‘Roanoke’ returns to Lewiston

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 21, 2008

LEWISTON – A familiar trademark name coupled with new faces has restored jobs in this once bustling Bertie County town.

With a large contingent of local, regional, state and federal officials in attendance, Roanoke Manufacturing, Inc. formally opened their Lewiston plant on Tuesday morning during a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

In mid February, Delaware businessmen Al Collins, Don Cathell and Jim Messick closed a deal to purchase the old Harrington/Gregory Manufacturing property. One month later they are up and running with 20 employees and hopes to add 80 additional workers over the next three years.

“We are excited about the possibilities of this new company,” Norman Cherry Sr., chairman of the Bertie Board of Commissioners, said as he opened Tuesday’s ceremony.

Cherry continued, “Harrington, later Gregory Manufacturing, and Evans Lumber once provided a number of jobs in this town. Now, Roanoke Manufacturing is following in those footsteps, once again providing employment opportunities for our citizens. We wish you many years of productivity.”

Cathell, speaking to the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald following the ceremony, said the company will build brush cutters, rotary cutters and poultry house crusters.

“We’re basically the same type of manufacturers as Harrington and Gregory before us,” Cathell said. “The brush cutters and the crusters are our front line items as of now, but we’ve got some other items we will be manufacturing down the line.”

Cathell said company equipment sales through their dealer network, shipping products throughout the United States and worldwide.

They will also continue to sell parts to equipment owners out of the Roanoke Manufacturing inventory warehouse.

“We’re proud of the products we build and equally as proud of the employees who make and ship them,” Cathell added.

The ceremony’s featured speaker, First District U.S. Congressman G.K. Butterfield, praised the company’s ownership for investing in northeastern North Carolina.

“It’s good to see that private business still works,” Butterfield said. “That’s not always the case. In the last week alone, two companies have closed in North Carolina, leaving 1,200 workers unemployed, so I’m happy to see this one, Roanoke Manufacturing, investing in Bertie County. This is a positive step toward building a diverse, resilient and vibrant local economy.”

Turning to the three owners, Butterfield said, “You bring hope and opportunity to many families.”

The Congressman also spoke of the federal government doing more to invest in rural America.

“A lot of my pleas fall on deaf ears in Washington, but I promise to keep fighting to bring prosperity back to the rural areas of our great nation,” he stated. “Rural American needs our attention. We have to keep making investments in places like Lewiston.”

Gene Byrd, representing the North Carolina Department of Commerce, praised the Roanoke Manufacturing owners for offering employment opportunities.

“The jobs here will create a base that will signal the start of a new economy,” Byrd said.

Byrd then presented the company’s three owners with a plaque from Gov. Mike Easley.

Patrick Woody of the North Carolina Rural Center said the organization created a capital venture fund to help companies such as Roanoke Manufacturing invest in Tier One counties. He said Roanoke Manufacturing was the Rural Center’s first investment from that fund.

“We welcome you here,” Woody said. “The jobs you create will change the face of these rural communities.”

Bob Spivey, the Mayor of Windsor who also serves on the Northeast Commission, welcomed the new company.

“We feel we played a part in bringing new jobs and new opportunities to our region,” Spivey said. “A special thanks goes to (Bertie Economic Development Director) Steve Biggs. He was a workhorse on this project.”

Spivey also presented a plaque, this one on behalf of the Northeast Commission, to the three owners.

In a press release issued following Tuesday morning’s ceremony, Roanoke Manufacturing’s ownership said they believe a good company becomes part of the community and supports the area where they do business.

“We are not coming to Northeastern North Carolina looking for cheap labor, but, instead, we hope to make the community a better place because we are here,” Collins said.

“We hope that the cash flow provided by our business will help restaurants and stores re-open so that Lewiston-Woodville can thrive.”

The owners state that they are looking for people who are willing to work and are willing to be trained.

Collins said, “It helps to have some experience because the work is often dirty and sometimes physical, but with the right attitude, a person can learn the work.”