Biz Roundup: Truck manufactured in Cleveland wins ‘Coolest Things Made in NC’ competition

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 3, 2021

CLEVELAND — A truck made in Rowan County was crowned this year’s “Coolest Thing Made in NC” champion.

The North Carolina Chamber on Friday revealed the Western Star 49X Vocational Truck, built at Daimler’s truck manufacturing plant in Cleveland, as the winner of the online contest. The competition began with 68 nominees. There were 41,700 votes cast in the first three rounds of public voting. The Western Star truck drove to the top spot, earning 2,725 votes in the final round.

“Thanks to the NC Chamber and Old Dominion for their support of the Coolest Thing Made in NC,” Erik Johnson, plant manager of Cleveland Truck Manufacturing Plant, Daimler Trucks North America, said in a news release. “We’re incredibly proud of the products we build, including the Western Star 49X, and we’re prouder still of our workforce in the state helping to build those trucks with precision, with quality, and with dedication. We appreciate the recognition provided by this valuable program and look forward to next year’s contest.”

The N.C. Chamber launched the competition, now an annual tradition, in 2020 to honor North Carolina’s manufacturers and raise awareness about the rewarding careers in modern manufacturing. As the exclusive state affiliate for the National Association of Manufacturers, the NC Chamber knows that a strong manufacturing sector is central to North Carolina’s economic and competitive success.

Second place in the competition was the HondaJet Elite S made in Greensboro and third place was the Cat 938M Wheel Loader from Clayton. Rounding out the top five was George’s BBQ Sauce from Nashville and Flucelvax Influenza Vaccine by Seqirus from Holly Springs.

In addition to receiving a trophy, the Western Star 49X Vocational Truck will be featured in N.C. Chamber and Business North Carolina publications, podcasts, social and digital media, among additional statewide publicity efforts.

“Congratulations to the Western Star 49X Vocational Truck for winning the ‘Coolest Thing Made in NC’ 2021 title,” NC Chamber President and CEO Gary Salamido said in a news release. “Today, on MFG Day, we would like to thank our entire manufacturing community for protecting lives and livelihoods across our state, our country, and our world. From producing lifesaving vaccines and testing kits, to making the personal protective equipment for our health care heroes and creating new jobs every day, our manufacturers are vital to the health of our people and our economy.”

MFG Day, organized nationally by the NAM and The Manufacturing Institute, champions the next generation of creators, and kicks off a campaign to change perceptions of manufacturing, highlight the exciting careers in modern manufacturing, and close the widening skills gap. MFG Day coincides with North Carolina’s Manufacturing Week.

“Congratulations to Western Star for being named the Coolest Thing Made in North Carolina and to all of the nominees of this year’s contest,” Greg Plemmons, senior vice president of sales, Old Dominion Freight Line, said in a news release. “Promoting North Carolina goods and services is a benefit to all residents, so Old Dominion is proud to partner with the NC Chamber in a creative way to showcase the many cool things made in our state.”

About the NC Chamber

The NC Chamber works to research, develop, advocate, and communicate for solutions and policies that produce a nationally competitive business climate in North Carolina. For more information, visit

About Old Dominion Freight Line, Inc.

Old Dominion Freight Line, Inc. is one of the largest North American less-than-truckload (“LTL”) motor carriers and provides regional, inter-regional and national LTL services through a single integrated, union-free organization. Our service offerings, which include expedited transportation, are provided through an expansive network of service centers located throughout the continental United States. The Company also maintains strategic alliances with other carriers to provide LTL services throughout North America. In addition to its core LTL services, the Company offers a range of value-added services including container drayage, truckload brokerage and supply chain consulting.

Rowan Chamber’s Power in Partnership prepares for in-person return to Trinity Oaks

SALISBURY — The Rowan County Chamber of Commerce’s Power in Partnership series is returning home.

For the first time since February of 2020, the event will be held in person at Trinity Oaks on Oct. 21 at 7:30 a.m. Thomas Stith III, president of the North Carolina Community College System, will be the speaker at the “workforce” themed Power in Partnership. Rowan-Cabarrus Community College President Carol Spalding will provide sponsor remarks.

“The Chamber is so excited to be invited back to Trinity Oaks for our PIP breakfasts. The last in person PIP at Trinity Oaks was Feb. 20, 2020. We have really missed the Trinity Oaks hospitality and their great breakfasts!” Rowan Chamber President Elaine Spalding said. “Guests will need to wear their face coverings into the facility until they are seating eating their breakfast. Please keep everyone safe and stay home if you are not feeling well.”

Stith became president of the North Carolina Community College System on Jan. 11. He is a leader with two decades of experience in public service and business in North Carolina, was previously district director of the U.S. Small Business Administration, where he led the federal agency’s response to COVID-19 in North Carolina.

Thomas Stith III, president of the North Carolina Community College System, will be the speaker at the Rowan County Chamber’s “workforce” themed Power in Partnership on Oct. 21 at Trinity Oaks. Photo submitted.

