Elkin Mayor Lestine Hutchens said she believes it was a spirit of cooperation and teamwork that helped the town bring Pittsburgh Glass to the community.
“I think it is a story about how Surry County and its towns … just work better together having survived the past 10 years.”
The mayor said she, county officials, and Elkin Town Manager Lloyd Payne have conducted a panel for the North Carolina Rural Centers Rural Economic Development Institute.
They monitored the progression of events that occurred in Surry, beginning with the STEP (small town economic prosperity) program that Dobson, Elkin and Pilot Mountain began in 2006-7.
In a consensus-building program, small towns (under 5,000 population) were encouraged to come up with a plan to help each other and the whole county succeed.
Hutchens said almost immediately, the Golden LEAF Foundation came to the county with a community assistance grant of $2 million. Golden LEAF grants money to economic development efforts in former tobacco community using tobacco settlement money.
She said the ticket to receiving the money was an agreement between stakeholders of what would mean the most to the county. The plan called for that money to be invested in two workforce training centers in Elkin and Pilot Mountain.
Hutchens said Pilot already had a site being developing (an old textile plant) but Elkin needed some planning. Elkin got $200,000 of the money.
Hutchens said “We found an empty Food Lion in the strip center behind Rite Aide in Elkin, and turned it into a state-of-the-art facility to train PGW employees,” said Hutchens.
They, along with Surry Community College officials, built a college center in town that Hutchens said meets the needs of business, residents and the community by meeting educational, business and safety needs of the community and surrounding areas.
Through the building process described by the mayor, community leaders courted PGW.
When it came down to it, Elkin had the building with the amount of room needed for PGW and a readily available workforce of locals who already had needed training.
Other needs of PGW and businesses were and continue to be met at the SCC Elkin Center.
Some PGW employees are from universities, others from community colleges, and some have high school educations.
During a recent tour the facility, Sen. Richard Burr said he was happy the firm had located in Elkin.
During the tour, Hutchens and Surry County Economic Department Partnership Inc. Vice President LeeAnn Stokes expressed gratitude, satisfaction and joy while watching the teamwork of past and present community leaders and residents unfolding before their eyes.
The mayor often spoke the phrase “just look at this” several times throughout the tour. She beamed when discussing PGW24, a glass exported worldwide and made only in the Elkin plant.
Meanwhile a few workers came up to Hutchens to say hello.
Hutchens beamed with pride pointing out the work of a North Carolina artist whose painting adorned the inside of the PGW facility.
PGW Plant Manager Daniel Dutresne confirmed “We are thrilled with the local folks.”
Tanya Chilton may be reached at 336-835-1513 or on Twitter @TanyaTDC.