Downtown Business Owners Receive Fascade Improvement Grants

— by Kaine Riggan

The Henderson-Vance Downtown Development Commission awarded three grants to local entrepreneurs recently. Grantees were selected through a competitive grant process to assist businesses in the downtown business district with making improvements to the overall curb-appeal of their storefronts.

Charles Bowman, a veteran local business owner, renovated the building at 117 Horner Street into an antique car showroom called Southern Classic Cars. Bowman was awarded $1710 for half the total cost of installing new awnings along the front fascade.

“We’ve invested a great deal into making the building something everyone can be proud of,” admits Bowman who has been a classic car collector for decades. “I’m proud of the city leaders and the DDC for making these incentives available to folks who are willing to invest in downtown.”

The DDC’s website ( lists the guidelines and eligibility requirements for all of the incentives they offer. The fascade incentive grant can cover 50% of improvement costs up to $2500. The sign incentive grant can cover 25% of costs associated with new storefront signage.

Chef Cherie Pittman of Next Door Bistro and Chef Llew Sutton of Uncle Llew’s Restaurant & Pub received the full 25% allowable reimbursement for their new storefront signage.

Pictured are Kaine Riggan, Downtown Development Director, Cherie Pittman (Next Door Bistro), Llew Sutton (Uncle Llew’s), Charles Bowman (Southern Classic Cars) and Phil Hart, HVDDC Chair. Photo credit Mike Noel.

“Grants are reviewed monthly by committee and applications are accepted until the annual grant budget allocation is exhausted”, shared Downtown Development Director, Kaine Riggan.

Riggan also worked with downtown’s Kerr Lake Signs & Banners to design and install billboard-type signage across the fascade of the former Abigail’s Books at 405 S. Garnett Street. The property had become an eyesore since the previous owner abandoned the property allowing it to revert by due process into city and county ownership.

“Reaction has been very positive to the recent improvements,” said HVDDC Chair Phil Hart. “An attractive and thriving downtown is the life-blood of any successful city and what we are seeing is both recognition of that from city officials and support of that from a community willing to shop local first.”

In addition to awarding grants, the DDC also offers low-interest loans to bolster investment in its business district. Now in its second round of loan projects, the DDC can offer funds originally awarded through the USDA’s Revolving Loan program at a 3-6% interest rate. More information about any of these programs may be obtained at or by calling (252) 820-9785.

Students learn about careers at VGCC Manufacturing Day

— courtesy VGCC

Vance-Granville Community College held a “Manufacturing Day” celebration on Thursday, Oct. 5, in the Civic Center on the college’s Main Campus in Vance County. Nearly 200 high school students from Franklin, Granville, Vance and Warren counties attended, along with VGCC students, educators and other members of the community. They learned about how manufacturing has changed, local career possibilities in the field and options for education and training related to careers in the industry.

“Manufacturing Day is a national event meant to inspire the next generation of manufacturers and expose them to modern manufacturing trends,” said Tiffani M. Polk, an academic and career coach with the TechHire program at VGCC. “Our industry partners described the students as highly engaged and inquisitive. Together, I think we were able to reframe what manufacturing is for our future workforce.”

Participating employers included Altec of Creedmoor, Boise Cascade of Roxboro, Carolina Sunrock of Butner, Dill Air Controls of Oxford, Edwards Inc. of Spring Hope, Fastenal of Raleigh, Glen Raven of Norlina, Home Care Products of Oxford, Mars Petcare of Henderson, Novozymes of Franklinton, Plastic Ingenuity of Oxford, Revlon of Oxford, and Superior Tooling of Wake Forest.

Students talk with, seated from left, Revlon representatives Bonnie Garrett and Wendy Grissom at Manufacturing Day in the VGCC Civic Center. (VGCC photo)

VGCC technical programs were represented, including Air Conditioning, Heating & Refrigeration Technology, Automotive Systems Technology, Electrical Systems Technology, Electronics Engineering Technology, Mechatronics Engineering Technology and Welding Technology. A representative from the Kerr-Tar Workforce Development Board was on hand, as well.

Attendees also learned about the North Carolina Triangle Apprenticeship Program (NCTAP), which partners with colleges like VGCC and employers to prepare a skilled workforce. An alternative to the traditional four-year college degree, the program takes a student from high school through a two-year community college program like Mechatronics Engineering Technology, with the guarantee of a job at the completion of the program.

Sandy Whitfield from Altec talks with students at Manufacturing Day in the VGCC Civic Center. (VGCC photo)

Reflecting on the event, Revlon representative Bonnie Garrett said that “it was nice to get to introduce high school students to our company and to careers in manufacturing that they don’t often think about. We rarely get an opportunity like this.”

Joel Bailey of Edwards said it was his company’s first time participating in a VGCC Manufacturing Day event. He noted that Edwards, a full-service industrial general contractor with a specialty fabrication shop, has many job openings and was particularly interested in recruiting graduates of VGCC’s Welding, Electrical Systems and HVAC programs.

