Featured In This Issue
CRG Leverages Staffing Strengths
S hared cultural values—strong work ethic, great company culture, and unsurpassed service for clients—are what propelled the union of three regional staffing firms to expand CRG, a staffing and consulting firm with more than 20 years’ experience in the Triad, Triangle and Charlotte markets.
The firm has leveraged its distinctive strengths, recently completing a branding overhaul, and is poised for expansion across the Southeast with a model that gives top talent a stake in their office’s market success.
Jason Heller, a veteran of the staffing industry since 1998 and presently CRG vice president of mergers and acquisition and sales, is credited with corralling the talents of Edmund Walker of W2 Financial, Christiaan Militello and Dianne Gold of Professional Computer Resources (PCR), and Tim Sessoms of ComputerNet Resource Group in High Point, to form a powerhouse staffing firm.
“The idea was to put together a group of companies as a rollup, allowing for greenfield opportunities as well as dynamic growth, as well as being able to do acquisitions,” describes Sessoms, who had turned down earlier overtures to join the initiative until they gathered at Heller’s kitchen table in Cornelius one morning in November 2013.
“I went there, we talked about it, I met the other people and realized it was a quality group of people that looked at this industry and this business much the same way I did,” continues Sessoms. “I felt like all of them were folks of good character. I got excited about the concept: I looked around the table and thought this could be a great combination.”
Sessoms remains CEO of CRG, Heller is senior vice president of mergers, acquisitions and sales, Walker is vice president of temporary operations, Militello is vice president of IT search, and Dianne Gold, is director of human resources.
The partners spent last year merging their staffs, policies, procedures, and software. This year, with the integration complete, the company has added 19 new clients, for a total of 46 and expects to reach $26 million in revenue, including $20 million in IT alone, along with a stable of over 300 consultants.
“Our candidate databases and CRM’s were combined and we now have access to over 100,000 candidates with 90 percent of them within 50 miles of either office,” touts Sessoms. “That along with keeping 95 percent of the customers since the merger has put CRG on a trajectory of double digit growth.”
In addition to IT, CRG focuses on accounting and finance as well as human resources administration, including executive searches for global directors, CIOs, CFOs, and controllers. It keeps a diverse portfolio rather than relying on the large banking industry in the area.
“Ideally we’re looking for the producer who’s tired of working for the large national firm,” Heller says, explaining that the arrangement combines the most desirable qualities of entrepreneurship and big-company affiliation. “They can join our company and grow to the next level. That’s how we envision growing this company.”
Heller says CRG aims to reach $30 million next year and $50 million in five years. The combined firm has both a Charlotte office and High Point office covering the Charlotte, Triad and Triangle markets, and plans to expand to Raleigh, followed by Washington, D.C., Tampa, and Atlanta as early as 2017.
Leading an Evolving Industry
The staffing industry, both permanent placements and temporary contracts, has evolved significantly in recent years, with jobs reaching to high-paying levels.
“When you say ‘temporary,’ most people think of that entry-level admin, somebody on a ladder in a warehouse,” says Heller. “Temporary includes a hundred-dollar-an-hour IT professional or accounting professional. We’ve got people out in the field at over $200 an hour.”
Workers recognize that drastic economic changes have ended their parents’ and grandparents’ expectations of career-long stability at one company, ending with a gold watch and pension.
“In corporate America, there is no more security,” Heller says. “People know they don’t work anywhere for 20 years any longer. You don’t want a temporary job? Every job is temporary. What you’re finding now is people saying, ‘I don’t want a permanent job.’ They love working on an assignment for six months, then getting to go do another one. The whole dynamic has shifted. Companies have started to see it as well.”
“CRG enables such a career by providing a generous benefits package for not only their internal employees but also all their contract employees, with access for everyone including $12-an-hour workers, we offer full medical, dental, disability and 401K options for all their employees and consultants.” Gold says.
“We make money by treating our people like gold,” Sessoms says. “We want to make sure we are different. I fully understand the bad reputation our industry gets. What you hear from candidates is, ‘They just want to get my butt in a seat and get billing.’ The culture I want to have is, ‘Treat them the way you want to be treated.’”
On the permanent-placement side, the firm differentiates itself by finding candidates through networking rather than on job boards. “I’ve been in this market for 20 years,” Heller says. “I’m not going to go to the job board to find your next candidate. I’ll call CFOs to see who is looking and find a referral candidate.”
“We have a referral bonus plan that is second to none, with referral fees ranging from $250 to $2,500 by just providing a name and contact information,” Militello contributes. “This type of plan helps us grow organically and build a solid foundation for our future growth and turn candidates into long-term clients.”
The mix of permanent and contract placements safeguards CRG from economic swings.
“When the economy is good, they’ll hire more permanent, so our permanent business will go up,” Heller explains. “When the economy gets soft, they’ll bring on temporaries because they have to get the work done. If you structure your business correctly, you can make money in both markets.”
These days, the pendulum that had swung far toward temporaries during the recession is at an equilibrium on its way to a tighter market.
“As we came through 2010 and 2011, the abundance of candidates was great because of the economy,” Heller continues. “Right now, I think it’s ideal. It’s been almost perfect for the last year. I think what we’re going to see going into 2016 through 2017 is a tight talent market. When times were tough, even people who didn’t like their job wouldn’t leave their job. Things kind of go stagnant.
“I remember telling my clients: I promise you, when this economy starts turning for the positive, you need to pick out which employees you want to keep. Most people want to change. They think a change will help them. You’d better identify the employees you want to keep and you’d better go love on them before it gets too good.”
The Synergies of CRG
“People First” is No. 1 on CRG’s list of values, as it is core to the combination of the firms itself. The component firms had worked alongside each other, respecting each other’s work and ethics.
Sessoms started CRG with a partner in 1994, after a friend in the business told him that he thought Sessoms was perfect for the work. “He called and said, ‘I do a job every day that you were born to do,’” recalls Sessoms, who quit his job with Gov. Jim Martin and joined a staffing service. “And I’ve never looked back.”
Sessoms, who worked in his father’s plumbing and heating company from childhood, aimed to apply the family firm’s values to his company.
“I do have a very strong work ethic,” he says, “and I appreciate a good team of people. Together, we wanted to make CRG the fairest place you could ever come to work.”
Heller, who had spent seven years as a securities broker, moved in 1998 to the staffing industry, “I started like a lot of people in a sales role and recruiting role for a large national firm,” says Heller, who quickly rose to manager in the Washington, D.C. area and was eventually transferred to Charlotte.
Heller ended up starting his own search firm with a partner, which they successfully grew and sold to a national firm. In 2013, Heller and his partner were talking about starting a new staffing company with a different approach.
“Instead of starting it from scratch, we wanted to raise private funds, then look for private equity to bring together a couple of different staffing firms,” he says, “with a goal of starting as a $10 million to $15 million company.”
That’s when Heller approached Sessoms, whose 19-year-old $15 million ComputerNet Resource Group, specializing in information technology, had long-established enterprise relationships.
Heller also talked to a former competitor, Edmund Walker, who started W2 Financial with Dann Wall in 2002, and Christiaan Militello and Dianne Gold, owners of 18-year-old PCR, an IT staffing firm.
“The principals of the companies knew each other and had competed against each other in some form or fashion,” Heller explains. “I wanted to beat W2 when I competed against them, but I respected them. I knew them and knew they were good guys; we had always stayed in touch with each other. We wanted to work together.”
At first Sessoms wasn’t interested, but eventually Heller convinced him to come to a meeting that was the beginning of molding these great companies together. As a matter of fact, it was Sessoms who suggested using CRG as the foundation for the combined entity, rather than seeking private money.
“The whole thing changed at that point,” Heller recalls. Sessoms remained CEO of the combined entities and the new CRG was born.
“As far as making this thing actually happen, that’s Tim,” Heller says forthrightly.
With his extensive background in combining companies, Heller was put in charge of synthesizing the partners’ firms as well as merger and acquisition work.
“The hardest part has been integrating the owners,” Heller quips. “We’re all used to doing things our own way. But seriously, we’re basically integrating three brands to have the same CRM, procedures and policies. You’ve got to keep your front office driving the business while the back office integrates people and practices from three companies.
