Wilkes County’s building materials industry is thriving in part because of the natural resources of this area. Abundant timber, rock and water influenced the way early pioneers survived and earned a living. A local hardware store grew into what is today the nation’s second largest home improvement retailer, Lowe’s Companies. Its growth attracted other building products companies, such as doors, windows and glass, to establish in Wilkes County, creating a local pool of interrelated companies rich in knowledge about building materials and structures. In addition to Lowe’s, other companies in the building materials industry include Window World, Gardner Glass Products, Louisiana-Pacific Corporation, ECMD Incorporated, Jeld-Wen and Church & Church Lumber Company.
LP Roaring River, which directly employs nearly 400 people, produces LP SmartSide, an engineered wood siding and trim product that is a leading brand in the building industry. The mill’s annual capacity is 300 million square feet of siding, trim and soffit a year, enough to clad 102,000 homes annually.
Church and Church Lumber Company, which produces in excess of 20 million board feet of top quality Appalachian Hardwood lumber, White Pine lumber and Yellow Pine lumber annually, supplies product to customers worldwide to be used in furniture, millwork, cabinetry, flooring, decking, log homes, containers and pallets.
The county’s agricultural heritage has contributed to the development and growth of the local food processing industry, which includes 98,800,000 chickens processed annually and $17.5 million in country ham sales. Wineries, distilleries and breweries have recently entered the food processing industry. In 2015, the sale of botanicals joined the local industry.
Moderate elevations and proximity to the Yadkin River and the mineral-rich soil of the Brushy Mountains allow a variety of grapes to thrive in this area. Wilkes County is part of two federally approved American Viticulture Areas, the Yadkin Valley AVA and the Swan Creek AVA, and is home to five wineries, which contribute to North Carolina’s $1.97 billion wine and grape industry.
Once known as the “Moonshine Capital of the World,” Wilkes County is now home to three legal distilleries, Call Family Distillers, Copper Barrel Distillery and American Alcohollery. Craft beer brewing is also making its way into the county at TwoBoros Brewery.
Suncrest Farms, which also operates under the name Junior Johnson Country Hams, was formed in April of 1994. It is locally owned and operated. Suncrest is estimated to generate $10 million in annual revenues, and employs approximately 75 people. The operation includes two plants, a freezer facility, and an additional warehouse all totaling 101,640 square feet. Suncrest Farms’ wholesale customers include Biscuitville, Food Lion, Giants, Ingles, Piggly Wiggly, Ruth Salads, Star Foods, W. Lee Flowers, Walmart Supercenter, and Publix.
Established in 1973 by Hobert Gambill, the third generation of Gambills take great pride in continuing their grandfather’s name and tradition. Hobert started curing ham and selling it from the trunk of his car in 1971. In 1973 he opened the first plant, now the headquarters, in North Wilkesboro. With hard work and pride in his product, he successfully expanded with a 30,000-square-foot plant in Mulberry and a 50,000-square-foot curing facility in Wilkesboro. Hobe’s has gone from selling about 2,000 pounds initially to about 10 million pounds of ham per year now. It’s one of the largest country ham producers in the nation, serving customers and supplying fast food restaurants and supermarkets in North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee and South Carolina. Hobes Country Hams is estimated to generate $7.5 million in annual revenues.
Today, Tyson Foods employs more than 2,700 team members at its chicken processing cook plant in Wilkesboro. However, poultry farming and processing is a part of Wilkes County’s history. Holly Farms was founded in Wilkesboro in 1958. Tyson bought the company and its operations in 1989. With a $14 million-plus expansion in 2016, Tyson now processes 98,800,000 chickens at the plant annually.
Herbal Ingenuity is a buyer and wholesale supplier of botanicals, which are plants or plant parts – mostly gathered in the wild – used for their flavor, fragrance and medicinal or therapeutic properties. Herbal Ingenuity sells in bulk to manufacturers of various products, including dietary supplements, energy beverages, cosmetics and pet food, as well as culinary, homeopathic, equine, tobacco and wholesale distributors. It also sells to distillers, brewers and other companies.
