The Community House in Morganton was filled with anticipation Wednesday evening as the Burke County Chamber of Commerce celebrated the winners and nominees of the 2014 Cornerstone Awards.
A panel of independent judges reviewed 16 nominees before choosing five of them to be recognized as Burke County’s business of the year in three awards categories: the Impact Award, Diversity Award and Foundation Awards.
The Tea Tree in Glen Alpine received the 2014 Impact Award as the Community Minded Business of the Year. Opened in 2001 as an extension of Nathan’s Hope, a non-profit organization that gives mothers an opportunity to sell their handcrafted and/or gently used home décor items on consignment. Over the past 13 years, the Tea Tree 
Chamber Board Chairman Scott Mulwee with (L-R) Tammy Taylor, Gina Setterlind and Tammy Matney from the Tea Tree.
has evolved into much more than a business for Glen Alpine and surrounding areas. Besides selling items on consignment, the shop has become a gathering place where single moms, working moms, retired moms and moms facing special challenges can participate in the popular “Tea and Talks” with the staff and volunteers. The non-profit also offers homemaking classes for youth, where graduates are invited to a father-daughter date night and dance, conducted in conjunction with area churches. Past winners of the Impact Award include Fatz, Case Farms and Oral Maxillofacial Surgeon Amy Brooks, DDS, MD, PhD. 
Opportunity Threads is winner of this year’s Diversity Award recognizing the Minority/Female Owned Business of the Year in Burke County. Opportunity Threads opened in 2008 with a staff composed of entirely of volunteers. Today it is a worker-owned company that employs 15 people and specializes in producing environmentally sustainable apparel for established, expanding and startup companies across the Carolinas and the United States. It is also active in the growing movement to help companies re-shore their work to the US. Its products have been featured in such national publications as Southern Living, People Magazine and People Style WatchPast Diversity Award winners include Subway, Jake’s Hamburgers and The Kitchen Connection.
The winner of the 2014 Foundation Award for the Small Business of the Year is Morganton Feed & Seed. Originally opened in 1945, its name and ownership changed two times. In 2011, the business was on the verge of closing when Chad Earp purchased it. Over the past three years, the store has expanded to include greenhouse operations, an agricultural side and a Country Store. Chad stated that he operates his business on the principle that, by keeping iconic stores open, Burke County can stay true to its roots and enhance the community. Past winners of the Foundation Award as Small Business of the Year have included Mobile Services, Psalms Urgent Care and Farris Insurance.
The winner of the 2014 Foundation Award for the Mid-Sized Business of the Year is Bridgeway Solutions. The company is the Southeast’s largest provider of full-service identification management solutions for business, education, industry, emergency response agencies, healthcare, and state and local governments. The company uses best-of-class hardware, software and consumables to safeguard its clients’ employees, data and other valuable assets. Founded in 1976, the company relocated its headquarters to Morganton in 2003. In the ensuing years, company president J.Michael Bridges and his late wife, Deborah, transformed an old structure in downtown Morganton into an award-winning, state-of-the-art facility, that is frequently used by community organizations. The firm’s leaders and team members are active in a variety of community-based organizations. Among other honors, Mike is a recipient of the NC Order of the Long Leaf Pine Award and the SBA’s Small Businessman of the Year Award. Past winners have included DeFeet International, Burke Hospice & Palliative Care and James Tool Machine and Engineering.
Caterpillar, Inc. was selected by the judges as the winner of the Foundation Award – Large Business of the Year, following in the footsteps of Blue Ridge HealthCare and McDonald’s of Burke County.Caterpillar has been producing Precision Engine Components in Morganton since its plant opened in 1998. Reflecting a culture of innovation, the company invested $9 million in 2012 to add state-of-the-art digital manufacturing to build assemblies for track type tractors. It is an example of 21st century technology requiring new skills sets needed by line operators to interface with Programmable Logic Computers. The Caterpillar team in Morganton is consistently recognized for its excellent record of safety and quality. Through monetary support and the contribution of personal time and energy, Caterpillar’s 170 employees and leaders are highly visible in the Burke County community. Under the leadership of Plant Manager Doug Whiteley, the company is a partner with Western Piedmont Community College in Project Renew, a program designed to retrain unemployed or underemployed Burke County citizens with skills needed to be successful in today’s ever-changing manufacturing environment. 

The 2014 Cornerstone Award Nominees

In alphabetical order…

American Roller Bearing

Barium Springs

Caterpillar, Inc.

Belk of Morganton

Bridgeway Solutions

Catawba Valley Staffing

JD’s Smokehouse

Kellex American Seating

Las Salsas

Morganton Feed and Seed


Opportunity Threads

Patterson’s Amish Furniture

The Tea Tree

Time Saver Storage

Wendy B’s Embroidery & Screen Printing

Judges praised the quality of all the companies nominated for this year’s awards. Catawba Valley Staffing’s team, along with other finalists, received a framed certificate to display at their business.

Chamber Board Chairman Scott Mulwee and Interim Chamber President Jerry Davis teamed up to present the awards. Davis called the 16 Cornerstone Award nominees “an interesting and diverse group, almost a cross section of business in Burke County.”

* The youngest company has been in business about one year. The most established company started business 85 years ago.
* The smallest company has two employees – the largest about 300 employees.
* They are spread all across Burke County – from Glen Alpine to Valdese.
* They smoke BBQ, sew clothing, keep you – your family -and your home in style, and manufacture machines that can move the earth.
* They hire workers and protect personal identity
* They make furniture, sell furniture and can even store it when your run out of room for it.
* They work to improve the lives of mothers, children and families in need.
“There is plenty to admire among this year’s 16 nominees,” he added.

The five winners each received a Cornerstone Award sculpture to display in their business. For the first time, nominees who did not receive one of the Cornerstone Awards will each receive a commemorative framed certificate.

Theme: Overlay by Kaira 110 East Meeting Street, Morganton, NC 28655
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