Even as the details were ironed out, the total value of the company’s Charlotte operations grew from $7 million to $10 million by the end of 2014, with a total of $24 million counting the Triad/ Triangle operation.
“I look back, and I’m so blessed it happened,” Heller says. “The No. 1 word I can tell you is ‘humility.’ I said, ‘We’ll make this successful if we can stuff our egos in our pockets.’ The owners had to swallow their pride and say, ‘I know this is how I used to do it, but what’s the best way to do it together?’”
The firm leverages its location and long experience in Charlotte to maintain a healthy, diversified client base.
“Everyone thinks about Charlotte as being the banking capital—which it is—but we’re able to grow and drive a business without doing any banking because of where it’s located—the airport and Fortune 500 headquarters here,” Walker comments. “Candidates from all over the country want to come here. It’s such a desirable place to be for all ages.
“This is a great market for our business. It is much easier to recruit to North Carolina than to a lot of other places. Whether you call an IT professional, an HR director, a CPA or an MBA—working in Detroit, Buffalo or Columbus—and ask if they want to come work in North Carolina, the answer is always, “Yes!”
There is no doubt CRG is well-positioned for unprecedented long-term growth with just the right combination of owners, management and key employees in place
CRG Workforce, Inc. dba
9335 Harris Corners Pkwy., Ste. 250
Charlotte, N.C. 28269
Principals: Tim Sessoms, President and CEO; Jason Heller, Sr. V.P. Mergers & Acquisitions and Sales; Edmund Walker, V.P. Temporary Operations; Christiaan Militello, V.P. IT ConsultingDianne Gold, Director of HR
Offices: Headquartered in Greensboro/High Point, N.C.; Charlotte office
Employees: More than 300
In Business: Founded 1994
Business: Recruiting and consulting services company focused in the areas of information technology, accounting and finance, human resources and administration and search.
Building Your Beverage
BYB Brands Creates and Sells Brands People Want!
Norman George sat among his Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Consolidated peers antsy—ready for a change. He’d been with the company for several decades. He loved the complexities of the beverage industry; that every day brought a new challenge and new reward. He also appreciated the Christian-based leadership of J. Frank Harrison III, chairman and CEO of the Charlotte-based company.
But, his entrepreneurial spirit needed to be fed in a new way. So, he decided to toss an idea to the board.
“At the time, I was wondering how unknown beverage ideas bring their flavors to life,” George remembers, leaning back in his chair. “For me, Coke would always be at the top of the list. But, I knew that people’s tastes were expanding, and I thought the company had an opportunity to expand with them.”
With the agreement of the board, George began the process of creating BYB Brands as a division within the company dedicated to brand creation for new beverages with George as general manager.
“I wasn’t aiming for the role, but I guess he who has the idea has to make it happen, right?” he chuckles, recalling the swift transition in his career.
In the last 10 years, George and the BYB Team have launched two major beverage lines and elevated the company to new ownership and a wider distribution base.
Building a Brand
The first brand created by BYB was Cinnabon Lattes. George, with his creative passion for business, saw an opportunity in beverages that started as niche.
Bottled coffee was a new concept and popular with a wide demographic, so BYB cut a license deal with Focus Brands, Cinnabon’s parent company, to build the sweet and decadent flavor of the world-famous Cinnabon rolls into a premium ready-to-drink coffee.
Cinnabon Lattes were in the marketplace for about a year and a half while bottled lattes were all the rage; however, this brand could not gain national consumer traction and the BYB team decided to retire the product and move on.
“The beverage industry is tough,” George affirms, shaking his head. “I’ve been in it more than 30 years and I continue to marvel at what works and what does not.”
Over the years, George’s team built and launched a multitude of beverages including Country Breeze and Bazza Teas, Bean and Body coffee, Fuel in a Bottle, and Tum-E Yummies. Of these, only Tum-E Yummies remains in the marketplace.
In fact, Tum-E Yummies is growing in reach. The low-sugar, fruit-flavored beverage is No. 1 in retail dollar sales in the convenience retail channel across the U.S. (AC Nielsen) in the Juice Drink Category and now expanding into grocery stores.
Tum-E Yummies hit the market in February 2006. George and his team saw an opportunity in low-calorie beverages for children. With a marketing plan targeted specifically to parents and caretakers who want to treat their children with a low-sugar drink, his team began formulating Tum-E Yummies.
Tum-E Yummies is a line of great-tasting, non-carbonated, fruit-flavored water drinks. They are loaded with 100 percent daily value vitamins B6, B12 and C. Each bottle has 50 calories, 13 grams of sugar, and no sodium. Tum-E Yummies are packaged in a 10.1 oz. bottle with a sport cap and are available in five flavors (Very Berry Blue, Orange-arific, Fruitabulous Punch, Greentastic Apple, and Sour-sational Raspberry).
Within in three years, Tum-E Yummies grew into 85 percent of the Coca-Cola Bottling direct store delivery markets. In 2009, when many were having challenges, BYB’s Tum-E Yummies was succeeding. Tum-E Yummies is now in more than 100,000 retail outlets across the U.S.
“Tum-E Yummies was cash-positive after three years and has been every year since,” George remarks. He hails his hard-working team for the success; many were selling Tum-E Yummies out of personal vehicles, in parking lots, basically anywhere and everything to build a product in which they believed.
The brand has also launched a multi-pack line extension sweetened with a blend of real sugar and stevia. The additional blend features the same vitamin-packed ingredients as the company’s original product, while being responsive to the growing demand for alternative sweeteners.
Beverages That Succeed
George’s pride in his team has helped them reach the shared destination that completes the vision of BYB. The company’s destination is to “Be leaders and win in the marketplace.”
Creating a beverage that succeeds in the marketplace takes a balance of art and science. Choosing different drinks, flavors and ideas requires a variety of tactics: evaluating categories and consumer needs not being met or with few choices in the space, attending beverage entrepreneurial shows to see emerging products, and entertaining very small beverage upstarts interested in investments or purchasing from BYB.
Once a beverage is in the BYB wheelhouse, the company begins to study its competitive landscape. They need to understand the targeted consumer base for the product and the growth potential in the marketplace.
The beverages are then packaged and branded for testing in consumer focus groups throughout the country. BYB tests things like the concept and packaging first, i.e., no brand name is attached to a beverage when it hits the senses of the consumer focus group. The idea is to gather as much information as possible regarding the consumer’s willingness to purchase it before branding it.
However, George knows that testing, research and data analysis can only get a beverage so far in this highly competitive industry.
“The best potential product in the world will not overcome picking the wrong distribution partner,” he explains. “Not all products are suitable for the big brand beverage companies. Some are better served through more nurturing routes that will allow them to build to scale. It’s for that reason that BYB exists.”
George points out that building the next billion-dollar brand takes more than tenacity. “It takes an understanding of the industry, the courage to take risks, the grace to accept failures, and a leadership ability that embraces success while exuding humility,” a talent that he comments is almost lost in the business world today.
BYB Brands will continue to move down the path of trying to answer consumer need states that haven’t been met yet, George says.
“We’re innovators, and we’ve got to think differently,” he says. “We’ve got a different mission that has a different feel to ensure that we’re quick, nimble and easy to do business with. We’ve got to be quick to respond.”
Creating a Culture
George admits the first 18 months were tough. Through the brands launched and many more ideas considered, he discovered success has a short memory. He’s learned from mistakes made, but has not dwelt on them. And, he’s surrounded himself with a strong team.
He says his folks hustled for their success because they believed in the brands they were creating. But even more than belief in the brands, they believed in the culture being modeled by the leadership team.
George readily acknowledges he knows who he is and what kind of people he wants to lead. He emphatically states, “I have passion every day I get up. I enjoy the industry and its complexities. If you have a good product and good people who believe in the product, you will do great.”
“Hiring is the most important decision you will make,” he declares. His hiring process has always been a team activity from the very beginning.
The process centers around the mission of BYB Brands: To create and sell brands people want! It then leads into values which include: innovation, passion, undying optimism, and respect. During interviews, candidates are asked situational questions in an effort to glean how they have responded to similar situations in prior work and life experiences.