 Other upcoming Power in Partnership programs include:

• Nov. 18 – Apprenticeship and Internship programs with Eric Tillmon and Sylvia Jones; Sponsor: Atrium Health

• Dec. 16 – Inspirational Speaker; Sponsor: Rowan Not-for-Profits

• Jan. 16 – 2022 Economic Outlook; Sponsor: Rowan EDC

• Feb. 17 – State Legislative Breakfast; Sponsor: Piedmont Natural Gas

• March 17 – Salute to Agri-business; Sponsor: F & M Bank

• April 21 – Health Care; Sponsor: Novant Health Rowan Medical Center

• May 19 – Leadership Speaker; Sponsor: Duke Energy

For those who are not Power Card holders, individual reservations are welcome; however, the reservation deadline is Tues., Oct. 19 by 5 p.m. The cost is $15 for Chamber members and $25 for non-members. The price includes the cost of breakfast and the program. Contact the Chamber for reservations at 704-633-4221 or or

Community Job Fair planned for West End Plaza later this month

SALISBURY — Rowan County job seekers will have the opportunity to peruse a number of available positions at the Community Job Fair at West End Plaza on Oct. 28 from 2-6 p.m.

West End Plaza, the former Salisbury Mall, is located at 1935 Jake Alexander Blvd.

The fair is being presented by a number of local organizations, including the NCWorks Career Center-Rowan, Rowan Economic Development Council, Rowan-Cabarrus Community College and the Rowan-Salisbury School System.

Employers can sign up for the fair using the following link:…

Participants can sign up using the following link:…

Auxiliary aids and services will be available upon request to people with disabilities. More information about the job fair can be found at or by calling the NCWorks Career Center-Rowan at 704-639-7529.

Big Elm Ministries receives donation from Food Lion Feeds Charitable Foundation

KANNAPOLIS — Having received $3,000 from the Food Lion Feeds Charitable Foundation, Big Elm Ministries will use the gift to purchase food items to sock its food bank and help feed local neighbors in their time of need.

“We are so appreciative of the support of the Food Lions Feeds Charitable Foundation in providing these funds,” Big Elm Ministries Director Rebecca Barnes said in a news release. “It will truly make a difference for us as we continue to do our part in feeding the hungry and working to meet the needs of this community.”

Big Elm Ministries is an outreach facility of Kannapolis Church of God, in partnership with the Faith Community Health Ministry program of Atrium Health. The organization’s mission is to restore hope and provide opportunities for those in need by addressing basic needs such as food, shelter, clothing, and health (spiritual, physical and emotional).

The Food Lion Feeds Charitable Foundation is committed to supporting families facing food insecurity across its 10-state footprint. Established in 2001, the foundation provides financial support for programs and organizations dedicated to feeding local neighbors in the communities it serves. Since its inception, the foundation has awarded more than $15 million in grants.

Valerie Steele is aviation director for Mid-Carolina Airport.

Rowan County Airport and Transit Director named to credit union advisory council

The Local Government Federal Credit Union has announced that Rowan County Airport and Transit Director Valerie Steele has been named to its Central Piedmont Advisory Council, which includes Alexander, Iredell, Rowan, Cabarrus, and Davie counties.

Steele will help lead LGFCU’s volunteer-driven initiative to educate people on the benefits of credit union membership and relay feedback to the board of directors regarding available and potentially available products and services, delivery of service and member needs.

Advisory council members, who represent the philosophical character of the credit union and contribute their time without compensation, function as LGFCU’s eyes and ears throughout the state, serving as liaisons between credit union members and non-members and LGFCU management.

City of Kannapolis garners national award for marketing and communications

KANNAPOLIS — The city of Kannapolis has been recognized with a national Savvy Award for communications and marketing by 3CMA.

“To win a national award in the field of marketing is quite an honor for our city,” Annette Privette Keller, director of communications for Kannapolis, said in a news release. “With so many exciting things happening in the city it is a pleasure to promote and share the great things happening in Kannapolis.”

3CMA, the City-County Communications and Marketing Association, is among the nation’s top professional groups for government communications and marketing professionals. The Savvy Awards, held in conjunction with 3CMA’s Annual Conference, recognize outstanding local government achievements in communications, public-sector marketing and citizen-government relationship. The Savvies salute skilled and effective city, county, agency or district professionals who have planned and carried out innovations in communications and marketing.

3CMA accommodates local government organizations of all sizes and budget classes by judging entries in several different population groups. Over 800 entries in 40 categories were received. 3CMA utilized volunteer judges, who are other government communication professionals, from across the country to review every entry.

Kannapolis received a Silver Circle Award in 2021, competing with cities across the nation with populations of 85,000 and under. The communications and marketing for the West Avenue Streetscape Opening won the Silver Circle Award in the Special Event – One Time Event Category.

The West Avenue Streetscape was the first of three major anchor projects to revitalize downtown Kannapolis. The city held a street party and strategic branding of the streetscape and the promotion and recapping of the event has garnered the city national attention for its revitalization efforts.

About Ben Stansell

Ben Stansell covers business, county government and more for the Salisbury Post. He joined the staff in August 2020 after graduating from the University of Alabama. Email him at

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