do very well there.”
Raleigh firm Sanderson Construction Inc. will act as contractor.
Steve Fitzpatrick, of Sanderson, said the company is already working.
“We’re already on the preliminary stuff,” he said, adding he is talking with the building department this week.
Fitzpatrick said he will employ mostly local people — between 40 and 50. “We have a crew of contractors representing the best in the Roanoke Valley,” he said. “It’s just a matter of pulling the trigger.”
Brown said Halifax County Economic Development director Cathy Scott and Roanoke Valley Chamber President/CEO Allen Purser were beneficial in putting this venture together.
Brown said anyone interested in the project should call Nick or Chris Brown at 919-845-5155. He said general inquiries can hit “0” for any questions.
“We can offer anywhere from 1,400 square feet on the small end to 9,800 square feet on the large end and any range in between,” Brown said. “We also have two outparcels for sale or lease.” Brown expects Dunham’s to take possession of the building in June and have the store open by mid-August.
He said the company asked to wait until they take possession before they reveal the number of jobs created and other information. According to Brown, the retail space’s ownership partners are based in China, with a managing member based in Chapel Hill.
“Our firm, NDB Commercial Real Estate, handles all their real estate from acquisitions to leasing to development to management to disposition,” Brown said.
Leaders in local agriculture, communications, service, government, medicine, energy, manufacturing and education gathered for lunch at the Hilton Garden Inn Wednesday to welcome North Carolina Secretary of Commerce Sharon Decker to the Roanoke Valley, and hear her take on how they fit into state plans for growth.
"You are the people in this county who get things done," said Halifax County Commissioner Chairman James Pierce in his welcoming statements.
Pierce explained Decker was on a tour of Halifax County, looking at the county's assets and challenges.
Decker called it a windshield tour, adding she learned a lot about the county's economic development challenges, tourism and other assets.
"I have a great empathy for your area as you have gone though a tremendous amount of change," she said.
Decker said there is good news — she believes Halifax County has a competitive edge over other areas.
She said the overall cooperative attitudes and partnerships between the county, the towns and businesses in Halifax County is outstanding.
"You are very wellpositioned, I'm impressed," she said. "You know what your assets are. There's a great partnership between the county and towns. Everyone is working together. I see a real community vision. That's rare."
She said many rural areas stopped investing in their futures with the economic decline.
She complimented Halifax County Economic Development Commission Executive Director Cathy Scott and the county.
"You have tremendous assets," she said.
"Your investments in infrastructure has positioned you for growth. Even with the decline, you are positioned for growth."
Decker said the state wants to help by moving faster and being more fl exible on development plans, and by helping already established small businesses through deregulation.
"The best investment in the state is businesses already located in North Carolina," she said. "We need to do things to get out of the way of small business development."
She said the state is working to transform The Rural Center and other programs to provide a one-stop option for funding, which will improve economic development services.
Decker said she would like to see increased exports, including agriculture.
"We have enough land we can feed the hungry world," she said.
"And the Secretary of Agriculture wants to do that."
After the luncheon, Pierce said he was very impressed with Decker.
"She quickly absorbed a lot about where we are," he said.
"I believe something good will come out of the restructuring. It will be easier to seek funding. I'm hopeful this will help us get to where we want to be."
Representing the Haliwa-Saponi Tribe, Earl Evans said his people are interested in continuing to engage in partnerships with the county and other entities to "collectively enhance the economy of Halifax County."
"Hopefully (Decker) will continue the commitment to include the Haliwa- Saponi tribe's economy as part of the efforts of the administration," he said.
Halifax Regional CEO/President Will Mahone said, "I thought it was important for her to see the unique needs of a rural community and how it compares to urban centers that have more resources."
ROANOKE RAPIDS — Halifax County is now on the forefront of solar energy technology in the Southeast thanks to a collaboration between the county and green-energy companies like Geenex.
A new solar panel was constructed outside of the Halifax County Visitors Center Thursday as an example of the panels that will eventually be built at the old Halifax Airport.
“It’s a great day ... They (Geenex and its partners) bring a new industry in Halifax County,” said Cathy Scott, executive director for the Halifax County Economic Development Commission.
During “Solar Day in Halifax County” Geenex CEO Georg Veit addressed a crowd of county officials, business owners and interested residents about the progress his company has made.
“This is the start of the project we’re building out there (the old airport), so in a way, this is the first day of construction of this project,” Veit said.
The new panel just outside of the center, was constructed by workers from Schletter, a company that helps produce frames for solar panels.
The construction Geenex is working on is not going to be all about solar panels though.
Scott noted it would create jobs for the county. Geenex is obligated to create 12 full-time jobs, but there would be more opportunities when it comes to building the solar panels and property. Mike Whitson, president of Paradigm Consulting Group, a partner with Geenex, estimated between 50 and 100 people would be needed to build the project.
Veit said the company is also planning on building a Solar Center of Excellence, which would provide a means of education about solar energy for residents and visitors. The center would use one of the pre-existing buildings on the property.
Whitson said he wants Halifax County to became the focal point for solar energy.
“This has been a long road for me,” Whitson said. “When I was wondering curiously why Halifax County had two airports ... oh there’s an old airport, maybe we could have a good use for it.”
Thus began the work to create a solar power field. With most of the land already developed and ready to build on, the solar companies just have to re-purpose buildings they need and start installing the solar panels. The plan is to develop 120 acres for solar power.
The Center for Excellence would bring together local schools and colleges to develop educational initiatives and training related to solar energy. Beyond that, Scott said, it would also be a means of bringing in tourists to see how solar energy can be produced.