Steve Tsotsoros from Dill Air Controls shows some of the products manufactured by his company to students attending Manufacturing Day in the VGCC Civic Center. (VGCC photo)

The TechHire grant program at VGCC organized Manufacturing Day, with support from the Advanced Manufacturing Skills Training Alliance (AMSTA), a partnership of VGCC and local K-12 school systems. The North Carolina TechHire program supports advanced manufacturing and information technology training. VGCC is one of four partnering community colleges in the North Carolina TechHire Alliance, funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. For more information on TechHire, contact Tiffani Polk at or (252) 738-3291.


(Vance Granville is a paying advertising client of WIZS.)

Joel Bailey from Edwards Inc. (center) talks with VGCC Welding student Cedric Rodebaugh of Franklinton at Manufacturing Day in the VGCC Civic Center. (VGCC photo)

VGCC agricultural initiative highlighted at local food economies meeting

— courtesy VGCC

Vance-Granville Community College’s Main Campus served as the host for a late-September gathering of community leaders from throughout the region interested in local food economies.

The meeting, entitled “Innovations in Economic Development through Local Foods,” was organized by the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS), a partnership of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and North Carolina State University. Laura Lauffer of CEFS said that the organization had conducted the same event at two other locations elsewhere in North Carolina before VGCC, but that this was their best-attended to date.

As she welcomed participants to the college, VGCC President Dr. Stelfanie Williams said, “We are excited about the opportunities ahead for this region of North Carolina, and we are happy to be a partner in economic, agricultural and environmental stewardship.”

The first part of the meeting consisted of presenters sharing innovative models related to entrepreneurship and supporting local farmers that could be replicated in other communities. First up was VGCC Small Business Center Director Tanya Weary, talking about the college’s “NC REAL Agricultural Entrepreneurship” program. Lauffer said that Weary and VGCC are “pioneers in leading agriculture business classes and promoting agriculture in the community college system.”

Tanya Weary, director of the VGCC Small Business Center (standing), addresses attendees at the “Innovations in Economic Development through Local Foods” event.

Weary told attendees that the Agricultural Entrepreneurship program, a seven-week, interactive course designed to strengthen the business savvy of community farmers and budding agricultural entrepreneurs, succeeded in part because of strong partnerships. She partnered with the VGCC Human Resources Development department, the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission, the Vance County Regional Farmers Market, N.C. Cooperative Extension, local city and county governments, attorneys, banks and other businesses.

“We have worked with other community colleges to share our experience about how we started this, who our partners are and how we’ve been able to grow this,” Weary said. “We have served around 65 students since starting in late 2014, and that’s a real success for this area. We’re very pleased with it.”

She added that the course spurred VGCC to offer other agriculture-related programs. A new free, three-part workshop series, “Planting Your Marketing Seeds for Your Agricultural Business,” is scheduled for Tuesday evenings, Nov. 7-21. Carrie Harvey, the instructor, also taught many of the college’s Agricultural Entrepreneurship classes.

Other presenters included Ardis Crews of the Green Rural Redevelopment Organization; Henry Crews (a graduate of the first NC REAL Agricultural Entrepreneurship class at VGCC) and Jennifer Dietsche, discussing a Vidant Health initiative at Vidant Medical Center in Greenville; Jimbo Eason and John Kimber from Covington Vodka; Eric Hallman of the Piedmont Food and Agriculture Processing Center (PFAP); Mike Ortosky of Orange County Agriculture Economic Development; and Gabe Cummings of Warren County-based Working Landscapes. CEFS has produced a short video on Working Landscapes, which participants enjoyed watching during lunch.

The Harvest Restaurant of Oxford catered a lunch featuring local food for the meeting. After lunch, attendees heard presenters discuss statewide resources, including the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, the N.C. Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, the N.C. Department of Commerce, the N.C. Rural Center and CEFS projects.

The CEFS “Local Food Economies” initiative is part of the NC Growing Together (NCGT) project. NCGT is a five-year, USDA-funded project that aims to bring more locally-produced foods into mainstream markets, strengthening the economics of small to mid-sized farm and fishing operations and their communities. In addition to research, academic and extension components, NCGT also aims to create an enabling environment for farms and food businesses.

For more information on the VGCC Small Business Center, contact Tanya Weary at or (252) 738-3240.


6th Annual Small Business Summit – October 24th

The summit is designed to help you make the holidays pay off for your business.

“I am pleased to announce that the Small Business Center at Vance-Granville Community College will host its 6th Annual Small Business Summit next Tuesday, October 24 from 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the Lake Gaston Lions Club. This year’s theme is Making the Holidays Pay Off,” said Tanya Weary, director of the Small Business Center at Vance-Granville Community College.

Registration includes a free lunch and discussions on the following topics:

  • Shop Local – Buy Local – Invest Local to Gain More Business for You and Your Area
  • Holiday Event Planning for the Small Business Owner
  • Take Photos Like a Pro to Get More Business with Your Social Media
  • Get Social! Grow Your Business!