Through the interviewing process, George and his team begin to assess how a candidate will respond to another core part of the BYB culture: The “Gotta Do’s.” Upon talking about the “Gotta Do’s” George presents a freshly laminated document listing them to demonstrate how serious he is about these 14 actions that each person on his team has “gotta be willing to do.”
The actions include: Always do the right thing; be flexible and fast; take action; live within our means; have fun and demonstrate a sense of humor.
George says that to succeed, potential team members have to have muscle and experience. They have to be willing to share experiences in the field—be book smart and street savvy. George also stresses the importance of surrounding one’s self with different people who have different experiences from different walks of life.
Team members have bought into George’s vision and “Gotta Do’s” readily. What started with George and his idea has grown to 40 full-time team members stretching from San Diego to Charlotte to Boston.
George emphatically attributes their success and growth to the culture. “People look at your feet, not at your mouth,” he says repeatedly. “Culture is a huge part of who we are. I’m so proud of our folks.”
BYB Brands success isn’t limited to the brands it has built. It recently was acquired by The Coca-Cola Company in a stock purchase, becoming the newest addition to the Venturing and Emerging Brands (VEB) business unit. BYB Brands now finds itself in unit with such illustrious brands as Honest Tea, Hubert’s Lemonade, Hansen’s Natural Soda, and ZICO Coconut Water.
Coke’s VEB unit was created in 2007 to identify and build the next generation of billion-dollar brands in North America. VEB breaks down the players in the beverage market into one of five phases of development based on company revenues: Experimentation (less than $10 million), Proof of Concept (between $10 million and $50 million), Pain of Growth (between $50 million and $150 million), Scale to Win (between $150 million and $350 million), and Mainstream (billion-dollar brands).
Rather than waiting until a company breaks into the mainstream to consider an investment or acquisition, VEB identifies interesting companies earlier along the growth curve. Specifically, VEB targets companies that have reached the Proof of Concept phase, since they have already beaten the odds and established themselves in the marketplace.
VEB’s strategy is to take a minority interest in the company first and, then, if the company continues to be successful, The Coca-Cola Company might acquire 100 percent of the business.
Only 3 percent of all beverage brands reach VEB’s Proof of Concept phase, and George and his team can take the credit for boosting BYB’s Tum-E Yummies into the inner circle.
“We’re very excited about our new owners, and equally grateful for the incredible support of the Consolidated board,” George says, with more than a little pride.
Being part of the larger entity will extend BYB Brands Tum-E Yummies’ reach into grocery stores. It’s currently No. 1 in consumer sales in the youth drink category in the convenience retail category. George believes this top rating, along with the nurturing environment with VEB, will bring strong standings in grocery stores as well.
With change in ownership comes a new opportunities for BYB, too. In September 2015, the BYB teams began helping support Peace Tea. Bottled teas are the top product for the late teen to early 30s demographic and second overall for most-consumed non-alcoholic beverages.
Peace Tea is marketed as the connector of people, places and things which inspire, encourage and promote peace. It comes in six flavors and is only 50 calories per serving, with no high fructose corn syrup and no artificial colors.
George knows working on Peace Tea is an exciting moment for his team. It allows them to leverage previous learnings to lead to more success.
George says he is looking forward to continuing the integration with Coca-Cola North America’s Venturing and Emerging Brands business unit, and to support new opportunities while experiencing compounded growth for the Tum-E Yummies and Peace Tea brands.
George enjoys building…building brands…building divisions…building cultures. It’s likely, within the next decade, he’ll build the next billion-dollar beverage. It’s also likely he’ll give all the credit to his BYB teammates as he sits back in his chair and enjoys a cool beverage of his own design.
But then, maybe, he’ll throw back an ice-cold Coca-Cola in celebration of the brand’s 100th anniversary of its patented “hobbleskirt” bottle.
BYB Brands, Inc.
(Part of Venturing and Emerging Brands of Coca-Cola North America)
2101 Rexford Rd., Ste. 236E
Charlotte, N.C. 28221
Principals: Norman C. George, General Manager; Erin Kelly, V.P. Marketing; Michael Rigtrup, V.P. U.S. West Region; Kyle Thomas, V.P. U.S. Central Region; Brad Keinsley, V.P. U.S. East Region; Gerry Vetter, Director of Supply Chain/Procurement
In Business: 10 years (purchased August 2015; created by previous owner Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Consolidated)
Current Brands: Tum-E Yummies; also supports Peace Tea
Business: Incubation unit, founded by Coca-Cola Bottling Company Consolidated, is now part of Coca-Cola North America’s Venturing and Emerging Brands (VEB) business unit, for brand creation.
MANA Nutrition is Saving Lives With a Simple Formula
This dense mixture of peanut butter paste, vitamins, milk, oil, and sugar comes in a small squeezable packet about the size of an iPhone. Administered three times per day for six weeks, it can rescue a young child from the nutritional cliff which is poised to take his or her life.
Called RUTF, ready-to-use therapeutic food, this is the product that Charlotte-based MANA Nutritive Aid Products, Inc. manufactures and distributes under the leadership of founder and CEO Mark Moore. The company’s headquarters is appropriately located in a former grist mill that helped to feed people for over 150 years.
The MANA product is used to treat severe acute malnutrition (SAM) and has been proven effective in saving millions of lives around the world.
Severe Acute Malnutrition
SAM is defined as a weight-for-height measurement of 70 percent or less below the median, by visible severe wasting, or by the presence of nutritional oedema. An estimated 20 million children currently suffer from severe acute malnutrition. Most are in south Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Approximately one million children die each year as a result of SAM, which can be a direct cause of death or can compromise a child’s immune system, leading to other fatal diseases. Malnutrition accounts for 35 percent of deaths among children under five years of age.
MANA was founded in 2009. The name stands for Mother-Administered Nutritive Aid and is a reflection of the company’s dedicated belief that moms are the best and most trustworthy allies in fighting malnutrition.
Prior to the use of RUTFs, the protocol for treating SAM was to get the child to a health care facility, a process that was severely limited by logistics. Many countries don’t have a set of national health policies or a health infrastructure in place to treat severe malnutrition.
If a mother is able to bring their child to a hospital, she is more than likely leaving other young children behind in similar condition. With RUTFs, mothers can directly feed their children.
“RUTF is like peanut butter on steroids. It’s an amazing product.” exclaims Moore. Approximately 94 percent of the children who are treated with RUTF are successfully pulled back from the nutritional cliff.
“It’s for kids beyond hunger; they’ve ceased to be hungry due to nutritional deficiency,” says Moore. “When you cease to be hungry—physically, mentally, spiritually—you are dying.”
A child dies every 10 seconds—more than malaria, AIDS, TB combined times three—according to Moore. “SAM is a huge killer of children, dying for no reason…dying simply because they don’t have a little peanut butter and powdered milk.”
Many factors can contribute to children facing the nutritional cliff such as drought, bad government, war, and parents losing a job. “In Sudan, most children born today will be born on a nutritional cliff—born hungry to hungry moms, living hungry, and, in too many cases, dying hungry,” says Moore.
RUTFs can be used starting with children as young as six months old. While breast feeding is always preferable, in many cases mothers are unable to produce and provide breast milk. In order to determines who needs RUTF, Children are assessed using a special band that measures the upper arm
“Sometimes they are just measuring the bone,” laments Moore. Six months to two-to-three years is a window of opportunity for good nutrition. The RUTF treatment comes as part of a six week program of community management of acute malnutrition education and counseling, or CMAM. RUTF is a key element to treatment as it helps prevent a return to the nutritional cliff.
MANA is basically a peanut butter product. Organizations such as Doctors Without Borders already had a powdered milk formula.
“The problem with that,” explains Moore,” is that it has to be reconstituted. In many cases, there is a lack of clean water to mix it with and dirty, polluted water may kill the child.”
Additionally, Moore says, mixing such small and precise amounts of powdered milk is often challenging for mothers.
“When the stomach of the kid is the size of a ping pong ball,” Moore acknowledges, “small mistakes can throw the treatment way off.” Also, there are no refrigerators so storage and spoilage are serious problems.
“The formula is effective treatment for a child in a medical facility,” comments Moore, “but isn’t scalable to help the many in need. To solve the problem, the milk formula is stabilized, without water, in the peanut butter.
