330 North King Street • Hendersonville, NC 28792
Phone 828.692.6373 • Fax 828.692.6658
Contact UsSite Map

Archive for May, 2011

Bringing Recreational Manufacturing to the Outdoors Near You

In 2002, HCPED was supported by public and private sources to engage Lockwood Greene to develop a master economic development plan for Henderson County.  The plan included a labor study, marketing plan, target industry analysis and competitive assessment.  The target market analysis identified business sectors likely to flourish in our community, and examined why some sectors are or are not an ideal fit with the assets our community offers.  The report identified 8 primary and 4 secondary clusters including plastics, automotive components, medical products, recreational sporting goods, and machinery manufacturing.  The Partnership has focused on these targets from an external marketing effort, as well as enhancing the network of existing businesses in these sectors.

Diamond Brand Manufacturing

The Partnership has been developing a targeted outdoor/recreation manufacturing marketing strategy, and that effort has led us to examine the various assets that support this industry.  First and foremost, a vibrant existing cluster of outdoor companies has proven successful in our area, including Cane Creek Cycling, Liquid Logic, Morewood Bicycles, Diamond Brand Manufacturing, FFR Trikes, Olympia Motorsports, Ohlins USA, and Parts Unlimited.

Adding to the strong existing business base are the outdoor recreation assets that our area has like State and National Parks, hiking, biking, fishing, and paddling opportunities.  The area’s landscape, climate and culture further support the idea that a company can develop, test, make and sell their product in one location.  Using western NC as a testing grounds for products is an advantage that few communities can provide.  From a workforce perspective, these companies have the capacity to attract employees that value and use their product and are passionate about the industry from a professional and personal perspective.

The region has attracted the Outdoor Industry Association Rendezvous in the last year, showcasing the region to hundreds of management personnel from outdoor companies.  Each year in November, the Green River Narrows Race brings business supporting the kayaking industry, and their buyers, to our community for what some call the best whitewater kayak race in the world.  Our focus is to build on these events and assets to support the businesses that are already here, and to identify and communicate to companies that might put our competitive advantage to their benefit.

WNC Transportation Alliance: Spring Meeting Scheduled

The Western North Carolina Transportation Alliance invites you to attend the organization’s Spring Meeting scheduled for Wednesday, June 1 from 11:30-1:30 p.m. at Volvo Construction’s Corporate Campus located  in the Biltmore Town Center (One Volvo Drive, Asheville NC 28803). Parking will be available on site at the operations nearby parking lot. Plant management and key members of your operation’s freight and logistics team are encouraged to attend.

Program time will be spent with keynote speaker Daniel Findley, Senior Research Associate at the Institute for Transportation Research and Education (ITRE). Findley has been involved in a recent project to develop a statewide logistics plan for North Carolina and is currently a member of the team working on the Seven Portals Study, a project designed to identify long term economic, mobility and infrastructure needs for the state.  As a specialist in transportation related infrastructure Findley’s past work has played a significant role in measuring the economic impact of North Carolina’s transportation systems including highways, airports and ports.

John Franklin of Volvo Logistics North America will also provide an update on the Alliance’s efforts to assist regional businesses more efficiently manage transportation assets, increase fleet utilization and combat expenses associated with deadhead miles and rising fuel costs. Franklin will discuss potential lane collaborations and future WNCTA initiatives. Lunch will be provided by the Asheville-Buncombe County Economic Development Coalition and the Henderson County Partnership for Economic Development. Please RSVP to Josh Hallingse at Josh@hcped.org or 828-692-6373. The event invitation and agenda can be found here.

We’ve got a new home. . .

We’ve got a new home…page! Our website recently underwent a face-lift and is now up and running. Not only is the site more aesthetically pleasing, but it is also more user friendly, offering some great resources for local industry. On our homepage, you will find an existing industry tab where all the resources you need are a click away. Additionally on our homepage you can access latest news by linking to our blog, visit a Presidential Member’s website by clicking on the scrolling logos, access our Community Profile or Annual Report, and connect with the Partnership via social media.

