From a family business that has grown to provide homecare services in 11 eastern North Carolina counties to a company creating oyster reefs to stop shoreline erosion around the globe, the power of small-business partnerships was on full display at the April 12 NCGrowth Spring Showcase at Rocky Mount Mills in Rocky Mount. Participants at the showcase learned how NCGrowth works with businesses and local governments to promote economic development and create equitable, sustainable opportunities.
Among those sharing their success stories were Shanise Wilkins of Pathfinders of Coastal Carolina, Ellen Colodny of Wetlands Plant, Niels Lindquist of Sandbar Oyster Company, Thom Ruhe of NC IDEA, Chikako Massey of Practicon and Harvey Godwin, Jr., Chair of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina. Elizabeth Basnight of NCGrowth outlined the organization’s latest Latino initiatives and Nicole Outlaw, program manager for NCGrowth’s SmartUp initiative in Elizabeth City, introduced four new projects underway in eastern North Carolina.
Each company showcased at the event benefitted from a different aspect of NCGrowth’s expertise. For dental-supply company Practicon, it was the organization’s knowledge of the government contract bidding process. “Because of help we received from NCGrowth,” said Chikako Massey, new business development director at Practicon, “we were awarded a $20 million government contract.”
Niels Lindquist of Sandbar Oyster Company, which makes a biodegradable anchoring element for oyster ecosystems, said NCGrowth is helping his company examine different business models for growth. “Shoreline preservation is an issue around world,” said Lindquist. “NCGrowth is essentially helping us determine how we can launch a global business out of eastern North Carolina.”
Participants at the showcase got both a figurative and literal taste of Rocky Mount Mills and the surrounding area with a barbecue lunch from The Prime Smokehouse, a beer tasting from Rocky Mount Brewery, a kayaking excursion on the Tar River, and a tour of the main mill building at the complex.
Like the NCGrowth clients it hosted, Rocky Mount Mills itself is a model for successful local investment and development. The 200,000-square foot cotton yarn mill has been revitalized with a craft brewery incubator, three restaurants, office and event space, apartments, 52 refurbished mill houses and a tiny-house hotel. Live outdoor music events draw crowds of close to 2,000, and the incubator has recently partnered with Nash Community College to offer a certificate program in the business of beer brewing. All of these efforts have made the location a destination for residents and tourists alike, and played a major role in Rocky Mount’s economic expansion.
Now that’s something to raise a glass to!
To learn more about NCGrowth’s work, visit their website.