“Kids can tear the end off the package and squeeze the formula into their mouths. They can feed themselves. It’s sanitary.”
Moore refers to himself and members of his staff as The MANA Village, a community that just happens to be a company. “We imagine the MANA Village to be a forum for other businesses, trade associations, or non-profits to join forces to save children from severe acute malnutrition,” he says.
“The revenue we generate in excess of expenses is re-invested in things like new equipment and additional personnel, which allow us to produce more MANA and save the lives of more children. We not only make a special fortified peanut butter, we also seek to play a wider role to spread awareness of SAM and the 20 million children it affects each year.”
Moore’s knowledge of this crisis runs deeps. He has experience working on the ground in Africa as a rural development worker and also working on Africa-related issues as the Africa Specialist (deleted and added) in the US Senate and other NGO’s in the Washington DC area. In addition, Moore co-founded Kibo Group, which is a development organization that includes many Africa projects.
From the Farm Abroad
MANA manufactures its RUTF in a 35,000-square-foot facility in Fitzgerald, Ga., in the heart of peanut country.
“There was already a big peanut processing culture and facility there,” says Moore, who became acquainted with the company called Golden Boy Foods that makes peanut butter under private labels.
“We told them we wanted to buy bulk and we built our factory right across the street. They take peanuts, roast them, grind them and turn them into peanut paste. They send it across the street where we add other ingredients and package it with nitrogen flushing for a long shelf life.
“The MANA factory currently employs 55 local Georgia workers and turns out more than 32,000 packets per hour, enough to feed 11,000 starving children per day. In all, we’ve made 150 million packets since we started, and we’ve treated 1.4 million children with our product,” touts Moore.
MANA has two primary clients: the United Nations (UNICEF) and the U. S. government (USAID).
“We’re part of the supply chain. Tenders come out from these two clients and we seek to be the company that fills those orders.” There are three other companies in the U. S. that make RUTF. The U.S. government is one of the biggest funders of the product.
“UNICEF and USAID have wide distribution networks and established reputations in our target countries to make sure that MANA ends up in the right hands,” describes Moore. “They partner with local governments or non-governmental organizations working on the ground.”
MANA has shipped RUTF to 35 countries, including Kenya, Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi, Chad, Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Syria, Pakistan, North Korea, and Guatemala, to name a few.
The need for RUTF is enormous, but the marketplace has its limits. “As a business, we have very little power in the market; we tend to just respond to it,” says Moore, explaining that the U. S. and UNICEF budgets together are capped at about $160 million. “But it’s a billion dollar problem.
“No business wants to have just one or two customers,” explains Moore. “If UNICEF couldn’t buy our product for some reason, it would be bad for us right now,…and more importantly bad for kids. We’re trying to plan ahead for the future and hedge against changes that might adversely affect both our business and the kids we serve such as changes from an election that might cut budgets.”
Through the establishment of a new non profit organization in 2014, Moore’s team has developed a way to generate more funds for MANA and pump out more RUTF. It’s known as Calorie Cloud (www.caloriecloud.org) and it trades on the enormous fitness and weight loss market in America—a $100 billion industry—to generate money for starving children.
MANA works with American corporations to provide incentives for a more fit and healthy labor force which, in turn, reduces insurance and health care costs. Corporations happily share in their savings by using a small percentage of those saving to produce RUTF.
“The whole world is in a battle with a dysfunctional relationship with food. In the U.S. that manifests in obesity,” says Moore. “We thought, ‘What if we could go to these people and ask them to give us their extra calories, and then we turn around and give those calories to a hungry child?’ That’s a big deal…a real incentive to losing weight and keeping it off. It’s a win-win-win for hungry children, MANA, and corporations.”
Moore believes the Calorie Cloud concept has huge potential. The Calorie Cloud platform already has one large partner in UNICEF US fund, where they have launched UNICEF Kid Power, billed as the first ever wearable for good platform. Kid Power is an effort to fight childhood obesity and inactivity in the USA and malnutrition in Africa as well.
The bands are in Target Stores and are backed by great partners like Star Wars and Lucas Films. Moore points out, “The Kid Power launch is proof of the wider concept, that people right here in the USA can get active and help others.”
After graduating from Harding University, a small Christian college in Arkansas, Moore lived in eastern Uganda for nine years serving with his wife as missionaries.
“Because my wife is a registered nurse, we tended to see a lot of people needing health care. Malnutrition was not our reason for being in Uganda, but we certainly saw malnourished children. Looking back we saw them every day and many times did not even know it.
Upon returning to the United States, he earned a master’s degree at Georgetown University and then served as a Legislative Fellow and Africa Specialist in the United States Senate. It was there that Moore was exposed to food aid issues and first learned about RUTF.
Moore started MANA with the help of friends Bret Raymond, David Todd Harmon and Brett Biggs. Biggs now serves on the board, Harmon leads the MANA operational team and Raymond championed acceptability studies and other efforts in Rwanda before starting another hunger-related non-profit in Arkansas.
Moore chose Charlotte as the company’s headquarters, relatively close to the Fitzgerald factory. A main consideration was the accessibility to a major airport. Moore now lives in Charlotte with his wife and four children.
In the beginning, raising the money was tough, according to Moore. The Halbert Harmon Foundation provided $1 million. The people of Fitzgerald, Ga., wanted the jobs so they backed the effort by assisting on a $2 million loan. The biggest funder was the Children’s Investment Fund in London, which provided $13 million dollars in loans and grants.
MANA is still growing strong. A new construction project is in the works will expand their Georgia factory from 35,000 to 50,000 square feet. Production there will double within three years time, according to Moore.
MANA won’t solve the problem of world hunger. But it will help a desperate mother feed her starving child. And to that mother, and that child, that means everything.
“I love my job,” says Moore. “It’s an honor to go to work every day and know we are making a difference. Someday, we hope, the scientists and the economists and the politicians will find a comprehensive solution to the problem of world hunger. And we hope that day comes soon. But until then…there’s MANA.”
MANA Nutritive Aid Products, Inc. dba
130 Library Lane
Matthews, N.C. 28105
Principal: Mark Moore, Founder and CEO
Locations: Headquartered in Charlotte; facility in Fitzgerald, Ga.
Employees: 5 in Charlotte; 55 in Fitzgerald, Ga.
Business: Nonprofit manufacturer and distributor of ready-to-use therapeutic food to the global marketplace.
MemoryMemo and LifeLens Imaging:
The Sustained Capture of Memory
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but two techno entrepreneurs in Charlotte want to make them worth a whole lot more. Given the accelerating pace of digital photography and social media, they are about to strike a gold mine. For each, it was merely a matter of solving a problem.
Henry Mummaw was frustrated with having to label photos explaining where they were taken and who was in them. He remembers when he was growing up how much time his mother spent identifying him and his identical twin brother on the backs of photographs.
Greg Robey was frustrated by the sheer number of family photos he had amassed—over 12,000—well above the national average of 3,000 (per adult). And to make matters worse, a lot of those photos were deteriorating from the very chemicals used to create them.
Together, the duo have addressed those issues through the launch of separate, but “related” technology companies—one uses proprietary software to create digital “memos” to photos featuring voice and text, and the other is a proprietary service and technology model for restoring and digitizing photos.
“Henry and I believe that memories matter,” says Robey emphatically. “We have both been blessed with great family memories over the years. We want to protect them, and we believe there are millions of people like us who want to be able to do that. We’ve built some very unique technologies to accomplish that.”
“These are important technologies,” emphasizes Mummaw, “to finally create a methodology by which the entire photographic context—reality and memories—can be digitally preserved in one location.”
Digital Photos with Voice and Text
The pace of digital photography is staggering. More than 11 trillion digital images have been taken in the past 15 years, and the annual pace now exceeds one trillion. Nearly four trillion are on the Internet already, and more than 200,000 are uploaded to Facebook every minute. Constant advances in smart devices and Internet technology are only accelerating the process.
“There are upwards of 10,000 photography apps available on smartphones alone focused on editing images. We wanted to be the first application that focused on ‘the back’ of the photo,” Robey quips.
