Congressman Patrick Henry is a rookie to representing Yadkin County, but has nine terms of experience representing North Carolinians in the U.S. House of Representative. After redistricting last year, he is representing Yadkin County for the first time.
He spent a marathon day Monday traveling the county to get further up to speed with his newest constituents.
“To be a representative, you need to know the people and the needs of the people,” said McHenry, who was clad in plain brown cowboy boots with scuffed toes, dark jeans and a pressed plaid button-down.
In the morning, he visited Laurel Gray Vineyards and Van Hemric Farm in Hamptonville. In the afternoon, he presented a stimulus check to the West Yadkin Volunteer Fire Department, where the shining fire engines awaited his arrival against the backdrop of a proudly polished firehouse recently modernized in a $280,000 renovation. The space was ready to house on-duty firefighters overnight as a result of the renovation, but the funding wasn’t there to staff it yet — something Fire Chief Chris Messick explained to McHenry.
Messick said the gleaming equipment and facilities were not simply a result of their visitor.
“It’s not a reflection of us, it’s a reflection of the community,” Messick said.
Deputy Fire Chief Link King said the stimulus funds, which were ceremonially presented Monday, would be used to buy protective equipment including PPE and special protective suits that would protect firefighters from blood-born pathogens.
“I appreciate what you do and that’s why I’m here — to make sure you get recognition,” McHenry told the West Yadkin team.
His next stop was Unifi in Yadkinville, where a meeting with CEO Eddie Ingle included discussion of foreign tariffs hampering the company’s ability to acquire needed equipment abroad.
McHenry clearly enjoyed the tour of the REPREVE facility, where yarn is made from recycled plastic bottles and eventually made into products by Nike, Under Armour and Patagonia. He marveled at the production process being 100% landfill-free.
“I know them because of my relations with the textile industry,” McHenry said. “It’s amazing to see it in action.”
He said his big takeaway about the county for the day was that “there are a lot of jobs that are going unfilled,” which he admitted surprised him. The Unifi openings, for example, paid $19 an hour and up with excellent benefits and yet recruitment was a struggle. McHenry said he heard many concerns throughout the day from business owners about the challenge of recruiting a reliable and high quality workforce.
“Whether it’s in farming or in manufacturing, these are high-paying jobs that need to be filled,” McHenry said. “It’s a bit of an eye-opener.”
Lisa Michals may be reached at 336-448-4968 or follow her on Twitter @lisamichals3.