Yadkin County Chamber of Commerce honors award winners; Blue Rhino founder and Yadkin County native Billy Prim returns home as keynote speaker for annual meeting

By Kitsey Burns Harrison - kburns@yadkinripple.com
Yadkin County native Billy Prim speaks at the annual Yadkin County Chamber of Commerce Banquet Tuesday night. - Kitsey Burns Harrison | Yadkin Ripple
Yadkin County Chamber of Commerce members enjoy the annual award banquet. - Kitsey Burns Harrison | Yadkin Ripple

Yadkin County native and business mogul Billy Prim spoke Tuesday night at the annual Yadkin County Chamber of Commerce banquet. Prim is known for founding Blue Rhino Corporation as well as Primo Water Corporation.

“It is good to be home, this is home,” Prim said. “And it’s good to see a lot of old friends and meet some new friends. A lot of memories come back. I’ve got a lot of good memories here.”

Prim shared his story of growing up in the North Oak Ridge community of Yadkin County and how the skills he learned on the farm and farm supply business owned by his father and grandfather lead to his career as a businessman.

“Yadkin County is a great place to become an entrepreneur,” Prim said. “It had a big impact on me, growing up here.”

A strong work ethic and spiritual foundation are two of the things Prim said he learned from his family and community in North Oak Ridge that lead to his success.

Prim went on to share some of the history of his companies.

Following Prim’s speech, several local businesses and individuals were recognized with special awards.

One of this year’s Economic Development Awards was accepted by Eddie Norman, operations and human resources director, on behalf of B&G Foods. The company started operations in Yadkin County in 2009 as Nonni’s Bakery. Now owned and operated by B&G Foods, the company relocated Mama Mary’s Pizza Crusts’ manufacturing process to the Yadkinville facility beginning in 2016, and full production began last year. This expansion provided new capital investment in Yadkin County of more than $7.6 million and the creation of more than 60 new jobs. In addition to Mama Mary’s product, the Yadkinville facility manufactures Old London Melba Toasts, New York Style Bagel Crisps, Pita Chips and Panetini, and Ortega Taco products.

Southland Transportation in Boonville also was presented with an Economic Development Award. Southland has provided trucking services for more than 20 years to clients such as Volvo Trucks, Wix Filters, Freightliner, Michelin Tire Company and Olympic Products. Southland completed consolidation of its operations into an expanded facility on River Road in Boonville last year, and has more than 100 company drivers, more than 20 owner-operators and 50 or so administrative and support staff. This most recent expansion resulted in new capital expense of more than $1.6 million, and added new employment opportunities. Jason Smith, president of Southland Transportation, accepted the award.

Longtime Yadkin County industry Unifi also was recognized with an Economic Development Award. Since its start in the early 1970s, Unifi has continued to invest in new technology, equipment and processes to stay on the cutting edge of textile production. The growth of REPREVE , Unifi’s 100-percent post-consumer recycled product, had driven the need to expand its operation in Yadkinville. Additions to the REPREVE center at the G. Allen Mebane Industrial Complex in Yadkinville resulted in new capital expansion of more than $3.4 million and created in excess of 20 new jobs. Smitty Williams, human resources operation manager, accepted the award on behalf of Unifi.

The Entrepreneurial Award was presented to Maclain Steelman, president and founder of BioBased Solutions. Its business model is to help customers improve their “Green Sustainable Footprint” while adding cost savings to the bottom line, and help customers improve their reputations as good corporate citizens. In the first three years of operation, the company has doubled in sales, employees and revenue each year. The current primary product focus is the refurbishing of wooden industrial pallets and custom shipping crates. By refurbishing wooden pallets, customers are able to reuse their pallets multiple times reducing the number of new pallet purchases. Customers include Unifi, The Austin Company, Diversified Foam, Crown Heritage, Lydall and Briggs-Shaffner. Future business plans include growth of kiln-dried pallet sales, new pallet and specialty crates, and expansion of services to include other eco-friendly and green consulting services for businesses.