Together, he and Mummaw have developed MemoryMemo, an app for iPhone, Android and desktop computers, enabling shutterbugs to annotate each snapshot with voice and text. Their proprietary MemoryMemo software automatically collects that information—the universally-recognized “5Ws” of Who, What, When, Where and Why—in a new file extension: .memo.
The Who (the photographer), the When (date and time), and the Where (GPS location), are recorded by the smart devices used to take the photo and are attractively displayed as text in the app and desktop software. The company’s software allows the user to see the 5Ws in the .memo, but more importantly, allows the user to add text and audio to further explain the What and Why.
Users can capture up to 30 seconds of sound, called an MTrack, before and after the shot. Audio comments can also be added later. “This is the first technology to allow you to capture comments made before and after the photo is taken,” says Mummaw.
Being able to add text and actual voice to the photographic memory not only preserves the context, but enhances the meaning for future generations. The photo can actually “speak,” jogging the memories of family and friends, and providing a much more intimate experience.
The user can add information at any time and ask friends to contribute as well. The inventors created a system based on traffic signals that indicates whether the .memo is incomplete (red), in process (yellow), or complete (green). The .memo file includes an image file, text file and a voice commentary audio file. They are archived for free in the company’s cloud, called MCloud where they can be searched by any of the 5Ws.
“We capture all that information and encrypt it into one file that is your property,” Mummaw explains. “You own it. It solves the ownership problem that’s been plaguing photography forever.
“The purpose is to create an easy mechanism by which you can scan and sort through thousands of digital files and find the one you want. When you search a particular date, for example, every photograph you took on that date is found and displayed immediately,” he continues. “Now search engines will be able to create revenue opportunities from digital photos. They will be able to see and read .memo text files. They will know exactly what the photography is about.”
The company’s MWorld is a photography platform where users keep their photos private or share them, including emailing or posting on social media. Eventually users will be able to print their .memos information. By combining text with images in a new unique file extension, MemoryMemo has created a new communications medium.
The technology opens vast creative possibilities for words-and-picture albums that capture the celebration of a wedding ceremony, the hilarity of a child’s birthday party, or even a compiled life story. The company also provides training videos to make such projects easy for users.
“Instead of a high school yearbook photograph with merely a caption,’ Mummaw comments, “imagine one that, in addition to text, has QR codes next to the pictures so that the voice and words of the person could be heard at the same time. Ten years from now, that person’s voice and words will still be there.”
Other people can contribute to the context or memories at any time. For example, Robey’s mother shared old stories of her life and his childhood that he’s added to her images. “It’s amazing what I learned about my mother’s earlier days and my childhood—more than I would ever have known,” he says.
“MemoryMemo is a memory management system,” explains Mummaw, “wherein the photograph is preserved along with its memories to last forever. We want to be a solution that everyone can use and enjoy.”
In addition to the personal and social uses, the MemoryMemo utility technology has a wide range of commercial possibilities for those who use photography in their work.
Preserving Analog Memories Digitally
“For anyone born before 1995, their childhood memories are on analog photographs or slides,” Robey points out. “The chemicals that are used in the production of photos and slides begin to break down from the very beginning. We want to protect the memories on those photos and slides before they, too, begin to fade.”
With LifeLens Imaging, the founders have a process for preserving and enhancing photographs digitally, correcting for color and quality degradation at the same time. Their strategy addresses major barriers to preserving memories—90 percent of people are reluctant to part with their irreplaceable pictures for weeks while they are shipped elsewhere for processing.
LifeLens Imaging transforms paper photographs and slides into enhanced digital images with the latest Kodak Perfect Touch technology, providing unprecedented convenience and economy. Customers simply drop off the originals at their local Walgreen’s store and, at low cost and within a short period of time, their irreplaceable memories are transformed into digital photos—and even restored in the process. Walgreen’s national footprint couldn’t be more convenient, and the photos never leave the community.
LifeLens Imaging uses barcodes to track the pictures and return them to the local store in about a week after pickup. The fast, reliable service costs less while attracting more traffic to partner retailers since the LifeLens uses a proprietary marketing program called Community Partners to produce incremental traffic for their participating retailers.
In addition, LifeLens Imaging permanently archives the images at no cost to their customers to protect them against future loss.
The market for these solutions is enormous. Around the world, some 3.5 trillion analog photographs and slides are awaiting conversion to digital format. Advances in scanner technology in the past five years have enabled enhancements that correct for the effects of aging. The effect can be so dramatic and vibrant that some people replace the original in the frame with the scanned and printed copy.
The founders have completed a pilot launch of LifeLens Imaging with select Walgreen’s locations in Charlotte and plan expansion to surrounding counties and other locations nationwide in 2016. They are partnering with several civic, nonprofit and charitable organizations who earn 15 percent of revenue from their referrals.
They will roll out seven additional processing labs in 2016 that will each serve up to 300 retail stores using a hub-and-spoke system of pickup and delivery. By the end of 2017, they expect to be in all Walgreen’s stores nationwide.
Agreements with some 8,200 Walgreen’s stores, along with other major retailers, will provide access to 70 percent of the retail photo centers in the United States, and the 95 percent of Americans living within five miles of one of these stores.
To serve them, LifeLens Imaging expects first to establish 52 laboratories nationwide, with plans for up to 150. The offices will be about 2,000 square feet with scanning technicians, logistics drivers, and at least one sales manager to work with Community Partners who help attract customers and share in the revenue.
Both Mummaw and Robey share the photographic passion. Both have amassed significant experience that has helped them in their formulation of this new technology.
Mummaw has a 34-year senior management career in professional photography, including a nine-year stint with PCA International, Inc., at the time the nation’s largest portrait photography company serving most nationally known retailers. His extensive photography experience includes a long-standing relationship with Eastman Kodak, now Kodak Alaris, the world’s largest provider of photographic equipment.
Robey held numerous business development, sales and ecommerce positions for FedEx in the U.S. and Europe over a 23-year career. He was also vice president of sales operations for AmeriGas, the nation’s largest propane company for six years.
Together they launched LifeLens Imaging in 2012, and MemoryMemo the following year. Scott McNealy, the cofounder of Sun Microsystems, advises the partners in positioning both the companies for global markets. “Scott believes these are disruptive technologies,” Mummaw comments.
Charlotte connections have been central to the launch, beginning with Thurston Investments LLC, which backed the venture—rare support for a technology startup outside of Silicon Valley.
The patent law firm Trego, Hines & Ladenheim handles intellectual property issues. BGW CPA PLLC handles accounting. CC Communications, Inc. partnered with Mummaw and Robey in technology development and marketing for MemoryMemo. Vintage Marketing, Inc. in Davidson handles the website creative and marketing for LifeLens Imaging.
The complementary businesses reflect the founders’ personal interest in preserving memories by safeguarding and annotating the rich photographic record.
“That’s what we began with—a mission to help people understand that if they don’t do something, their photographic memories are going to be lost. It’s not if; it’s when,” Mummaw says, pointing out that while no one would dispose of those cherished memories, fewer than 5 percent have taken the steps necessary to protect them.
“I was shocked when I looked at my faded family’s photographs,” adds Robey. “Now that I have scanned and enhanced these images, they are preserved and protected forever, and I can share them and their memories through MemoryMemo, social media or email.”
“MemoryMemo is much more than just an application,” Mummaw states, “It’s an integrated platform that combines our MWorld technology and desktop computer software to capture and maintain memories. This memory management system is designed to be easily used by all.
Both MemoryMemo and LifeLens Imaging present the opportunity to collect and preserve family histories, passing memories from one generation to the next. The applications on a commercial basis are without limits, documenting actual facts and circumstances surrounding the photo that was taken and the entire experience.
“LifeLens Imaging helps you preserve and protect your images and MemoryMemo helps you capture and preserve the reasons why you took the photo, or in our case, the 5Ws associated with that memory,” concludes Robey.
“These are solutions to a significant problem—the sustained capture of memory,” says Mummaw. “We want them to be perceived as a solution whose time has come. We want people to identify both solutions as fun and meaningful.”
