Mt. Olive Pickle receives local honor
By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on October 31, 2008 1:46 PM
Mt. Olive Pickle Co. was recognized as the 2008 Wayne County Industry of the Year Thursday night at Walnut Creek Country Club. Receiving the award, from left, are Chris Martin, human resources manager; Bill Bryan, president; and Lynn Williams, community relations representative. Wayne County Development Alliance existing industry specialist Mike Haney, right, presented the award.
WALNUT CREEK -- Named the Wayne County Industry of the Year for the second time in 20 years because of its contributions back to the community, Mt. Olive Pickle Co. President Bill Bryan said Thursday night that the company was "honored" by the award, and that its owners and employees are proud to call Wayne County home.
"We find that Wayne County is a good place to live and work," he said. "Mt. Olive Pickle is named for the Mount Olive community, and was really started by the Mount Olive Chamber of Commerce.
"It's always been a mission of Mt. Olive Pickle to be a good corporate citizen."
Presenting the award, Mike Haney, Wayne County Development Alliance existing industry specialist, explained that Mt. Olive Pickle was chosen by the five previous recipients based on its participation this past year in a number of areas.
Among those are: The Wayne County Chamber of Commerce and United Way; its employee donation fund, which is matched 40 percent by the company and is given out to 40 local, regional and national organizations; its foundation, which has recently aided Habitat for Humanity, Stagestruck and a special library; its participation raising funds for the American Heart Association; and the participation of its corporate leadership in a local initiative to help move the county school system forward.
But, Bryan added, the company's participation in those areas is only possible because of the dedication and initiative of its employees.
That's why, he continued, its officials were planning to take the plaque and trophy back and "share them with all our employees."
Additionally, Haney also noted the company's safety record and its designation as a Carolina Star site -- the highest award for safety and health in the state.
Established in 1926, Mt. Olive Pickle has 432 full-time and 175 seasonal employees, and Bryan added that despite the tough economic times, they're still going strong.
"We're fortunate we're in the food business because people continue to eat in an economic downturn. It's a good time to be in the food business," he said.
Also honored Thursday night at the Wayne County Industry Celebration reception at Walnut Creek Country Club was Benton and Sons Stainless Steel in Pikeville.
Presenting the company with a new award this year, the Get-R-Done award, Haney explained that the goal was to recognize a smaller, "off-the-beaten-path type" business, one that "re-invests their profits to purchase state-of-the-art equipment and hire additional employees to increase their productivity."
And, he said, the one they kept coming back to this year was Benton and Sons, for its high-end technology such as its laser cutter and water jet, its constant backlog of orders and the fact it increased its employee base by 35 percent in the last year.
"They are family owned, known for their quality work ... and are truly one of Wayne County's best kept secrets," he said.
Established by his father in 1980 and now employing 55 people, vice president Ben Benton Jr. said he was "kind of overwhelmed" by the award, that he hadn't been expecting it.
He explained that the company specializes in fabricating parts and machinery, particularly out of stainless steel, mild steel and aluminum.
"People call me when they've got to have it in a hurry," Benton said. "We all work hard and I've had a lot of people helping me, including my father. He started the business and he still helps out."
And said, Joanna Helms, president of the WCDA, honoring these existing industries is an important part of the Alliance's mission.
"In Wayne County we have realized for many years that our local economic development efforts can best be served if, in addition to our recruitment and product development efforts, we are willing to devote the time and interest to the retention and expansion of our existing businesses and industries. ...(it) is a major part of our program," she said.
Because after all, Haney, added, in "these times of uncertainty.... In Wayne County we can count on our existing industry," which all total -- approximately 60 manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors and machine shops -- employ more than 9,000 people.
"They invest money and pay taxes, they employ our citizens, they contribute to local charities, festivals and organizations, and they provide our community with leaders and leadership," Haney said.
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