10/28/11 — AAR Corp. named Alliance's 2011 Industry of the Year

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AAR Corp. named Alliance's 2011 Industry of the Year

By Steve Herring
Published in News on October 28, 2011 1:46 PM

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AAR Corp. was honored Thursday night as the Wayne County Industry of the Year by the Wayne County Development Alliance at the organization's annual Industry Celebration reception at Walnut Creek Country Club. From left are Joanna Helms, president of the Development Alliance; Jerry Sheeks, AAR value stream manager; Jeannie Gilchrist, AAR senior human resources manager; Mike Haney, Development Alliance existing industry specialist; and Jim Daniels, Development Alliance chairman.

WALNUT CREEK -- Defense contractor AAR Corp. Thursday night was honored as Wayne County Industry of the Year in recognition of its outstanding overall contributions to the community and its employees.

Also honored was family-owned Roebuck Precision Machine that was presented the "Get-R-Done" Award.

The awards were presented at the conclusion of the annual Wayne County Industry Celebration reception held at the Walnut Creek Country Club.

It has been a "challenging" year for the county, but there are some positive signs, said Mike Haney, Wayne County Development Alliance existing industry specialist.

"Many of our industries have more employees than they did at the first of the year," he said. "Some companies have invested in state-of-the-art equipment to make their manufacturing process more productive. Many employees are working more hours than they were at the first of the year.

"Some industries have increased the number of shifts. This reflects that additional orders for products are beginning to be placed with our industries. So we are optimistic that in 2012 things will continue on the road to recovery."

Wayne County depends on its existing businesses like AAR, Haney said.

"They all play a very significant role," he said. "They invest money and pay taxes, they employ citizens. They contribute to local charities, festival and organizations, and they provide our community with leaders and leadership."

AAR was selected prior to the announcement it would add 100 jobs at its Goldsboro facility, Haney said.

The winner is selected by the past five recipients.

Haney said AAR had "really answered the call" and is involved in all areas of the community.

"Civic clubs, a number of our local charities, company safety, education, you name it," he said. "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 its employees always step up to the plate when they are needed and they are always on my go-to list when I have questions and need help."

Economic development involves recruitment, retention and readiness, Haney said.

AAR was recruited in 2005 and the county continues to work with the company on a regular basis in retention and expansion, he said.

"The readiness piece is demonstrated through workforce development," Haney said. "They were one of the first industries in Wayne County to buy into the WORKS Initiative by utilizing WorkKeys CRC (Career Readiness Certificates) and job profiles in their hiring process."

Local company officials, in accepting the award, said that the company's success depends on a lot of people -- employees, county schools, community colleges, the Development Alliance and city and county officials.

"We had 125 people in June of 2010 and we are at about 370 now and we will have 425 employees by the time that we hit Christmas," said Jerry Sheeks, AAR value stream manager. "You cannot add that many people without having a lot of support.

"As we continue to grow, and that is what we intend to do, our growth is dependent on the quality of work that the people from Wayne County do for us, our employees."

Jeannie Gilchrist, AAR senior human resources manager, commented about the recent announcement of the addition of 100 jobs at the Goldsboro plant.

The company hired a consultant to conduct a study on the mid-skills gap in the country and the consultants visited several of the AAR sites, she said.

"When they came to our plant I was able to introduce them to Mike, (Development Alliance President) Joanna (Helms) and Diane Ivey (WORKS coordinator) and a slew of other support people who help me throughout the year recruit in our businesses at AAR. They were so impressed.

"They were saying, 'Gosh. I wish the other divisions had this kind of local support. This is amazing.' And it is amazing. I wanted to use tonight to thank everyone who supports AAR. Wayne County is a wonderful county."

The "Get-R-Done" Award was created several years ago to recognize the county's many innovative industries, Haney said.

"Many of these companies are the smaller, quieter, off-the-beaten-path type companies that we do not hear enough about," he said.

Roebuck Precision Machine, owned by brothers Mike and Jesse Roebuck, has 10 employees and has received the certification needed to become a preferred supplier to the federal government.

It currently markets more than 4,600 industrial tools and related supplies to all of the state's military bases and many local industries, Haney said.

"It has been a little bit of a struggle trying to get people to rely on us to sell them industrial products," said Mike Roebuck. "I also would like to thank the people out at Seymour Johnson (Air Force Base) they have been great support to us and of course not only to ourselves, but to our nation. We appreciate their efforts."