One of the most beneficial features of our new site is the Industrial Directory search tool. The directory allows you to search for companies by name, contact name, SIC code, NAICS code, employment size, geography, or product keyword. The list can then be personalized and printed. This is a great resource to connect with other local industries and learn about all the products made in Henderson County. Another new feature is the integration of NC Commerce’s Economic Development Intelligence System (NCEDIS) Sites & Buildings Database.  The tool links to a customized search option of Henderson County’s inventory.  From there users can generate market and demographic data that is site specific by mileage or drive time.  Both the Industrial Directory and the Sites and Building search tools are unique to our website and we are pleased to offer these services to our manufacturers and local community.

www.strategiclocation.org

Industry Profile: Mountain Rug Mills

Among the business sectors in North Carolina, the textile industry is perhaps the best example of a sector which has overcome obstacles. Despite changes in customer demands and manufacturing practices, companies like Mountain Rug Mills in Hendersonville, NC continue to remain focused on domestic textile manufacturing. These operations produce goods that utilize local talent while meeting highest standards of quality and precision.

During a business meeting in the late 1940’s, John Boss owner of the Midwest Rug Mill of Amboy, Illinois, traveled to western North Carolina. During his visit, Boss immediately recognized the inherent value of the workforce and the competitive business climate. Shortly after his return to Illinois, Boss announced that a sizeable portion of his business would be shifted to what is now the Town of Fletcher. During the company’s transition to North Carolina, the new operation was given the name Mountain Rug Mills.

In 1973 Gill Morgan joined Mountain Rug Mills. With a background in accounting, Morgan began his career as the operation’s controller. In addition to managing the company’s finances and real estate holdings, Morgan quickly became interested in the craftsmanship involved in the business. Learning from the lead craftsman, Joe Miller, Morgan began to find ways to be more involved in the production process. During an interview with Morgan he stated, “Producing a rug is not unlike any other art form. Like a painter, a rug is a product of years of practice, knowing exactly how to integrate patterns, colors and different fibers to achieve a unique work of art.” In 1994, after 21 years with the business, Gill and his wife, Judy, purchased the business and began to expand the operation’s customer base.

Like most textile operations in North Carolina, Mountain Rug Mills has worked extremely hard to overcome significant market pressures. Mountain Rug Mills has resisted pressures to shift manufacturing overseas. “The manner in which we make our rugs is not easily transferrable,” Morgan explains, “the products produced at the Mill are dependent on the rug makers themselves, not machines.” The operation’s 17 employees each possess years of experience in the textile industry. The reputation of the company rests squarely on their experience and abilities. “You simply can’t train a person, in a short period of time, to produce the type of rugs we manufacture. The learning process takes years.” As a result of this lengthy learning process, nearly every employee has over 10 years of experience. Some employees are even approaching 30 years with the company.

In 1999, due to the widening of Highway 25 in Fletcher, the operation moved to the former Select Foods facility located off of Oriole Drive and Ashe Street in Hendersonville, NC.  After eight years of operation at this location the company decided to seek a more prominent location for their outlet store and showroom. In 2007, the company worked with the ownership of Spinning Wheel Rugs to purchase this long-time competitor and move their operation into the Spinning Wheel building in the central business district of downtown Hendersonville. Gill & Judy Morgan completed the move to 609 N. King Street, Hendersonville in March of 2008. “Our facility in downtown Hendersonville has provided our operation the ability to grow. The 50,000 SF facility located on the corner of N. King and 7th Avenue is not only one of the most visible locations in downtown but has enough space to accommodate the company’s various business units including a product showroom, warehouse and manufacturing wing,” says Morgan.

According to Morgan, the operation is focused on residential and commercial applications. Within the residential segment, the Mill caters to interior decorators and individual customers. Over the past 60 years, the company has developed an incredible network of interior designers located across the country. “Many of these design professionals routinely travel to Hendersonville to work with our craftsman to develop custom rugs.” Mountain Rug Mills can create rugs which are highly customized. Customers are able to specify the exact yarns, styles, sizes and colors of the final product. According to the company’s ownership, “customers are often surprised to learn that we dye our own yarns, and can match nearly any color sample.” According to the company’s design team, the operation can produce nearly any style rug, ranging from very primitive Early American to carved multilevel plush rugs or extremely complex needlepoint rugs in a low tight loop construction.