LifeLens Imaging LLC
9506 Monroe Rd., Ste. AB
Charlotte, N.C. 28270
Principals: Henry H. Mummaw and
William G. “Greg” Robey, Chairmen
Rights: MemoryMemo produces proprietary integration software to capture the entire context of a digital photo—the 5Ws of Who, What, When, Where and Why—incorporating voice and text in a proprietary .memo file through integration technology with Apple and Google Android smartphones; LifeLens Imaging preserves and enhances analog photographs and slides digitally.
For some, networking events stand for opportunity, relationship and business development and referrals. For others, just the thought of attending networking events is overwhelming; it seems impossible to target who they need to meet.
LinkedIn has come to your rescue! There are over 3 million groups on LinkedIn. Essentially, groups are virtual networking events that are available 24/7. They may be local, regional, national and international in scope. Their subject matter covers almost every conceivable industry in existence. Best of all, you can attend, contribute to, and participate in these virtual networking events from the comfort of your home or office at any time.
LinkedIn allows you to join up to 100 groups. We suggest you balance out your 100 to include a variety of groups such as: industry, local, regional, national, international, alumni and personal interest groups. At any time you may decide to leave one and join another. Some require the approval or invitation by the group manager before you are accepted into the group to make sure you meet their membership criteria.
LinkedIn Group Classifications
In an effort to keep the groups free of spam and allow for easier navigation, LinkedIn recently changed the classifications to Unlisted and Standard.
• Unlisted Groups will not show up in search results,
• Only the group’s owner and manager can invite members to the group.
• Standard Groups will show up in search results;
• Any member can invite any of their 1st degree connections to join.
How to Find Groups
LinkedIn has made finding groups easy. You may do so by searching for groups from the Groups You May Like page or the Search field at the top of your homepage. Here’s how:
In the search box at the top of any page, select Groups from the dropdown list on the left. Then type in your keywords or group name to search. Once you receive your search results, you may refine your search using the checkboxes on the left; or
Move your cursor over Interests at the top of your homepage and select Groups. Select the Find a group link on the right side of the page. Type in your keywords or group name to Search.
Is A Group Right For You?
Find out by clicking on a group’s About tab. Here you’ll find group rules, a description written by the group’s owner, and the group owner’s name with a link to their profile and when it started. You will also see which of your 1st level connections are members.
The Two Ways to Join a Group
1. Click “Join” on the group Discussions page or anywhere you see the button.
2. Respond to an invitation from a group member or manager.
Strategy for Joining a Group
It is important to join and participate in groups where your target audience can be found. Too many people only join groups within their industry and their peers. For example, a career coach could join a peer group such as the International Coach Federation (61,000 members), a job seekers group such as Job Posting Group (318,000 members), a local business group such as the Greater Charlotte Biz group (665 members), and an Alumni group such as Duke University Alumni Network (29,000 members).
By strategically selecting your 100 groups, you now have the ability to search through the group members to find valuable prospects. This is accomplished using LinkedIn’s Advanced Search tool available to all members.
Participation in Groups
• Monitor the conversation and interject and contribute to the discussion.
• Post news and content that is relevant to the group.
• Message members of the group without even being directly connected to them.
• Never sell. Educate, communicate and connect instead. This is the essence of social selling.
LinkedIn groups has the potential to expose your profile to hundreds of thousands of people within a short time. This would never be possible by attending networking groups. Join 100 today.
Content contributed by Linda and Ira Bass of IB Media LLC, an advertising media planning and placement firm built using the strategic power of LinkedIn to serve agencies and marketers with a targeted approach to reaching their customers. For more information, please contact Ira Bass at IraBass@IBMedia.biz or 704-989-3790. Learn more at www.IBMedia.biz or www.LinkedIn.com/company/IB-Media-LLC.
Since 2000, Chinese FDI has grown rapidly, reaching nearly $12 billion in 2014 alone. Chinese firms are engaged in areas as varied as construction, energy, entertainment, auto parts, chemicals, real estate, medical equipment, telecommunications and sportswear. Whether a new facility or the acquisition of an existing one, these local operations pay local, state, and federal taxes, provide jobs, push innovation, build trade linkages, and, in the process, touch and improve the lives of countless Americans.
The Chinese and Americans involved in these investments are learning about each other, making contacts, and creating a new pillar for a more productive U.S.-China relationship. The early results have often been transformative. A $100 million copper plant near Thomasville, Alabama, where unemployment rates were among the highest in the state, has revived the surrounding area.
“The Golden Dragon Precise Copper Group currently employs over 200 people and is in the process of hiring an additional 110, lifting many families off of government assistance and changing the fabric of our community,” according to Thomasville Mayor Sheldon Day, adding that a further expansion would eventually lead to as many as 500 total jobs.
Fuyao Glass, which last year bought an idle General Motors plant outside Dayton, Ohio, promises to invest hundreds of millions and bring more than 1,500 jobs to the economically depressed area in the coming years.
And the job numbers don’t stop there. These investments support construction jobs to build or re-tool the facilities, jobs at vendors in the supply chain, jobs at neighborhood businesses that benefit from a better local economy. While this report doesn’t capture either these indirect jobs or any part-time positions at the firms themselves, if it did, we know that the total number of jobs provided would be greatly multiplied.
For almost 50 years, the National Committee on United States-China Relations has been building constructive relations between our two countries. We undertook this study, New Neighbors, in the belief that American citizens and leaders, at the national, regional, and local levels, all need to better understand the impact of Chinese investments in the United States.
With the report’s release, American policymakers and the general public have a new window on the local realities of Chinese investment in the United States. New Neighbors offers, for the first time, a full estimation of the local investment, operations, and employment effects of Chinese FDI.
As of today, Chinese firms directly employ more than 80,000 Americans across the country, and that number is poised to quadruple over the next five years. The personal relationships that develop and the understanding that each side derives from these investments help foster a more peaceful and prosperous Asia-Pacific region. Just as when American investors first went to China, peace and prosperity are enhanced when Chinese investors create jobs, improve infrastructure, and work side by side with Americans to build a better America, and a better world.
Our New Neighbors
Foreign direct investment (FDI) is a vital component of the United States economy today and has been throughout the nation’s history. Investors from abroad are a source of growth, employment, competitiveness, and innovation, and their presence is living proof of America’s commitment to openness, market competition, and putting the interests of consumers above the welfare of corporations.
Companies from China have not historically played a direct role in the U.S. economy, and FDI was largely a oneway street from the U.S. to China from the 1980s to the 2000s. In recent years, however, Chinese FDI into the U.S. has taken off, bringing a growing number of firms from China face-to-face with U.S. communities; new corporate neighbors are moving in.
This report details—for the first time—Chinese commercial investment in the U.S. down to the congressional district level, using a unique dataset in development since 2009. With that granular information the report describes the picture so far in terms of investment value, operations, and associated employment. The key findings are as follows.
The recent wave of Chinese FDI has brought new Chinese neighbors to towns across America. From 2000 to 2014, Chinese firms spent nearly $46 billion on new establishments and acquisitions in the U.S., most of it in the past five years. As of the end of 2014, we count 1,583 establishments by Chinese firms in the U.S., stretching across all regions of the country. Importantly, while investments in perceived trophy assets such as the Waldorf Astoria Hotel dominate the headlines, Chinese firms are clearly interested in the value of American workers and manufacturing in some of the areas with the lowest per capita incomes in the United States as well. The benefits of Chinese capital are distributed nationwide, not just in high-income parts of the country.
Local economies benefit from greater levels of investment. The biggest recipients in terms of cumulative investment from 2000-2014 were districts in North Carolina, Illinois, New York, Virginia, and Texas. While acquisitions (which account for the majority of investment) mostly represent change in ownership, many Chinese takeovers have generated local investment as the new owners have saved firms from bankruptcy and provided new financing lines. In most cases, acquisitions have led to expansions, and examples of downsizing are rare. Greenfield projects have already generated billions in local investment and investments in big manufacturing and service sector projects have accelerated significantly in the past 18 months.
