Building Supply Companies Find Home in Wilkes County
Just like vinegar in its famed barbecue sauce, craftsmanship is part of the character of North Carolina, and Wilkes County is a birthplace of companies renowned both for manufacturing and selling the quality products sought by craftsmen.
In 1946, Lowe’s, one of the most respected names in the building materials industry, was founded in Wilkes County by Carl Buchan. Today, Lowe’s employs more than 2,200 people in its Wilkes operations, which include one store, a customer support center and three specialty distribution centers.
“We still believe, just as Carl did, that Wilkes County is a great place to work,” says Lowe's spokesperson Stacey Lentz.
In fact, Lowe’s continues to invest in the community. The contact center is adding 275 jobs, bringing total employment to 975 by the end of 2011.
“As a company, we are seeing increasing customer orders on Lowe’s website, www.lowes.com,” Lentz says. “We have in-sourced Lowe’s appliance service customer calls and are offering repair service for outdoor power equipment through the Lowe’s contact center.”
Furniture Industry Led To Growth
Gardner Glass Products is another leader in the building materials industry with roots in Wilkes County. Founded by Edd Gardner in 1962, Gardner Glass Products is today a nationally known industry leader in the manufacturing of mirror and glass products. The company operates two manufacturing facilities – one in Wilkes County – and three distribution centers across the United States.
The proximity to the original customer base, which at the time was the local furniture industry, is why Gardner located his business in Wilkes County, says Tommy Huskey, CEO.
“The furniture industry and the building materials industry used a lot of the same materials, and a lot of the same sort of craftsman workers who were so good with their hands; so it was a natural evolution for that segment to grow as another diminished,” he says. “The entrepreneurial leadership and vision of the founders of these companies was so strong and unique, that they've been able to change and adapt as needed in an ever-changing global economy.”
The outlook for Gardner Glass is positive, particularly in the decorative glass segment, and that’s good news for Wilkes County.
“The reason we've continued to stay here has a lot to do with our people and our customers,” Huskey says. “It's a great place to raise a family, to find people that understand honest work, and it's a beautiful area.”
Family Businesses Have Deep Roots
Church & Church Lumber Co., a family-owned business founded more than 70 years ago, produces approximately 31 million board feet of lumber each year, which it sells wholesale to domestic and export markets, including China.
Other companies with a presence in Wilkes County include Louisiana-Pacific, which employs 350 at a hardboard siding plant in Roaring River, and Jeld-Wen, which operates a door and window distribution center in North Wilkesboro.
Wilkes County is also the corporate headquarters of Window World, the nation’s largest window replacement company, and ECMD, comprising four distinct building product companies serving builders, architects and consumers.
“This is a very family-oriented company,” says Dana Deem, Window World president.
That type of company atmosphere is a good fit for Wilkes County.
“Wilkes County has a great labor pool and work ethic,” Deem says. “The culture here is warm and friendly and that’s what attracts businesses.”