Big Business Growth Fosters Small Business Growth

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Big Business Growth Fosters Small Business Growth

It’s going to be a great ending to 2016 for one small company and its employees in eastern North Carolina. They are hard at work on a large order for refrigeration doors to be installed in several new stores of a major grocery chain expanding into the Eastern US.

It’s going to be a great ending to 2016 for one small company and its employees in eastern North Carolina. They are hard at work on a large order for refrigeration doors to be installed in several new stores of a major grocery chain expanding into the Eastern US.

Frank Door is the leader in cold storage and traffic door manufacturing. In September, the company was awarded a contract worth a half a million dollars to manufacture 180 double doors (360 door panels) for 30 new stores being opened by Germany-based Lidl Supermarkets. The original order to supply doors to 30 locations has been increased to 50 thereby increasing the number of doors manufactured by Frank Door Company to 300 double doors (600 panels). The additional order has boosted the total order value to $700,000.

The company has made significant modifications to its manufacturing process to ensure timely delivery. Chris Frank, General Manager of Frank Door Company, explained, “This was an unusual project for us. We are so used to making custom doors that vary in size, type and color on an hourly basis that we had to change our process.” He continued, “The team has really come together and developed an assembly line type approach to the manufacturing. The doors make 4 stops along a 30’ section of our shop starting with a CNC table router, then two different assembly tables finally ending in a crate that will be destined for a store.”  

Frank Door manufactures the most complex cold storage doors in the industry using sensors to monitor whether the door has been left open and for how long. This information can also be transmitted to remote operations centers that allows a central office to monitor activity at each location. The company’s 60,000 square foot, state-of-the-art, manufacturing facility in Newport, NC uses a blend of CNC-controlled equipment for speed and accuracy with traditional hand craftsmanship for assembly and finish work. 

Frank Door Company relocated to eastern North Carolina in 2001 where it purchased an existing building in Carteret county. The decision to move was triggered by a decision of owner Terry Frank to better position the company geographically and financially to fulfill orders for a growing customer base; the most notable at that time being Wal-Mart. The Company had just received a large order to manufacture doors Wal-Mart that would necessitate a major expansion by Frank Door. Terry wanted to put the company in a position to grow and prosper in a state and region with a better business environment.

“It was a good decision and I’ve never looked back,” stated Mr. Frank. “We love it here; this community has been good to me and when my day is done, I have only short drive to hit the docks and board my boat,” he continued. 

Frank Door is a great example of the interdependency between large companies and the small companies that provide support by supplying products, services or both. This reciprocal relationship creates business for smaller companies while allowing larger companies to remain nimble due to the ability to source work from a variety of companies which keeps the manufacturing process moving smoothly. While this often may be executed in a local or regional capacity, it is not uncommon to have international players at the table. This is evident in Frank Door Company’s use of hinges supplied by a German based manufacturer to fulfill the order for Lidl Supermarkets. 

This interdependency among companies is reflected in the cluster approach to regional economic development – analyzing relationships between companies for economic sectors such as value-added agriculture which includes the food and beverage industry (grocery stores included). Three key features that relate to the importance of clusters are: innovation, increasing productivity from common workforce training and skills, and the creation of new companies through entrepreneurship and recruitment – all of which strengthen the cluster. In eastern North Carolina, the food and beverage industry is one of the largest clusters in the regional economy – representing over 120 manufacturers that employ roughly 20,000. 

Some of the regional food and beverage producers include Tyson (Sara Lee deserts), Mt. Olive Pickles, Hampton Farms (peanut products), Cott Beverage, J&J Snacks, Yamco (sweet potato puree), Franklin Baking Co., Resers Foods, and scores of others. “It makes sense for us to focus our recruiting efforts on clusters and value-added agriculture is a natural fit for us,” states Vann Rogerson, Senior Vice President for the NCEast Alliance, a regional economic development organization serving 28 counties in the eastern quarter of North Carolina.” Rogerson added, “Our region is the leading producer of farm products like corn, soybeans, cucumbers, peanuts, berries, sweet potatoes and many others, but we’re also producers of processing machinery and things like refrigerated boxes that support our food production companies.” 

In addition to Frank Door, the region is also home to Bally Refrigerated Boxes, Hockmeyer Equipment (blending machines), and SPX Flow Technology Systems (bakery equipment) and many other companies that manufacture glass and plastic bottles, closures and packaging that serve the food and beverage industry. The benefits of a cluster-focused approach to economic development has proven to be yet another important way to create a stronger regional economy.