ASHEBORO – Klaussner Furniture Industries, which once had been the largest employer in Randolph County, is shutting down operations at all its facilities, the company announced Monday.
The company was tightly tied to Asheboro, which housed its corporate headquarters.
According to a news release: “Klaussner’s lending source has unexpectedly refused to continue to fund the Company’s operations. This outcome was not reasonably foreseeable, but due to these unexpected circumstances, Klaussner can no longer sustain its operations.”
There will be more than 3,800 job losses, with a majority of those connected to Asheboro and Randolph County, based on some reports. The company’s announcement said the process of shuttering all its facilities began Monday.
The company is working to provide additional information and resources for its displaced employees.
“This information will be communicated directly to employees via contact information we have on file,” the company’s release said.
Klaussner Home Furnishings has been a leading solutions provider to the furniture industry since 1963. The company manufactures more than 70 percent of its products domestically through its five manufacturing campuses in North Carolina.
A published report in 2020 said that about 4,000 people were employed in the state by Klaussner. There were also facilities in Candor and Robbins after more than 160 workers were impacted by a Greensboro plant closing. That was believed to be the first time the company closed a plant.
FurnitureToday, a trade site, reported Monday that based on multiple industry sources “the company had been challenged recently to maintain current payments with key suppliers and had difficulty receiving goods.”
According to Furniture World Magazine, the company was founded by Stuart Love in 1963 and purchased by Hans Klaussner in 1979. Klaussner’s management team acquired the company in 2011, then sold it to private equity firm Monomoy Capital Partners in 2017.
Brands that might be most recognizable that were manufactured by Klaussner Furniture are Trisha Yearwood Home Collection and Stacy Garcia Home.
Klaussner Furniture’s announcement follows the March closing of a furniture manufacturer in Thomasville. Creative Metal and Wood, Inc., had been in business since 1954.
In June, Cox Manufacturing in Hickory shut down after 90 years in operation.
MONCURE – VinFast, a Vietnamese electric vehicle manufacturer, broke ground on their proposed billion dollar facility in Chatham County Friday, July 28.
In an event attended by VinFast executives, the Vietnam Ambassador to the United States, Gov. Roy Cooper as well as various government officials, VinFast laid out their future plans and goals regarding the factory located in the Triangle Innovation Point megasite.
“Just over a year ago, Vinfast announced the plan to build our first North American manufacturing facility and today we are here to start the construction of the first EV factory in North Carolina which will have an annual production capacity of 150,000 vehicles,” said VinFast Global CEO Le Thi Thu Thuy.
The plant, which will be the first ever automobile factory in the state of North Carolina, aims to create thousands of jobs and is just the latest example of the economic and business boom the state has been experiencing.
“I’m so happy to be here because I’m thinking about the great paying jobs that are going to be created right here in North Carolina,” Cooper said. “They’re going to put money in the pockets of working families and that’s a great thing.”
“Vinfast is leading an army of clean-energy companies coming to our state. It has helped us to set records for job growth and economic expansion over the last few years. When you talk to CEOs of automakers and truck makers, the private sector is moving away from gas and diesel and into the EV market at breakneck speed. The competition is fierce, so it’s important that we’ve been able to pull together to harness the economic windfall that is coming from that, to make sure that money goes into the pockets of North Carolinians.”
The process has been an all-hands-on-deck approach that has encompassed support from the federal government to the state all the way down to local authorities.
“This was a true bipartisan effort,” Cooper said. “We’re grateful to have everyone here working on this. Our entire team from transportation to environment to commerce to our community colleges, we have all been working on this.”
“We are well on the way to being the greatest state in this country and the most progressive state in the south in showing what you can do when you have great vision, not just taking what comes, but knowing what we need to look like,” said Chatham County Rep. Robert Reives II. “We didn’t just take anything that came. We wanted to make sure that the people of Chatham County and all of our surrounding counties had an opportunity for good jobs. Jobs that their children will have.”
VinFast, which is a member of the VinGroup conglomerate, was established in 2017 and currently boasts a selection of electric cars, luxury cars, scooters, motorcycles and fully electric SUVs and according to Madam Thuy, recently had its business combination cleared by the US Securities and Exchange Commission brining, it one step closer to its listing on the stock market.
“With the factory that we are building here today, VinFast wants to strongly contribute to the goal of establishing robust, clean energy supply chains throughout the US,” Thuy said. “We have been hard at work to cultivate an ecosystem of suppliers in North Carolina that will complement our facility and create cutting edge industrial processes here.”
