10/30/09 — Alliance picks top industry of the year

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Alliance picks top industry of the year

By Steve Herring
Published in News on October 30, 2009 1:46 PM

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Franklin Baking Co. president Tom Buffkin, second from left, and company human resources manager Charles Brogden, third from left, hold the awards honoring the company as Wayne County's Industry of the Year. The honor was presented Thursday night during the Wayne County Development Alliance's annual Industry Celebration. From left are Lynn Williams of Mt. Olive Pickle Co., which received the award last year; Buffkin; Brogden; Alliance President Joanna Helms; and Alliance Existing Industry Specialist Mike Haney.

WALNUT CREEK -- Franklin Baking Co. president Tom Buffkin accepted the Wayne Development Alliance's Industry of the Year award Thursday -- and offered a little insight into what he thinks might have given his company the inside track.

"I tell people our mission is to keep Wayne County smelling good," he said.

Buffkin's reference to the well-known aroma of baking bread that often blankets the area near the bakery brought laughter and applause from those attending the Alliance's annual Industry Celebration reception and awards ceremony at Walnut Creek Country Club.

Along with the Industry of the Year, Petra Precision Machine was honored with the "Get-R-Done" Award. The award is designed to pay tribute to the smaller companies that are "off the beaten path that we do not hear enough about" said Mike Haney, Alliance existing industry specialist.

Petra opened in 2005 with three employees and currently has 13. The company recently became the first in the region to earn the certification required to compete for contracts from the 2,000 aerospace companies nationwide.

Owners Earnest and Sharon Richard accepted the award.

Haney said it has been a "real challenging year," but added that some positive signs are evident.

"Some industries have more employees than they did at the start of the year," he said. "Many employees are working more hours. This is reflective that orders for products are beginning to be placed with our industries.

"Cardboard (recycling) prices in 2008 were at $150 a ton and earlier this year the price went to $20 a ton, but now has recovered to about $75 a ton. The theory here is pretty simple in that if there is a demand for cardboard then there is a demand for the product that goes into the boxes."

He added that the county "counts" on its existing industries -- large and small.

"They all play a very significant role," he said. "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."

In accepting the award, Buffkin urged the audience to utilize the county's economic development team.

"This has been a real challenging year," Buffkin said. "Wayne County has really supported our company not only in buying our products, and we do appreciate that, but has given us a wonderful work force. We are only as good as our employees. "

Haney said it was easy to honor Franklin Baking Co.

"This company really answers the call. They are really involved in all areas of our community. They have been an excellent corporate citizen for a number of years and they do these things, not for recognition, but because of who they are.

"This company and their employees always step up to the plate when they are needed and they are on my go-to list when I need help."

The award is voted on by the prior five award winners. Lynn Williams of the Mt. Olive Pickle Co., last year's winner, assisted Haney in making the presentation.

Established in 1945, Franklin Baking currently has 380 full-time employees and an additional 300 contract employees.

It produces nearly three million pounds of baked goods weekly, producing 150 loaves of bread per minute, Buffkin said. Also produced are hamburger and hot dog buns.

It is a high-tech plant that has automation from front to back, he said.

"It requires very talented managers and very talented and trained personnel to operate. It is very complicated."

The company faced a challenge a couple of years ago involving a capital improvement project of more than $2 million, Buffkin said. The money and project were set to go when the company ran into problems with the railroad company.

Buffkin said he called Haney, Alliance President Joanna Helms and its board of directors, county commissioners and theGoldsboro City Council.

"They solved our problems and we were able to complete our capital project," he said. "I would like to urge all of you industries, large and small, please utilize the great team that we have in our county. It (county) is a truly great place to work, play and enjoy. We have a great team."

Alliance Board Chairman Ray McDonald Sr. of Mount Olive agreed.

"For a long time, we did not have a full team on the Development Alliance," McDonald said. "We've got one now and you can see what happens when you have a full team. You know that when the team is working that everything works out fine."

In an interview following the program, McDonald noted that the awards program was the culmination of a weeklong tribute to local industry.

McDonald said it was a countywide alliance, not just Mount Olive, or Fremont or Goldsboro.

"You saw the evidence in there tonight with the number of people who showed up -- a full room," he said. "Our whole emphasis now is existing industries, to try to keep them here and trying to keep those jobs in place. We feel like if we do a good job at that then when those new industries come in they want to talk to other industries and they tell them, 'Hey this is a great place to come and live and work.' That is going to make a big difference, we have already seen it."

Industries are looking at the county, and more development is in Wayne County's future, he said.

"It is just going to take a while for the economy to turn around," McDonald said.