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Archive for June, 2011

Industry Profile: Manual Woodworkers & Weavers

Since 1932, Manual Woodworkers and Weavers Inc., has specialized in creating, manufacturing and distributing gift and home décor accessories in the United States and abroad.  The family-owned business, which began as a small retail and souvenir store in Bat Cave, North Carolina, today occupies over 500,000 square feet of manufacturing, distribution and retail space in Henderson County.

To keep pace with ever changing market and customer demands, the company has established one of the most creative design and marketing departments in the industry.  These departments have worked to develop five distinct and innovative brands that consistently lead their respective markets in style and product offerings.  The brands, 1) Manual Gift and Home Décor 2) Manual Inspirational 3) Climaweave Outdoor Products 4) Izzy’s Kids and 5) Photo To (featuring photos printed on or woven into fabric), utilize the diverse capabilities the company has to offer.  These brands are featured on a regular basis in many industry publications, including Gift Beat magazine, where Manual is consistently ranked #1 in Home Décor.

A large part of the overall marketing plan is the presentation of goods to clients coast- to-coast.  Manual has company showrooms or participates in showrooms in all major cities throughout the United States.  The company’s creative services department generates four major catalogs annually as well as other specialty sales brochures and target marketing materials.  A focus of these efforts is to spotlight the domestic textile products and printed products manufactured here in North Carolina and promote the “Made in the USA” aspect of the products.

Manual Woodworkers and Weavers continues to make critical investments in both a highly skilled workforce and advanced technology and equipment.   As the company nears its 80th anniversary, it remains committed and focused on the core mission to be an industry leader and innovator in all facets of their current business, as well as to continually strive to look for new markets and new opportunities to move the company forward into the future.  To learn more about the company, visit their web site at www.manualww.com.

NLRB Union Regulation Update

The announcement of Boeing was exciting news to our neighbors in South Carolina.  With over a 1,000 jobs coming to the area, the region had reason to rejoice.  But the celebration was cut short as new National Labor Regulation Board (NLRB) union regulation surfaced.

As Boeing began to set up shop in South Carolina, NLRB filed claims that Boeing “shipped” jobs from their Washington facility to South Carolina in retaliation of strikes by union workers.  Though the disruptions from the strikes did prompt the development of the South Carolina facility, the Washington plant did not face demotions, dismissals, wage reductions or other punitive measures.  Boeing’s motives to expand were to geographically diversify, increase production of the Dreamliner jet and to avoid shutdowns (which is easier to do in right-to-work states such as South Carolina).  The addition of the South Carolina facility is supported by Boeing’s collective bargaining agreement, allowing them to locate where they wish.  The NLRB is actively trying to move Dreamliner jobs from South Carolina to Washington as a form of punishment to Boeing, but since the company has not cut jobs in Washington, there-in lies the debate.

On June 21, 2011, the NLRB was making headlines again with new union regulation.  NLRB ruled to allow unions to hold workplace elections promptly.  Currently, after a petition, unions have a voting period of 45-60 days.  During this time employers are able to voice their views and often hire union-focused consulting firms.  Within the same week, the Department of Labor (DOL) unveiled a new proposal to expand reporting obligations for employers under the so-called “persuader” regulations.  This new rule makes it virtually impossible for employers to obtain legal advice needed to exercise statutory rights to express their views during union election campaigns.  These rules essentially give unions the upper hand by eliminating opportunities for employers to voice their opinions during union campaigns.  AFL-CIO president, Richard Trumka, feels the process is a common sense approach to clean up a broken system.  Opposing this viewpoint, Wyoming Senator Mike Enzi argues the shortened period of time eliminates important questions being asked, a dis-service to both parties.

The ongoing regulation battle over our state line and across the United States has brought speculation as to if the main objective of NLRB is to spur union growth.  Union membership has taken a steep decline from 20% to 11.9% and just 6.9% in private sectors.  The proposed regulation could organize more union workers with relative ease and with little say from employers.  North Carolina’s right-to-work status, and distinction as the least unionized state in the nation, should be preserved as an asset and competitive advantage for both employers and employees.

Industry Profile: Byers Precision Fabricators

Byers Precision Fabricators is among the leading metal fabrication operations in the southeast. Founded in 1942 by Paul Byers, the operation has grown from a general sheet metal shop to an international player in projects which span numerous manufacturing sectors. When Paul Byers formed the company in the early 1940′s the business was known as Byers Sheet Metal Works and was one of the largest ductwork and roofing contractors in North Carolina. While today the name has been changed to better reflect the operation’s expertise and competencies, an aspect that has remained consistent is the focus on customer satisfaction. According to son Roger Byers, “Byers Sheet Metal Works was successful because the products they produced were well engineered and the leadership played close attention to each customer, ensuring everyone was treated well no matter the size of the order.”