Along with the manufacturing of EVs, Gov. Cooper expressed his desire and goal to expand the network of electric charging stations across the state as well.
“In North Carolina, we are moving fast on infrastructure,” Cooper said. “We have a coordinated effort competing for every single federal dollar. One of the main things we’re trying to do is to make sure we have charging stations all over the state to make sure we are ready for this EV revolution and that will be part of the infrastructure effort that we are putting forward.
“We want to make a real public effort here. Already, we’re getting $100 million from the federal government with the plan that we’re working on with our transportation plan. We’re also applying for significantly more federal dollars that we think can help us do this. What we want to do is to coordinate with the private sector here to make sure there are charging stations in as many places as possible to continue to encourage the purchase of EVs and make sure everybody is comfortable having one. We know how important and how critical this is to the EV market making sure there are chargers everywhere.”
VinFast has also made great efforts to weave themselves into the fabric of the local community, with VinFast’s CEO of U.S. Manufacturing Van Anh Nguyen becoming a resident of the state of North Carolina and a collaboration with Central Carolina Community College to develop a world-class training program at its new state-of-the-art facility to help train the future workforce.
“This partnership will open the door for the people of Chatham County and beyond to receive free training and start their careers at Vinfast manufacturing EVs that will improve our environment and revolutionize the automotive industry,” Thuy said.
In addition to those, VinFast announced that they plan to donate three acres of land to the Mary Oaks Baptist Church, which is currently located on the site, and the company will work to identify resources needed to potentially relocate the church if necessary.
“I believe that you all share with me the hope that in the near future, Vinfast EVs produced in North Carolina, will be rolling out on roads across the United States and playing their part in keeping the U.S. clean and livable,” said Vietnam Ambassador to the U.S. Nguyen Quoc Dzung.
ASHEBORO – TeleNephrology consultations and dialysis for inpatient hospitalizations are being added as part of expanded services at Randolph Health.
The hospital has partnered with Renasolve and nephrologist Dr. Rubin Chandran to provide inpatient nephrology services. Renasolve specializes in providing daily 24-hour inpatient nephrology and TeleNephrology services to rural communities, according to Randolph Health.
This is the first time the hospital has offered these services even when the hospital was under different ownership, spokeswoman Paula Richards said.
The hospital’s announcement said this will “allow patients to remain in their local community – close to family and close to home. Our goal is to improve patient care and bring necessary access to nephrology specialists to our inpatient population, eliminating the need for patients and their families to travel long distances.”
Randolph Health’s nephrologists and kidney care team have extensive clinical expertise in all aspects of nephrology, according to information from the hospital.
Richards said the services don’t extend to outpatient levels at this time.
ASHEBORO — The Aviary at the North Carolina Zoo is set to be demolished, but the Zoo is working on securing funds and putting together plans to rebuild.
With its 93 species of birds, hundreds of tropical plants, and an environment that mimics the tropical rainforest, the Aviary has been a guest favorite since it first opened in 1982.
In January 2022, the Zoo announced that the Aviary would be closing due to a potential threat of Avian Flu, leaving many guests with the impression that this closure would be temporary. However, during the closure, a team of engineers was brought in to conduct an inspection of the building, and their findings were not promising.
“The aviary is a very humid environment; it’s a very rough environment,” said Debbie Zombeck, the chief curator of birds at the N.C. Zoo and the aviary’s supervisor, in an interview last year.
After 40 years, it seems that the building has reached the end of its lifecycle.
Engineers found drainage, foundation, and HVAC issues and ultimately concluded that renovations would not be financially viable for the Zoo. Fears surrounding aviation flu at the time, coupled with the engineers’ assessment, led to the unpopular decision to permanently close and take down the habitat in April 2022.
Because the response from the public was overwhelmingly negative, the Zoo administration and the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources quickly began working secure funding to both demolish the old aviary and, in the future, rebuild.
The Zoo has hired REI Engineers to work on demolition drawings.
“Once the demolition drawings are complete, Zoo staff will work next on the bid process for a contractor to remove the building,” said Diane Villa, Director of Communications and Marketing.
In March 2023, Governor Roy Cooper introduced his 2023-25 budget proposal, which includes $60 million for the “Zoo Aviary replacement,” but the budget has not been passed.
“The aviary has been an integral part of the N.C. Zoo for decades,” said Senator David Craven, Jr. “It was a unique experience that provided an experience that provided visitors an up-close-and-personal look at birds and tropical plants.
While no timeline has been announced, sources familiar with the Zoo say a new aviary may not open until at least 2030.