Chinese-affiliated companies now directly employ more than 80,000 Americans. The recent U.S. expansion of Chinese companies means more than 80,000 Americans are on Chinese company payrolls, up from fewer than 15,000 five years ago. These figures do not include indirect employment during construction or at suppliers, which would add tens of thousands of additional jobs. The top districts in terms of jobs are home to Chinese-affiliated companies in manufacturing and services sectors, which have higher employment intensity than energy or real estate investments. Fears that Chinese acquirers could systematically move acquired assets and related jobs back to China have not materialized. Instead, new Chinese owners have, in most cases, sustained and expanded local employment after they acquired U.S. assets. Job creation through greenfield FDI is approaching the 10,000 mark, with significant further growth imminent from projects already in the pipeline.
Chinese companies are contributors to American innovation and competitiveness. There is no evidence that Chinese investors are moving high value-added activities back to China. Instead, U.S. innovation clusters, strong protection of intellectual property rights, and the talent pool are major draws for Chinese companies, which now spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year on research and development activities in the U.S.. Chinese companies also contribute to the training of local workers, and technology investors such as Tencent and Alibaba have emerged as important sources of capital for startups and early stage growth companies.
FDI can be a catalyst for greater exports of “Made in the U.S.” goods and services to China. Growing investment creates important linkages which can help local economies reach the Chinese market with their goods and services. There are already many success stories in advanced manufacturing and consumer goods and there is tremendous potential to expand U.S. exports in those categories and new areas such as agriculture and food. FDI from China can also help to facilitate the export of U.S. services— including entertainment, hospitality, and financial and business services—to Chinese consumers.
With nearly $5.5 billion invested, North Carolina is the second highest recipient of Chinese investment in the U.S.. The more than 80 Chinese affiliates in the state currently provide over 15,000 jobs. This presence is in part the result of acquisitions of U.S. firms located in North Carolina (IBM, Smithfield), but also strong organic growth of Chinese companies in the state in recent years.
One significant employer in North Carolina is Smithfield, which operates 14 facilities in the state with more than 8,000 employees. These are spread evenly through congressional districts NC-01, NC-03, NC-08, and NC-09, and most importantly NC-07. The Tar Heel facility (NC-07) is the world’s largest pork processing facility.
The second top employer in North Carolina is Lenovo, with a track record of 10 years and nearly 5,000 employees. In 2005, Lenovo acquired IBM’s personal computing business including its operations in the Research Triangle (NC-04). Since 2008, Lenovo also operates a manufacturing facility in Whitsett (NC-06). In 2014, Lenovo completed the acquisition of IBM’s x86 server business, which is also located in the Research Triangle. It also plans to move some server production from China to the U.S.
Chinese companies have also invested in North Carolina’s furniture industry, including Fine Furniture and Design, a greenfield investment in High Point (NC-06); the acquisition of Schnadig Corporation in Greensboro (NC-12); and Talon Systems in Statesville (NC-05). Homestar Light Industrial Co., which acquired Talon, plans to add 40 jobs and retain all 120 currently at the operation.
NC-09 and NC-10 are home to a large group of medium-sized companies such as Jetion Solar, a solar panel manufacturer, and NouvEON Technology Partners, both in Charlotte. NC-13 is home to another major Chinese subsidiary, Epic Games, which is famous for its game Gears of War. The video game developer is owned by Chinese internet giant Tencent and provides nearly 300 jobs in Cary.
After experiencing major structural adjustments from the reorganization of global value chains (for example, its historically important textile and furniture industries), North Carolina has become one the most important destinations for Chinese investment in the U.S. Opportunities for expanding Chinese capital inflows exist particularly in the state’s high-tech sectors (including information technology and biotech) and other service industries.
Much is still to come. Chinese FDI is only at the initial stage Japanese firms reached in the 1980s, and there is tremendous growth potential for Chinese investment, job creation, and other benefits. If the U.S. continues to be a major recipient of China’s booming outward investment, it could receive between $100-200 billion of investment by 2020. Based on past employment intensity, this would increase the number of full-time U.S. Jobs provided by Chinese U.S. affiliates to somewhere between 200,000 and 400,000.
Greater Chinese FDI marks a new chapter in U.S.-China economic relations. Growing outbound FDI is a major channel through which the changes in the Chinese economic model will be felt in the U.S. economy. Higher levels of investment mark the beginning of an era of U.S.-China economic engagement that brings a wider array of mutual benefits rather than a limited set of winners and losers, as arose from the deepening of goods trade of the past two decades.
From local impacts to national interest. The United States is competing with dozens of other attractive economies including Europe, Australia, Canada, and Brazil for these new capital flows. Recent years have seen greatly stepped-up local-level effort by mayors, governors, and other local officials to attract these new investors to the neighborhood. Greater awareness of the local benefits from Chinese investment should help to sustain recent progress in aligning local opportunities and national interests so the U.S. will be successful in that competition.
Executive Summary: New Neighbors: Chinese Investment in the United States by Congressional District. Prepared by the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations and Rhodium Group, May 2015. The National Committee on United States-China Relations is a private, nonpartisan, American non-profit organization that promotes understanding and cooperation between the United States and Greater China. Rhodium Group (RHG) is an economic research firm that combines policy experience, quantitative economic tools and on-the-ground research to analyze disruptive global trends. The full study is available at www.ncuscr.org/fdi.
Content contributed Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, LLP, a full service law firm founded in 1925 with more than 240 attorneys practicing in Toledo and Columbus, Ohio; Tampa and Sarasota, Florida; and Charlotte, North Carolina. Our Charlotte office is sharing in the fast-paced development of the Carolinas by providing representation on corporate, securities, real estate, tax, litigation, immigration, employment, creditors’ rights, international business transactions and litigation, financial transactions, health and all other business specialty areas. For more information, contact Scott M. Stevenson, the Charlotte Managing Partner, at 704-945-2180 or email@example.com or visit www.slk-law.com.
Adjusting to the “new reality,” many companies have focused on all aspects of their balance sheets to improve performance for stakeholders. Companies have realized that material extensions of credit terms regarding accounts payable result in dramatic improvement to cash flow and working capital. Changing terms from 30 days to 75 days, for example, not only frees up cash for working capital, it also reduces the need for bank-financed working capital, which is more expensive than “borrowing” from suppliers.
To make the extension of payment terms more appealing to suppliers, buyers have partnered with their lenders to offer a “supply chain finance” solution that allows suppliers to be paid timely if not early, despite the stated payment term extension, such that a supplier’s Days Sales Outstanding (DSO) is actually reduced.
The Trade Credit Association of the United States reported that in the U.S. approximately $20 trillion of annual sales are made on trade credit, resulting in $2.8 trillion of trade credit outstanding in the U.S. economy, which creates a substantial market opportunity for banks to generate interest and fee income.
Supply Chain Finance (SCF) is an opportunity for banks to generate interest and fee income, at a low cost and risk. Typically, SCF programs are provided to a bank’s existing and best customers who pose little credit risk. The advances by the bank can be folded into an existing credit facility, are short-term exposures, and are backed by an assignment or pledge of the customer’s obligation to pay its supplier.
Not only can the bank generate fee income from its borrower for providing the facility, the bank also makes a .5 percent or so spread on the invoice amount in 60 to 120 days, since the bank pays the supplier a discounted amount, and collects 100 percent from its borrower at invoice maturity.
From the Buyer’s perspective, the “new normal” economy has resulted in more expensive and less accessible capital, demand for goods is not as brisk as before, customers are paying more slowly, and capital is tied up longer in inventory and slower moving accounts receivable. Yet, companies remain under pressure from stakeholders to manage their balance sheets and cash to generate revenue.
For example, in April, 2013, The Wall Street Journal reported that Proctor & Gamble would extend payment terms of suppliers from 45 to 60 days to 100 days. Given Proctor & Gamble’s procurement spend of $50 billion annually, that would improve Proctor & Gamble’s cash flow by $2 billion. By extending Days Payable Outstanding (DPO), a buyer not only improves cash, but reduces working capital costs and bank charges.
With low interest rates, the cost to the buyer for its bank to facilitate an early payment option for suppliers is low, especially if it is an add-on to an existing credit facility.
Buyers should understand the impact on its suppliers as extended payment terms can adversely impact the supplier’s revenue and perhaps overall financial health, heightened if interest rates increase. Prudent buyers should monitor their supply chain more closely to ensure a healthy supply chain to provide an uninterrupted flow of goods to the buyer.