“We want to really make Halifax County the solar center of the Southeast, and we’re really well on our way to accomplishing that goal,” Whitson said.
Once the first round of buildings is complete, Whitson said there could be an expansion on the land. Scott said the use of the land would bring “income for idle property.”
The construction of a sawmill in Enfield could lead to the formation of a “cluster” of related businesses around it.
Klausner Trading U.S.A. President Thomas Mende recently told the Halifax Business Horizons membership the company’s existing sawmills have experienced “clustering” around those facilities.
At one of the mills, Mende said, a facility which takes the sawmill’s sawdust for use, a palette company has set up shop, a pellet company has set up shop, and there are facilities which take resin from the wood Klausner uses as well.
This clustering, Mende said, means job creation, tax revenue and business revenue, and is something he’s expecting to happen when the company constructs Klausner Mill No. 2 in Enfield.
“Those companies that form those clusters can get 40 to 60 percent of their raw material from one source,” Mende said.
“It’s a model of economic development that makes the most sense and is definitely a good business model.”
Mende said Klausner’s mills employ a total of around 1,400 people, though the actual sawing of the wood is surprisingly efficient.
“The sawmill is one person,” Mende said.
“But there are eight people planning the diagrams, looking at sizes, looking at orders we have, and trying to determine how we can get the most lumber out of each log.”
Klausner’s equipment, such as the saws being put into the Enfield facility, are capable of meeting every lumber measurement currently in use anywhere in the world, Mende said, which sets Klausner apart in that they are capable of exporting more wood than their competitors.
Mende said he expects big plans out of the Enfield mill, and he’s looking forward to continuing to work with Cathy Scott and the Halifax County Economic Development Board.
“We met with a number of economic development boards across the east,” Mende said.
“Cathy Scott and her people were always professional, always a step ahead of our problems.”
The Daily Herald Publisher Titus Workman said Mende’s remarks seemed to be very good news for Enfield and for the county in general, and he left with a lot of respect for Mende and Klausner.
“I was very impressed,” Workman said.
“And I was also impressed with the way (Mende) described how Klausner separates themselves from their competitors.”
Don Bright is excited to watch the lumber industry come back to life.
Based on economic trends, he believes the demand for products from his company will outpace the ability to produce. That is why the company expanded.
Bright is president of Meherrin River Forest Products, lauded last month by Gov. Pat McCrory and N.C. Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker for the company's effort to operate a mill in Halifax County. A release from the governor indicated Meherrin would create 40 jobs and invest more than $1.8 million over the next three years at the old Coastal Lumber location.
Bright said opening the Weldon mill is a great fit with the Alberta, Va.- based operation. He credited Cathy Scott, the Halifax County Economic Development Commission and the North Carolina Department of Commerce with selling the greater Roanoke Valley's economic possibilities. Meherrin was also looking at sites in Virginia and South Carolina.
Bright said this area has high quality white oak. "One of our top products," he said. "This is a good region for Cypress, too. Another thing is the ports of Norfolk (Va.) and Wilmington. It's the perfect scenario for exporting this lumber."
Bright, a graduate of Virginia Tech, started out with Morgan Lumber Company as sawmill manager. He was promoted to vice president within a few years, then headed the design and construction of a Continuous Dry kiln — the first of its kind in Virginia and one of only four in the world.
He spent a lot of time in the mill. He believes in a hands-on approach. He left Morgan Lumber to start Meherrin River Forest Products in Alberta, Va., in 2011 with Union Level Land and Timber, and C.A. Wright Logging.
Meherrin tailors products to its customers' specific needs, producing more than 10 million board feet of lumber each year. The majority of its products are hardwoods. Bright said it has been two years since there were any logs on the Weldon yard, but in the next two weeks he plans to be sawing logs. By the end of the year, he should have 30 employees.
The facility will not be drying lumber initially, but will begin that process "in the not too distant future." Bright said the company will also provide wood for Enviva wood pellets in Gaston.
Having heard a lot about the workforce in the area, Bright was concerned about finding quality people to work the yard, but it turns out it was an unfounded worry. "We have been overrun with people wanting jobs, who are willing to work," he said. "They've done a lot for my soul."
Because of shutdowns in other lumber companies, there is an overwhelming number of well-seasoned workers applying. Add to that Halifax Community College is training workers, and Bright believes there will be no problem finding quality employees.
"When the dust settles, HCC will assist in cultivating the next generation of Meherrin River employees," he said. "This area provides a talented workforce, especially for the wood industry."
Bright said this is an ideal time for those interested in the field to get involved. They can get hands-on training by some of the best in the field and have growth opportunities as that group of employees ages out to retirement.
Bright is looking for people who can drive forklifts and operate heavy machinery, general and skilled laborers, like saw filers, and maintenance workers. He also needs office workers to answer the phones and handle information.
"It lends itself to people who like to see something accomplished at the end of the day," Bright said. "They like to make something happen. We're looking for the guy who's not satisfied at sitting at a desk all-day long. We generate a world class product from a natural renewable resource. I take pride in this industry. We're not pumping oil out of the ground. Our products are sought after around the world."
He said the company is making major renovations to the facility that will include expanding the "Green Chain" building so workers will be fully covered under the building. "Traditionally when it rained hard, they got wet," he said. "We just don't work like that with our business."
Bright said typically, employees work a 50-hour week. "It's single shift, traditionally," he said. "It's just the way we like to work it. A 50-hour week is fairly comfortable."
Applications are available at the Employment Security Commission at Becker Village Mall in Roanoke Rapids.
"There's going to be a lot of wood rolling through this facility," Bright said, adding he expects the company will produce 27.5 million feet of hardwood lumber each year.