“Should the funding come through, the new aviary design process will begin,” said Villa. “It will take time, noting that the North Carolina Zoo is in the process of building the Asia region as a priority, but staff are excited to begin establishing criteria for the birds and the guest experience. As it is early in the planning and funding phases, it is difficult to set a timeline for when the new aviary will be completed.”
ASHEBORO — The Randolph County Schools Board of Education met Monday, July 17, with primarily recognitions and informational items presented.
The board opened the meeting by welcoming Randolph County Schools’ new public information officer, Amber Ward, who joined the staff following Tim Moody’s retirement after nearly 10 years of service to the county.
“She’s going to be good,” said Board Chair Gary Cooke. “She’s one of us. We’ll miss Tim, though. He did a great job.”
The board was presented with an update on their FY 2023-24 local budget.
“The county commission approved our budget on the 19th of June,” said Superintendent Stephen Gainey. “I’m very excited to announce that they approved everything we asked for in our local budget. It was $1,428,000, and it was all current expense requests. Our annual current expense request funding has increased by $6,588,974 since the end of the 2013-2014 school year. So that’s a pretty big jump.
“What’s equally exciting is that over the last ten years, our current expense funding has averaged an increase of $658,897.40 per year, and last year at this time, it was $573,000. It has not only gone up considerably, but we’ve significantly increased the average. I’m very excited about that.”
An important time from the approved budget that Gainey also pointed out was the increase in classified supplements.
“One of the special items in that budget request was increasing our classified employee supplements,” Ganey said. “So now when we start this school year, our classified supplements will have risen from 2.5% to 5.25%.
The board also recognized Shanna Good, a math interventionist at Trinity Middle School, who was named an NCCAT Honored Educator Scholar for Randolph County.
“Shanna Good has been named a 2023-2024 Lynda Petty Honored Educator Scholar,” Gainey said. “With this scholarship, she gets to go to a program of her choice at the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching. The scholarship will cover all expenses for instruction, program material, food, lodging, travel to and from and cost of substitute teachers. She also receives a $250 monetary gift to use on supplies in her classroom. I just want to congratulate Dr. Good for earning this great honor named after Ms. Lynda Petty, who was one of the all-time great people that’s ever been associated with our school system.”
According to the NCCAT website, the Randolph County scholarship “honors the late Lynda Petty, who dedicated her life to improving public education for the children of Randolph County. Mrs. Petty, known as the “First Lady of NASCAR,” supported the Randolph County community in many ways, but most commendably, she served as a local leader in education. During her lifetime, Lynda served as a school volunteer, and from 1984 to 2000, served as a member of the Randolph County Board of Education, including taking on the role as its Chairperson for seven years. NCCAT’s Lynda Petty Honored Educator Scholarship pays tribute to her lifelong commitment to the teaching profession.”
“Lynda did a lot for this school board,” Cook said. “She wasn’t on here when I came on, but her mark was here.”
The Randolph County Schools Board of Education will next meet August 21.
ASHEBORO – There will be five candidates for three spots on the City of Asheboro City Council.
Candidates to file by Friday’s deadline are Eddie Burks, Jane Hughes Redding, Charles Swiers, Harry Okeke and Joey Trogdon. Burks, Redding and Swiers are incumbents.
** For the Asheboro City Schools Board of Education the candidates are incumbents Gidget Kidd, Ryan Patton and Gwenn Williams along with Melissa Calloway and Todd Dulaney.
** Mayor Filmore York will run unopposed in Liberty. Greg Carpenter and incumbent Don Herndon are the filers for Liberty town commissioner.
** In Franklinville, Priscellia Dunn and L. McKay Whatley are running for town commissioner.
** Ramseur mayor Vicki Caudle will be opposed by Hampton Spivey for that position. J.C. Parrish and Tresa Cheek Hatchell will try to retain their spots as a Ramseur town commissioner, while Jay Hubbard is also running.
** In Randleman, Mike Dawkins, Marty Leonard and Kim Grooms Keaton are running for alderman at-large positions. Others on the ballot will be Steve Grooms Jr. (Ward 1), Renee Bryant (Ward 1), Lee Hinson (Ward 4) and Kimmy Williams (Ward 4).
** In Seagrove, incumbents Homer Beheler and Carol Kim will be on the ballot for town commissioner.
** In Staley, the mayor candidates are incumbent Karen Scotton and Michelle Hooker-Ravenell. Five commissioner candidates are Renee Harrelson, Steven Rollins, Lori Lynn Langley-Hankins, Sherri Martin and Faye Johnson.
Races in High Point and Thomasville include a limited number of Randolph County residents.
