REGIONAL VIEW southwest virginia

Strongwell honored for corporate citizenship by Tim Thornton


ike every Eagle Scout, John Tickle had to orga- nize, supervise and com-

plete a public service project. The habit stuck. It continues with his family’s Bristol-based company, Strongwell Corp. “They’re su per-involved in

the community,” says Lennie Gail Mitcham, executive direc- tor of the Southwest Virginia Alliance for Manufacturing. The company is so

involved, Mitcham says, the narrative introducing Strongwell as the alliance’s “Manufacturer of the Year” was extra long. “They’re very big on corpo-

rate citizenship,” Mitcham says, ticking off a long list of orga- nizations, causes and services the company and its employees serve. Boys and Girls Clubs, the Boy Scouts and the Birthplace of Country Music are among the groups that have benefited from Strongwell’s involvement. The company also pro- motes advanced manufacturing as a potential career for young people in Southwest Virginia through tours, internships and the support of groups such as YMCA Tech Girls. “Innovation, corporate


Bristol City Council took the first step in November to rebrand its Industrial Development Author- ity as the Economic Develop- ment Authority. It also plans to disband the city’s Economic Development Committee, a move which will require a charter change by the Virginia General Assembly. The council held a public hearing and first reading for both enabling ordinances Nov. 8. (Bristol Herald Courier)

Virginia Intermont College has been sold for $3.3 million. The winning bid was placed by George Xu, who represents a company based in New York that operates a college in China. Xu said his plan is to renovate

Strongwell traces its roots to a furniture factory founded in 1924.

citizenship and advocacy,” Mit- cham says, “They definitely hit the mark on all those things.” Strongwell’s four plants

produce tens of thousands of feet of structural fiberglass parts every hour, according to the company’s website, using a process called pultrusion. Pultrusion involves pulling liq- uid resin and reinforcing fibers through heated metal dies. Depending on the ingredients and dies used, the end product can range from studs and nuts to components for wastewater treatment facilities to other components that can be assem-

the campus and reopen it at a later date as a four-year college. (Bristol Herald Courier)

The Southwest Virginia Health Authority approved the merger in November between Mountain States Health Alliance and Wellmont Health System, which are based in Tennessee but have operations in Virginia. The merger plan has been forwarded to Virginia Commissioner of Health Marissa Levine for consideration. A similar process is underway in Tennessee. Both states must approve the merger for it to pro- ceed. (Bristol Herald Courier)

The University of Virginia’s Col- lege at Wise held its first annual Girls Day in STEM-H in Novem- ber. The event is designed to

14 JANUARY 2017

bled into complete buildings. Strongwell traces its roots

to a Bristol factory that started building furniture in 1924. Dur- ing World War II, Strongwell’s corporate ancestor switched from building radio cabinets to making parts for weapons. In 1956, the company pro-

duced its first pultrusion plastic products, ladder rails. They are still an important part of the company’s product line. That group now includes

a variety of products, including power poles, bridge components and building panels that can withstand a shot from a .357 magnum or a projectile hurled by a 250 mph hurricane. “After the Great Recession,

we became a very diversified company,” says Tekai Shu, Strongwell’s social media and business development manager. Since its inception, the company has gone through a number of ownership changes, moving from private to public and back to private.

It added plants and produc-

tion processes until Tickle and his family gained ownership of Strongwell — Tickle worked at the company nearly 30 years before his family took full own-

get young girls more involved in STEM-H courses and show them that careers in science, technol- ogy, engineering, mathematics and health are not just for men, according to a news release from U.Va.-Wise. Many girls lose interest in these fields by the time they reach high school, the release states. U.Va.-Wise plans to hold Girls Day in STEM-H every year. (Bristol Herald Courier)

The long-awaited Wal-Mart at Interstate 81’s Exit 19 in Abingdon opened Nov. 16. Construction began in October 2015. The store, which is open 24 hours, has about 300 full- and part-time employees. (Bristol Herald Courier)


Abingdon-based Virginia Highlands Community College held a dedication ceremony for its student center in October, which was named after longtime professors David and Schery Collins. They were among the first professors hired during VHCC’s organizational period and remained on staff until they retired in 2013, VHCC officials say. (Bristol Herald Courier)

Bristol-based Settlers Life Insurance Co. announced the following promotions: Josh Dixon, formerly marketing services director, is now director of telesales operations; Amy Smith has become director of marketing, but will retain

ership — and focused its efforts on pultrusion. Strongwell also focuses on

promoting advanced manufac- turing in a region known for coal mines, furniture plants and textile mills. “There hasn’t been a real

great focus on manufacturing within our region,” Shu says. To change that, Shu says,

Strongwell hosts 20 to 24 tours each year for middle school pupils up to MBA candidates, showing them the opera- tions and job opportunities of advanced manufacturing. With more than 650,000

square feet of manufacturing capacity, more than 10,000 square feet of lab space and a wide range of products to create and market, Strongwell needs workers on and off the factory floor following a variety of career paths. The company is blazing new paths in other ways, too. In a field stereotypically dominated by men and in a region stereotypically portrayed as overwhelmingly white, more than 60 percent of Strongwell’s workers are women and more than 20 percent are minorities. “We’re very proud of that,”

says Shu.

her prior duties as marketing communications director; Evan Monahan was promoted to agent performance manager. (News release)

Bristol native Nancy Stallard Harr was sworn in in October as the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of

Tennessee. She had been serving as interim U.S. attorney for the district, which covers 41 of 95 counties in Tennessee. She replaces William C. Killian, who retired in December 2015. Harr will remain U.S. attorney until the new president makes an appointment and the Senate confirms. (Bristol Herald Courier)

Photo courtesy Strongwell Corp.

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