Separate from the operation’s residential focus is a commercial product line. Unlike the residential market which places a high value on handcrafted pieces of art which utilize traditional materials, the Mill’s commercial business is technology driven. Over the past two decades the Mill has been involved in the manufacturing of floor carpets for private and corporate aircraft and bulkhead logo tapestries for commercial airliners. Their products can be found on carriers such as American and Delta Airlines. To successfully compete in this sector, Morgan and his staff have been heavily involved in the development of advanced fibers. Through partnerships with companies like Dupont, GE, and Sabic Innovative Plastics, Mountain Rug Mills has helped pioneer the dyeing and manufacturing process for several materials including Nomex and Ultem. “These materials are very different from those yarns which we utilize for our residential customers.” Fibers like Nomex are approved by the FAA and have been specifically engineered for applications which require above average tolerances for heat resistance, abrasion and wear.

In addition to these advanced commercial applications, Mountain Rug Mill has a unique history in the development of commercial grade products. According to Morgan, “Mountain Rug Mills produces a wide range of carpets which are ultimately installed in office buildings and commercial developments. Other products include pieces of art displayed in greeting areas and corporate offices. “Just as a company or organization would commission a painting to commemorate an achievement many of our commercial customers commission rugs/tapestries to display in their offices.” For example, when Sonopress (renamed Arvato) launched their operation in Weaverville, NC in 1991, Mountain Rug Mills was asked to produce a tapestry, complete with a mountain scene set against the corporation’s logo. Other works include the reproduction of photos and family crests.

Consistent with every rug produced is a commitment to process. “Our commitment to traditional rug making practices sets us apart from our competitors. We use only the best materials, 100% New Zealand Wool, Mulberry Silk and primary cotton backing.” The majority of the rugs produced by the WNC operation are handmade. These practices have been passed down from generation to generation. “An investment in a rug produced by our craftsmen is an investment in a local art form inherent to our western NC culture.” It is for this reason that the company has been accepted into the Southern Highland Craft Guild and participates in the Handmade in America organization.  In 2008, as a result of the company’s dedication to traditional rug making practices, the White House Historical Association, again, selected Mountain Rug Mills for a prestigious opportunity to help design and produce two rugs. The first has now been located in The Old Family Dining Room and the second in The Diplomatic Reception Room.

North Carolina’s textile industry has changed significantly over the past century. While many operations have placed an emphasis on manufacturing abroad, it is important to recognize those textile operations which continue to evolve and keep pace with customer demands while manufacturing their product in the US. Companies like Mountain Rug Mills have simply adapted their products to niche markets allowing them to maintain a focus on their love for traditional textile manufacturing practices while simultaneously providing a valuable service to residential and commercial customers.

WCU Rapid Center Visit Scheduled: 5-24-11

The Henderson County Partnership for Economic Development and Western Carolina University are teaming up to host a day trip to Cullowhee, NC to tour the University’s Center for Rapid Product Realization. The trip is scheduled for Tuesday, May 24, 2011 (8 a.m. – 2 p.m.) and is specifically tailored to members and allies of Henderson County’s manufacturing community. During the visit Dr. Bob McMahan, Dean of the Kimmel School of Engineering and Dr. Phil Sanger the Director of the Center for Rapid Product Realization will tour participants through the 28,000 square foot facility.  Faculty will provide information on how best to engage the Center to meet private R&D initiatives. This trip will also allow manufacturing leadership to provide feedback regarding their current workforce needs and ways in which Western Carolina University can work to meet these demands.

The Kimmel School of Engineering’s, Center for Rapid Product Realization has been engaged in the business community in WNC for eight years. Since it’s creation the Center has been intimately involved in research and development initiatives for numerous Fortune 500 companies, as well as, start-up firms. As part of the Center’s core services faculty, staff and teams of engineering and business students work with private industries to facilitate the product development process, focusing specifically on engineering design, rapid prototyping systems, laser machining, precision metrology, optoelectronics, wireless communications systems and automation assembly.

While there is no fee associated with this event, manufacturing representatives and/or HCPED members planning to participate should RSVP by contacting Josh Hallingse at josh@hcped.org or 828-692-6373. The Partnership has arranged transportation to and from the University and participants should plan to meet at Wingate University’s Hendersonville Campus located at 220 5th Avenue at 7:45am for departure to Cullowhee, NC. A tour agenda can be accessed here.