** High Point’s mayoral candidates are Victor Jones, Cyril Jefferson, Abdul Rashid (Richard) Siddiqui and Gene Kininmonth.
The at-large candidates for High Point City Council are Sam Carr, Shazia Iqbal, Orel Henry, Britt W. Moore, Amanda Cook, Willie H. Davis and Kenneth Jabari Harper Jr. In Ward 3, Monica Peters and Rizwan Bahadur are running.
** Thomasville City Council candidates are Ronald Fowler, Eric Kuppel, Paul Widener Peters, Lisa Shell, Payton Williams and Dana Skeen Lomba.
ASHEBORO – Earlier this month the North Carolina Zoo welcomed a newborn chimp. The baby girl still needs a name.
NC Zoo’s troop now consists of 17 chimpanzees – females Gigi, Amy, Ebi, Gari, Genie (the mother of the new chimp), Gerre, Ruby, Tammy, Asha and the new infant; males – Jonathan, Lance, Sokoto, Kendall, Gus and Obi and the new infant.
The North Carolina Zoo Society members will vote on the baby chimpanzee’s name in the upcoming weeks.
The newest baby has been active and nursing, according to Zoo officials.
“Genie is doing so well being a first-time mom,” North Carolina Zoo animal keeper Sarah Himmelspach said. “Genie’s childcare practice with her little brother Obi is definitely coming in handy. The baby girl is so strong and holding on tight whenever mom moves. Little girl’s uncle Obi has been very curious but respectful as mom and baby get more comfortable with the rest of the troop.”
Genie, who is 11 years old, is a first-time mother and was born at the Dallas Zoo in 2011. She arrived at the NC Zoo in 2012 with three other family members – mom Gerre, grandmother Gari and aunt Gigi.
Chimps are very protective of their young, and mothers hold the infants exclusively to their chest until about four months of age; only then are they allowed on the ground to begin exploring.
The most recent chimp births were a male born to Gigi in May and male Obi and female Asha in 2019, who are now rambunctious toddlers.
This is the seventh chimp birth at the North Carolina Zoo since 2010, making the NC Zoo the most successful Association of Zoos and Aquariums for breeding chimps. The Chimpanzee Species Survival Plan, managed by the AZA, recommended this planned birth.
The gestation period for chimpanzees is 230 days. Chimps have an average lifespan of 35-40 years in zoos.
Chimps are one of the five types of great apes, along with gorillas, orangutans, bonobos and humans. They are well-known for their intelligence and tool use. Chimps communicate in a variety of ways, including vocalizations, gestures and body posture, and facial expressions, allowing them to maintain complex relationships within communities that can number over 100 individuals in the wild.
Demolition crews were working at the site of Franklinville United Methodist Church last week. (PJ Ward-Brown/North State Journal)
FRANKLINVILLE – Members of the Franklinville United Methodist Church are saving what they can as the church is demolished following a wall collapse July 6.
Emergency crews responded to the Franklinville United Methodist Church on South Main Street after a report of a commercial fire. The arriving units didn’t find a fire but did find that one of the walls of the church had collapsed.
Initial reports from fire crews were that the collapse may have been caused by an explosion from a gas leak, but the explosion theory was quickly ruled out as the cause as the gas leak was believed to have been triggered by an air-conditioning unit falling onto a gas line during the wall collapse.
The next day, two additional sections of the wall also collapsed.
“This was expected to happen,” said Rev. Michele Hill in an email. “Those falls opened the gaping hole more and took two very old and beautiful stained-glass windows with them.”
The congregation isn’t letting not having an available building keep them from their usual worship services.
“(On July 9) we worshiped in the local park with members from several other United Methodist Churches joining us for support, as well as people from the community,” Hill said. “We shared Holy Communion, and it was a lovely experience.”
In upcoming weeks, the church will be meeting at the Franklinville Diner, just a short walking distance from the church.
Many early records for the church have been lost to time, but according to the Town of Franklinville website the church’s history dates to 1839, when Elisha Coffin deeded 1.64 acres to “Trustees for the Methodist Episcopal Church … who shall erect thereon a house or place of worship.”
That’s old enough to pre-date the town itself which was incorporated from a village to a town by the state legislature in 1847. The organs and chimes were added in 1953.
With that much history in one building the entire town is affected by the church’s demolition.
“This church held memories for all: baptisms, recitals, confirmations, weddings, graduations, funerals and so much more. The church was used by the townspeople in many ways through the years,” Hill said.