To register and for more information including a map, click here,

Weary told WIZS News in her email, “Event brought to you in partnership with VGCC’s SBC, CenturyLink, Chamber of Commerce of Warren County, the Warren County Economic Development Commission, and the Lake Gaston Regional Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Center.”

Two New Restaurants Open Downtown Saturday

— courtesy Henderson-Vance Downtown Development Commission

Downtown Carves Path As A Culinary Destination

Two new local eateries will open in downtown Henderson Saturday, bolstered by fascade and start-up incentives from the Downtown Development Commission. Factoring in long-time landmark George’s, the three downtown restaurants will boast an impressive resume chocked with big-name culinary influence.

Cherie Pittman, owner and Executive Chef at Next Door Bistro, has spent the last decade with Greensboro cafeteria chain Food Express. She joined them right out of culinary school as a manager and worked her way through the corporate ranks to become district manager, then head corporate chef – opening new locations and developing menus.

“I’ll incorporate the lessons I learned in those ten years with my passion for healthier comfort foods,” shared Chef Pittman. She and her husband Daniel have recently lost a collective 100 pounds on the Keto diet, a low-carb health regimen using the method of Ketosis.

Photo by Kaine Riggan, pictured (l to r) are Chef Ali Onsoy of George’s, Chef Llew Sutton of Uncle Llew’s and Chef Cherie Pittman of Next Door Bistro.

Just around the corner on Montgomery Street, Llew Sutton brings expertise from several of the Triangle’s top franchises to his Italian eatery called Uncle Llew’s Restaurant. In addition to Mellow Mushroom and Raleigh Beer Garden, Llew spent six years opening new locations for Ruckus in Cary, Apex and Morrisville. He also worked with renowned regional entrepreneur Bobby Goodnight as Executive Chef for Sass.

“We will offer flatbread pizzas, pastas, salads and sandwiches, in the beginning, but hope to extend our pizza offerings with the addition of a wood-fired pizza oven,” admits Sutton, whose wife Nikki will manage the front of house operations.

“The DDC uses USDA funds to extend very low-interest loans to promising entrepreneurs investing in the downtown business district,” shares Kaine Riggan, downtown’s Development Director. “We believe our community will support the strong insurgence of culinary talent we’re seeing and the DDC is committed to nurturing that growth.”

Riggan plans to help Sutton with the purchase of the pizza oven and is leading a collaborative marketing effort for the three restaurants as well, starting with a photo shoot for the three chefs at downtown’s Daniel Hendley Studios in early November.

The third Chef became Executive Chef and partner at George’s of Henderson last Fall. Ali Onsoy worked as a chef at George’s Oxford location since 2007 prior to the Henderson move. Interestingly, he also served as a chef in the Turkish military before coming to the United States. Onsoy’s Turkish influences can be spotted in George’s menu specials and in the restaurant’s décor.

The three restaurants will be open Saturday in conjunction with the 16th Annual Show, Shine, Shag & Dine, downtown’s largest event, hosted by Nancy Wilson and Vance County’s Tourism and Development Authority.

Getting There:
Uncle Llew’s Restaurant – 130 W. Montgomery Street
Next Door Bistro – 219 S. Garnett Street
George’s Restaurant – 210 N. Garnett St.

Vance County Announces Dennis Jarvis, II as Economic Development Director

— courtesy Vance County Manager Jordan D. McMillen

Vance County is pleased to announce the hiring of Dennis Jarvis, II, as the Director of the Henderson-Vance Economic Development Commission. He will begin in this position on November 6th.

Jarvis has a total of 18 years experience in economic development, with the last 2½ years serving as the Director of Economic Development for the Town of Altavista, Virginia. Prior to that he has had Economic Development positions in higher education, non-profit organizations, consulting, and county entities in Virginia and West Virginia. Mr. Jarvis holds a bachelor’s degree in History from Bluefield State College and a master’s degree in political science from Marshall University. He is certified in Business Retention and Expansion International (BREI) and is eligible to obtain his Certified Economic Developer (CEcD) certification through the International Economic Development Council.

During his career he has been directly instrumental in the creation of over 800 new jobs with $62 million in new investment and $335,000 in grant funds. In addition, he has led marketing efforts, business retention initiatives, and has experience in obtaining public and private grants for community development.

Mr. Jarvis has a history of strong relationships with board members, staff, the business community, state and federal agencies, and the general public. He brings a passion for community and an energy for economic development and improving the quality of life for others. He will be a welcome addition to the county’s management team and the Vance County community.

(Press Release)

Manufacturing Day – Jobs

WIZS News has been asked to announce the following as a public service:

VGCC invites community to Manufacturing Day

Are you looking for a career in manufacturing? There are job opportunities in our region right now! Find out more by attending “Manufacturing Day” at the Vance-Granville Community College Civic Center on Thursday, October 5, from 8:30 to 11:15 a.m. and 12:30 to 2:30 p.m., on the college’s Main Campus in Vance County. Meet with local employers, and learn about career options and the technical skills you need to succeed in those careers. Vance-Granville Community College will get you job-ready. Visit us on the web at