Of North Carolina’s 100 counties, Wilkes County ranks second in the production of poultry broilers, third in the production of beef cattle, fourth in all cattle and milk cows, sixth in the production of hay, and tenth in the production of poultry layers, making it the state’s seventh largest county in agriculture cash receipts totaling $290,844,048 (2018 data). The agricultural impact on the county is around $551 million, making up 36 percent of the county’s GDP and providing 22 percent of the county’s jobs. With an abundant water supply from the Kerr Scott Reservoir, the 421 Expressway, and a rich history of entrepreneurial growth, it is well positioned as an experienced agricultural producer and processor.
In 2018, Wilkes County produced 55,000,000 broilers, making it the second largest producer in the state. It ranks tenth in the state for poultry layer production.
Wilkes County ranks fourth in the state for number of cattle with 32,500 heads of both beef and dairy cows.
Wilkes County is home to 932 Farms with around 106,710 acres.
With 20,200 acres of Hay harvested in the County, Wilkes ranks number 6 in the state for hay production
Back office functions of a company support the work of front office employees, who are typically working directly with the consumers or clients. Wilkes County has a skilled and dependable workforce that provides back office support, such as administrative, customer service, installation, accounting, management and logistics to large organizations. Two examples of local back office centers are Lowe’s Companies and Samaritan’s Purse. Lowe’s Contact Center in Wilkesboro employs 2,800 and provides worldwide customer support. Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical Christian humanitarian aid organization, has a warehouse and several office buildings in Wilkes County where it stores disaster relief supplies, maintains its disaster response units, provides training and operates volunteer services and other departments. Samaritan’s Purse is expanding its operations in Wilkes County.
Innovation and Technology
Innovation and Technology
Wilkes County has multiple high speed broadband connection options, specifically fiber and copper-based cable/DSL. Wide availability of fiber has a correlation with fast broadband Internet and increased bandwidth. Unsurprisingly, Wilkes County's average speeds outperform the state weighted average by 14.08%. Any individual, entrepreneur or company can come to Wilkes County and connect with businesses anywhere in the world due to the fiber optic network that is accessible throughout the county. This is allowing remote access and bringing innovation to our rural county such as cybersecurity.
InfusionPoints a strategy and technology security consulting firm that is comprised of experienced security professionals who build secure and compliant business solutions to protect consumer, employee, and partner information. InfusionPoints takes an independent approach to infuse security and privacy into the people, processes and technologies of business solutions. The foundation for infusing security extends beyond simply providing traditional technology solutions; it also includes details related to the people who maintain, administer, and use the business solutions and the processes that guide their activities.
Since 1951, when Wilkes Telephone Membership Corporation, now doing business as Wilkes Communications, began providing communication services to Wilkes County, the company has evolved into a much larger communications company offering traditional home and business telephone, high speed internet, digital TV over a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network, as well as safety and security systems with Wilkes Security. River Street Networks, a subsidiary of Wilkes Telephone Membership Corporation, caters to customers outside of Wilkes County; and River Street Productions is a full in-house video production studio.
Worldwide Protective Products is best known for custom designing and manufacturing cut-resistant knit safety gloves, sleeves, and garments. The company produces more than 500,000 pairs of cut-resistant knit gloves and 110,000 sleeves each week. Worldwide is also the only U.S. manufacturer of steel mesh protective equipment. Made from individually welded stainless steel rings, these mesh gloves, sleeves, and garments provide outstanding protection for workers in leading beef, pork, and poultry processing facilities, including Tyson, as well as foodservice and grocery operations. Customers include General Motors, Toyota, Tyson, Smithfield, Perdue, PPG Industries, Skanska, and others.
Founded in 1975 in Wilkesboro, InterFlex Group is a global flexible packaging supplier supporting recognized brands in North America, the United Kingdom, and Europe. The company offers a range of customized packaging solutions across a product portfolio that includes surface print and laminate roll stocks, pouches, thin gauge shrink and stretch films, multi-layer barrier laminate structures, and pre-formed specialty bags. The company serves poultry and meat, bakery, confectionery, snack foods, pet products, health and beauty, child resistant, and lawn and garden markets.
Wilkes County is a haven for outdoor recreation enthusiasts, offering a wide array of activities: fly fishing, hunting, archery, kayaking, boating, tubing, skiing, disc golf, mountain biking, paragliding, golfing, horseback riding, hiking, rock climbing and more. This gives many opportunities to businesses that support these activities and enhances the quality of life (hyperlink) for locals and tourists alike.