A supplier wants to be paid for the goods it sells, on a timely basis. Prices charged by a supplier reflect the company’s cost structure, including the cost of extending credit to customers. A powerful customer’s unilateral extension of payment terms increases a supplier’s cost, which increase may or may not be passed on to the customer.
If not, there is a reduction of the supplier’s revenue, exacerbated by having its working capital tied up in slower paying accounts receivable, and an increase in DSO. Historically, a “good paying customer” was one who paid within invoice terms, often taking a 1-2 percent discount for paying within 10 days.
Suppliers tend to initially reject the extension of payment terms, which may depend on the parties’ relative bargaining position. If a supplier is part of a diverse supply chain that sells products readily obtainable from a competitor, a supplier may acquiesce to keep sales. On the other hand, if the supply chain is limited, such that there is little risk of a losing business, or if the goods sold are unique to that buyer and seller, the supplier may have leverage to “just say no.”
All participants in SCF programs should consider the potential advantages of SCF programs in foreign sales transactions, and the impact if interest rates increase materially.
Regardless of the varying perspectives of the participants in SCF, it appears to be a fast-growing part of domestic sales transactions and international trade. SCF programs will no doubt evolve to meet the changing dynamics of its participants, but appears to be poised to take a prominent role in facilitating global trade.
Content contributed Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, LLP, a full service law firm founded in 1925 with more than 240 attorneys practicing in Toledo and Columbus, Ohio; Tampa and Sarasota, Florida; and Charlotte, North Carolina. Content written by David H. Conaway, Partner, whose principal area of practice is bankruptcy. For more information, contact him at 704-945-2149 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.slk-law.com..
Globalization increasingly links people through business, trade, communication and common global challenges, impacting every aspect of our lives. Global education and increased interaction with the rest of the world provide exposure to diverse cultures, religions and ethnicities, making us more aware of the need to find collaborative solutions.
While most American schools over the last decade have promoted global education in some form to help students understand the world’s cultures and global issues, Providence Day School in Charlotte has been at the forefront of global education initiatives. Assistant Head of School for Academic Affairs Derrick Willard notes, “In the 21st century we are called on to coach the skills and dispositions that will help our students to create and govern peaceful, thriving and sustainable local and global communities.”
Beginning in 2005, Providence Day created the first Global Studies Diploma (GSD) program in the country for upper school students. Students in the program take a series of global courses that integrate knowledge, skills and character dispositions to examine and create solutions to key global issues. In the process, students gain perspectives and skills like problem-solving, collaboration, critical thinking and empathy.
Senior year students take a global leadership course that encapsulates their global education development. Travel abroad, hosting international students, and global speakers round out their experiential requirements. On graduation day, GSD students proudly receive both a Providence Day diploma and a GSD diploma. A number of independent schools across the country have adopted the global studies diploma model in some form.
At Providence Day, global learning is emphasized in every division and right from the start. Early on in Transitional Kindergarten(TK) TKers learn about China, Germany and Kenya through a month-long passport program. World language courses starting in TK help students develop cultural competency and language proficiency.
Stacie Nevadomski Berdan, Allen Goodman and Sir Cyril Taylor in their book, A Student Guide To Study Abroad, argue that globalization requires our students to have cross-cultural communication skills, deeper cultural understanding, enhanced world language learning, and an experience that gets students out of their cultural comfort zone to help them develop cultural literacy and the ability to interact with non-Americans. Traveling abroad can help make that happen.
Providence Day offers student travel opportunities to nearly every continent. Several trips involve exchanges with “sister” schools in China, Denmark, France, Germany, Israel, and Peru. Providence Day students live, study and interact with sister school students and their families. Reciprocally, sister school students visit Providence Day for one to two weeks.
2015-2016 Travel Opportunities
• Belize Outdoor Adventure and Service Learning
• French Exchange
• South Africa: History, Culture and Human Rights
• Israel Exchange
• Argentina—Spanish Immersion
• South Africa—Red Hill Service Learning
• Understanding Culture and Improving Education in China
• The Environmental History of Australia
• Italy: Art and Architecture
Social responsibility is a central tenet of the Providence Day mission. Some trips involve major service learning like the ones to Belize and South Africa. Others emphasize world language enhancement such as the trip to Argentina. Five trips earn students credit toward their graduation requirements. Also, Providence Day is now a member of Roundsquare International which provides rich opportunities for students in the network to actively engage with students from around the world addressing global issues.
Global learning requires global faculty. Providence Day was first in the nation to create the Global Educators Certificate (GEC) program. Teachers enroll d in the program travel to two different parts of the globe and bring their cultural experiences to their classrooms and the larger Providence Day community.
Moving forward, Providence Day has adopted a strategic TK-12 global education vision. As Head of School Dr. Glyn Cowlishaw emphasizes, “It’s vital for our schools to prioritize strategically planned opportunities for students to develop the ability to appreciate and value the differences among people in our school community as well as in the larger world that’s impacting them.”
Content sponsored by GreerWalker LLP, a Charlotte-based accounting and business advisory firm offering assurance, accounting, tax, and consulting services. Content contributed by Dr. Loren Fauchier, Director of Global Education at Providence Day School in Charlotte, and the Vice President of the Global Education Benchmark Group, a consortium of 150+ independent schools in the U.S., Canada, Britain and Turkey. For more information, contact him at email@example.com or 704-887-6000 or visit www.ProvidenceDay.org.
The American Dream is a national ethos of the United States, the set of ideals (Democracy, Rights, Liberty, Opportunity, and Equality) in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, and an upward social mobility for the family and children, achieved through hard work in a society with few barriers.
It is a basic part of our fabric, rooted in the Declaration of Independence proclaiming all men created equal with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Those ideals have recently been put to the test by a pair of economists at Harvard, known for their work on income mobility. They have released a report on factors across the nation within communities correlating with income mobility: The Impacts of Neighborhoods on Intergenerational Mobility. Their findings took many by surprise.
Across the country, the researchers found five factors associated with strong upward mobility: less segregation by income and race, lower levels of income inequality, better schools, lower rates of violent crime, and a larger share of two-parent households. In general, the effects of place are sharper for boys than for girls, and for lower-income children than for rich.
“The broader lesson of our analysis,” Raj Chetty and Nathaniel Hendren write, “is that social mobility should be tackled at a local level.”
They found substantial variation in intergenerational mobility across geographic areas within the U.S., although upward mobility is especially low across the South. Most important, their findings confirm that Charlotte is the worst big city for climbing out of poverty in the nation!
Charlotte’s ranking is especially surprising in light of the national and international accolades the city has received over the recent years as one of the most entrepreneurial, fastest growing, best places for families to live, U.S. cities attracting the most families , most livable cities for people 35 and younger, cities where African-Americans are doing the best economically, best metro areas for STEM professionals, best performing cities, and—ironically—one of the world’s most competitive cities.
In reaction to this study showing that upward mobility for children in poverty is more difficult in Charlotte than any of the country’s 50 largest cities, the city formed its own special task force to investigate why, in the words of one member, “If you’re born poor in Charlotte, you’re mostly likely to remain poor—more so here than anywhere else in the country.”
The upward mobility study of Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s “Opportunity Landscape” was released this spring, presented by UNCC’s Metropolitan Studies and Extended Academic Programs and prepared by UNC Charlotte’s Urban Land Institute with support from Foundation for The Carolinas.
Here are a few of the findings or highlights from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg study:
• 38 percent of households with children are single parent;
• Segregation is evident in neighborhoods, by race and class;
• One fifth of the households made more than half the income;
• Many households would fall into poverty after 3 months without income;
• Differences in mobility emerge when children are young (based upon reading skills);
• Inter-racial trust has remained flat.
The task force recognized Charlotte’s ranking as a clear challenge and stressed that overcoming impoverishment needs to be addressed through long-term community-wide solutions that address the systemic nature of this highly complex issue.
That our city can garner such outstanding recognition nationally and internationally, yet cultivate such a dismal landscape of opportunity, particularly for those most in need, is indeed food for thought. We cannot truly advance our community if we are leaving people behind in that process. Let’s get our competitive juices flowing to float everyone’s boat!.