This year’s Chairman’s Award was awarded to State Employees Credit Union. SECU Foundation helped boost capital campaign efforts for the construction of the 11,000-square-foot Hospice Care Center of Yadkin with a $1 million challenge grant in 2015. In 2017, the new SECU Hospice Care Center of Yadkin opened and offers a private, home-like setting, designed specifically to provide end-of-life care for patients who can no longer stay in their own home. The new hospice care center features a chapel, family living room, family kitchen, dining area, a children’s playroom, a teen room, community meeting room with covered patio, a sunroom, and a beautiful courtyard with a view of Pilot Mountain. Because of its generous matching donation, the SECU Hospice Care Center of Yadkin is helping meet the need for respite and hospice care services. Megan Lindley and Kelly Hicks from the Yadkinville branch of State Employees Credit Union accepted the honor.

Brent Hunter of Hunter Farms was awarded the Yadkin County Farmer of the Year honor. The honoree began as a field crop and cattle operation by the late Grady Hunter. His son, Brent, continued this tradition raising Black Angus cattle, tobacco, corn and soybeans on his family’s land. With the continued downturn of the tobacco market, Hunter Farms explored new crops and marketing strategies and recently expanded into specialty crop production and direct market sales. In 2016, the farm began selling at area farmers markets, providing beef and a variety of seasonal vegetables. A strong first year encouraged the owners to expand their vegetable production for 2017. This allowed them to participate in additional farmers markets as well as wholesale market opportunities. They have explored and utilized new marketing strategies for this new direct-to-consumer sales approach and can be found online and at the markets as Hunter Farms Family Beef and Produce. This new venture has created new opportunities for family members to return to the farm to help the family business, sustaining the farm for future generations. In 2017, the farm produced 75 acres of soybeans; 80 acres of field corn; 38 acres of grass for hay and grazing and about 10 acres of vegetable crops, including sweet corn, tomato, potato, green bean, squash, pepper, cucumber, melons and more, as well as Black Angus cattle.

The Duke Energy Citizenship and Service Award, which recognizes civic-minded individuals and organizations who make a difference in their communities, was presented to Lenuel Chamberlain. Chamberlain is very involved in his community serving on many boards locally, regionally and statewide, including Yadkin County Corn Growers Association, NC Corn Growers Association Board, NC Small Grain Association Board, NC Soybean Association Board, Yadkin County Voluntary Agriculture District board, Advisory Leadership Council for Cooperative Extension and Yadkin County Soil and Water Board. While on the Soil and Water Conservation Board, he was a strong advocate for the Site 5-D project, now known as the Hood-Chamberlain Dam creating Lake Hampton. He is a very strong supporter of the local cattleman’s association, the 4-H program, and an active member of Bethel Baptist Church. He has opened up his farm for numerous activities over the past several years for local, regional, state and national events to educate and make people more aware about the importance of agriculture locally. Chamberlain and his wife built and opened Lone Hickory Indoor Arena in 2010. The Lone Hickory Indoor Arena is dedicated to God, families and the community to enjoy. Many of the events featured at the arena are free to spectators, and most focus on youth activities. He provides a community meal that is open to anyone to enjoy during the Christmas holiday. He sets a standard of citizenship and service that we should all aspire to reach.

There were 220 guests in attendance for the evening, which was held in the Agriculture and Education Building banquet room. New members nominated to serve on the Chamber of Commerce Board were Mitzie Branon, representing Yadtel as chair for a one-year team. Vice Chair and Chair Elect is Dr. Todd Martin, superintendent of Yadkin County Schools.

New members with seats expiring in 2021 are Sarah Carter, Capital Bank; Michael Pardue, town of Jonesville; Wayne Matthews, Yadkin Center of Surry Community College; Rusty Crissman, CMS Insurance & Financial; and Kevin Austin, The Austin Company. Amanda Hurley, Yadkin Family YMCA, will serve on the board with a seat expiring in 2019.

Kitsey Burns Harrison may be reached at 336-679-2341 or on Twitter and Instagram @RippleReporterK.

Yadkin County native Billy Prim speaks at the annual Yadkin County Chamber of Commerce Banquet Tuesday night.
https://www.yadkinripple.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/web1_IMG_9658-formatted.jpgYadkin County native Billy Prim speaks at the annual Yadkin County Chamber of Commerce Banquet Tuesday night. Kitsey Burns Harrison | Yadkin Ripple

Yadkin County Chamber of Commerce members enjoy the annual award banquet.
https://www.yadkinripple.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/web1_IMG_9664-formatted.jpgYadkin County Chamber of Commerce members enjoy the annual award banquet. Kitsey Burns Harrison | Yadkin Ripple

By Kitsey Burns Harrison