Gov. Bev Perdue announced this month the 2012 Governor’s Awards for Excellence in Workforce Development, with one local business among the recipients.
Lincolnton Furniture Company was on the list of those businesses recognized for their accomplishments and contributions in helping North Carolina achieve its work-force development goals.
This recognition comes after a year of publicity surrounding the company, credited with being among those leading the way for manufacturing’s return to the United States. Media outlets from around the world have taken their turns capturing the story of owner Bruce Cochrane.
The White House also took notice. As the Times-News has previously reported, Cochrane received invites for both an “Insourcing American Jobs” forum and President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address early this year.
This attention, he told the Times-News on Friday, has helped, and continues to do so, when it comes to raising capital.
“We’re fortunate to have nice publicity and enthusiastic support,” he said. ” … We’re still a startup.”
Gaining access to capital remains a challenge for most new companies, he said. But, his story has lent itself to that effort, and many of his investors have been local. He hopes this will allow the business to continue to grow and become viable.
As for this latest accolade bestowed upon his company, Cochrane said it is “quite an honor.”
Lincolnton Furniture Company was named a 2012 “Outstanding Employer,” one of only two. Cochrane attended the reception in Greensboro on Nov. 1.
He said he was surprised by how many people were at the event, estimating that between 700 and 800 were there.
“Our hardworking and talented citizens are the cornerstone of our economic development efforts, and their dedicated efforts are helping our economy grow,” Gov. Perdue said in a statement after the awards were handed out. “I congratulate these award recipients for their determination, innovation and commitment to helping make our employees the nation’s best.”
The N.C. Commission on Workforce Development recognized the individuals and businesses as part of the 2012 Workforce Development Partnership Conference in Greensboro.
Cochrane hosted an open house in September to mark Lincolnton Furniture Company’s one-year anniversary, back in the plant on Cochrane Road that once housed his family business.
He told the Times-News at the time that he hopes to expand his employee count from its current 70 — about 60 percent of whom once worked for Cochrane Furniture before it closed in 2008 — to 130 by the first quarter of next year. However, he said Friday that that will all depend on the state of the retail industry moving forward.
Timken Bearings receives group distinction
Also among this year’s award recipients was Timken Bearings of Iron Station, which, along with a group of other employers, was recognized for the 2012 “Innovative Partnership” distinction. As part of Apprenticeship 2000, the companies have formed a model partnership developed by Blum Inc. in 1995 that demonstrates a working collaboration among employers, secondary and postsecondary educational institutions and the N.C. Department of Labor.
The mission of Apprenticeship 2000 is to train employees guaranteed to meet the skills needed by the companies. The goal is to close the skilled-labor gap and reduce the shortage of skilled technicians, according to the press release from Gov. Perdue’s office.
Joining Blum Inc. in the mid-1990s was Max Daetwyler Corporation of Huntersville, Sarstedt Group of Newton, Ameritech Die and Mold of Mooresville and Timken. In 1996, the first apprentices were hired and slated for graduation in the year 2000, thus the name “Apprenticeship 2000.” Pfaff Molds joined the partnership in 2008, with Siemens Energy and Chiron USA joining in 2011-2012. At Blum Inc., the first four apprentices are still employed and enjoying the benefits of their hard work, the release noted.