Crews have been able to demolish the entire sanctuary, but not before Franklinville firefighters were able to save the baptismal font, the Bible, the church bell (which they rang one last time before taking it down), the cross from the steeple, and several stained-glass windows.
A time capsule exists under the steeple that dates to the late 1800s, but church officials aren’t sure if they will ever be able to retrieve it.
Hill continues to express her gratitude to the first responders as well as the community.
“We are so grateful for all the first responders who were there that night, specifically the Franklinville Fire Department who has gone was beyond the call of duty,” she said.
ASHEBORO — The Randolph County Board of Commissioners met Monday, July 10, with decisions on opioid settlement funding and project bids as the main items on the agenda for consideration.
The board was first presented with a final update on the design of the Farm, Food and Family Center from HH Architecture, the firm working on the project.
“With all of the updates that we’ve made, we’re still right around a $29.2 million total budget,” said HH Architecture Project Architect Daniel Jencks. “That’s a touch more than the $28.3 that we currently have secured, but it’s important to note that we are within 3.5% of that number which is well within the comfort zone where we would normally recommend folks to go ahead and bid.
“We’ve worked really hard to pull things out of the scope or to dial back to less expensive items, but unfortunately, we’ve really just kept pace with inflation.”
Following the presentation, the board approved the preceding of bidding for the project.
The board of commissioners also approved $900,000 for several opioid settlement funding applications, although much deliberation took place about which ones to approve and the perceived effectiveness of these programs.
The organizations recommended for $50,000 in funding with an option to renew for two additional years each that were approved were the Randolph County Juvenile Day Reporting Center for early intervention practices, Randolph County Detention Center for Naloxone distribution, Randolph County Detention Center for addiction treatment for incarcerated persons and Randolph County Department of Social Services for recovery support services.
Morse Clinic for evidence-based addiction treatment and Community Hope Alliance for Naloxone distribution also passed, but with dissent from Chairman Darrell Frye and Commissioner Kenny Kidd.
“We’ve heard that it is critical to accept people where they are and to build relationships because what’s part of what’s missing in their addiction is relationships and connections is the opposite of where they are, and we’ve not done a good job of that,” said Commissioner Hope Haywood. “We can criticize the way somebody else is doing this, but we haven’t done it. If we had, we would have had a greater impact.”
The recommended programs that failed to get a majority vote from the commissioners were Community Hope Alliance for syringe service programs and Keaton’s Place for recovery support services.
“This is a pretty conservative, common-sense kind of county, and for the average person that I talk to and even I, having studied this and researched it and going and looking at harm reduction and trying to understand that better, I can’t understand how we can say distributing 192,000 needles last year in Randolph County makes sense for Randolph County,” said Commissioner Kenny Kidd. “I don’t care if the other 99 counties in North Carolina are doing it; Randolph County is different.”
In both cases, Commissioners Allen and Haywood were the dissenting votes from the majority, instead voting to approve the programs.
“In attending the opioid summit, listening to commissioners who have had children who have lost their lives to this… to me, it’s the compassion of it,” Allen said. “If we can save a life or two, to me, it’s worth it. We seem to think that this is a moral failing, but people make bad decisions.”
“I would like to point out too that this is a reimbursement,” Allen added. “So, the funds are not being just given. There is a reimbursement process, and there is also accountability after the first year. It’s not as if we’re giving money to an organization, and we don’t know what happens to it. There is accountability for these funds when they’re expended, and it’s not just giving somebody a blank check.”
The board then approved an aging services bid utilizing Block Grant funding and the 2023-24 classification and pay plan.
The board was then presented with the rebid results for the historic courthouse elevator addition.
“The base bid is now just the elevator addition with four alternates,” said County Engineer Paxtor Arthurs. “Alternate 1 was for a preferred brand of door hardware; this is basically just a formality for specifying a single manufacturer. Alternate 2 is raising the landing at the front steps because of a safety issue when the door swings out over a step. Alternate 3 is to upgrade the guardrails on the north steps and also to enclose the west steps when that handicap lift is removed, and Alternate 4 is to replace the HVAC unit up in the attic.”
The low bid went to H.M. Kern Corporation, as their base bid was $1.9 million, and with the other alternates, came to a total of $2,162,000.
“By rebidding the project, we were able to save over $500,000,” Arthurs said.
However, the commissioners vetoed tabling the decision in order to take more time to research the bidder due to concerns over how much cheaper they were than the other bidders.
Finally, the board approved the bid offer for the Northgate wellness center construction. The bid went to Lomax Construction and will have a total project cost of $349,500.
The Randolph County Board of Commissioners will next meet August 7.