Seventy years later the traditions which ensured success in the founding years have been carried forward by the current President and CEO, Roger Byers. According to the company, many of the customers Paul Byers worked with during the early years are still customers today. These long term relationships have allowed for a great degree of stability so that the company can explore projects outside the operation’s core business model. Research and development opportunities have always been of interest. Byers says, “creating new products for specialized applications allow our staff to find new business and identify new fabrication techniques.”  Today, Byers Precision Fabricators is involved in sectors ranging from Aviation/Aerospace, Computers & Electronics, Nuclear Industry, Power Generation Industry, Customer Goods, Transportation, Military, Medical, Robotics and Precision Cleaning.

In 1990, the company relocated to the Dana community less than 3 miles from downtown Hendersonville, NC. During this expansion Byers constructed a manufacturing facility built specifically to handle future business needs. The 60,000 square foot building is among the most modern metal fabrication facilities in the area. “During tours most visitors use the words bright, clean and modern to describe the operation. Moreover, the location in beautiful western North Carolina affords our business excellent visibility from a workforce development and logistics perspective,” says Byers. The business is in close proximity to the local interstate system minutes away from Interstate 26, Interstate 40 and the Asheville Regional Airport.

In 1997, the company became focused on developing new markets. In order to accomplish this goal Byers Precision Fabricators added a new division to its internal product line called Cruiser Stainless Accessories. Utilizing Byers’ existing production facilities and expertise, Cruiser Stainless began manufacturing polished stainless steel parts for the street rod and hot rod market. Three years after the launch, the company refined the product eliminating the focus on street rod and hot rod parts and began polishing stainless steel door sill entry guards for pickups and SUV’s. Subsequently, the company began producing the polished stainless steel light bars for the Jeep Liberty. Building off this success the Cruiser Stainless Accessories saw a need for a high performance rear lighting system to better light the area behind vehicles when reversing.  In an effort to fill this void in the market, Byers invented the White Night Rear Lighting System. Resources of Cruiser Stainless Accessories were redirected to the production and marketing of these products.

In addition to his responsibilities with the company, Roger Byers has and continues to play an active role in the community. Mr. Byers recently completed an appointment to the Dana Community Planning Committee. The committee is a group of 12 members who work to guide the implementation of the Henderson County 2020 Comprehensive Plan.  On March 16, 2011 the Board of Commissioners adopted the plan and will begin implementation of the committee’s recommendation in the coming months.

Henderson County Manufacturers Participate in Regional Transportation Alliance

On June 1, 2011 over 40 transportation and logistics professionals, representing companies from Henderson and Buncombe counties convened for the Western North Carolina Transportation Alliance’s Spring Meeting. Daniel Findley, a Senior Research Associate at the Institute for Transportation Research and Education (ITRE),served as the keynote speaker. 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.

According to Findley, the focus of his work and the Seven Portals Study is to ensure that funding for transportation assets in North Carolina mirrors the needs of business and commerce. “Historically transportation infrastructure i.e. roads, rail and ports have been built to support the needs of commerce. Over the past decade projects focused on personal traffic have become increasingly popular. The Seven Portal Study is an effort to correct this emerging trend and ensure North Carolina continues to be a hub for economic growth,” says Findley. The western North Carolina region is among the most vital areas in the State from a logistics and transportation perspective. Findley continued, “Henderson and Buncombe counties are well positioned to serve markets that other regions in North Carolina have difficulty reaching. These markets include: Atlanta, Chattanooga, Knoxville, Huntsville, etc.” Several advantages in WNC include the region’s access to multiple port authorities. “While many operations in North Carolina’s piedmont and eastern regions rely solely on ports in Moorehead City and Wilmington (non-deepwater ports), operations in WNC are geographically closer to ports in Charleston and Savannah, both of which are capable of deepwater access. WNC’s proximity to assets outside North Carolina are examples of why the Seven Portals Study takes into account transportation venues in surrounding states,” says Findley.

Following Findley’s presentation, Charlie Diehl, a member of the Governor’s Logistics Task Force and consultant for NCDOT, provided an update on legislative initiatives currently underway. Diehl stressed the importance of Henderson and Buncombe counties as a gateway to WNC and surrounding states. He said, “most locations in the WNC region are less than 60 miles from several nearby states including: South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.” In an effort to identify areas that can be improved, the NC Department of Transportation is requesting that stakeholders in the private sector participate in a short online survey designed to obtain feedback from those individuals who rely on North Carolina’s transportation assets for commerce purposes.

Concluding the event, John Franklin with Volvo provided an update on the Alliance’s efforts to connect local companies with shared freight and logistics needs. According to Franklin, four companies have now reported freight sharing activity. Savings due directly to these local relationships have reached $307,652 USD, equivalent to the elimination of 294,000 deadhead miles and 42,000 gallons of fuel. According to Franklin,“sharing freight and reducing the number of trucks transporting goods across the country has allowed WNCTA companies to cut CO2 emissions by 924,000 lbs.” These lane matching activities are a direct result of companies who have participated in the WNCTA lane matching events. For more information about this group please contact Josh Hallingse at the Henderson County Partnership for Economic Development for information on how your company can be involved in this initiative.