The NC Chamber’s inaugural “Coolest Thing Made in N.C.” competition highlights the state’s powerful manufacturing sector.
From sweet, tangy Cheerwine to action-packed video game Fortnite to tongue-tingling Texas Pete to sugary Krispy Kreme doughnuts, it’s easy to find some pretty incredible things made in North Carolina. Manufacturing occupations make up 10.4% of North Carolina’s workforce, and the state is home to more than 7,790 manufacturing companies, according to the National Association of Manufacturers trade group. In an effort to recognize the state’s vast manufacturing community, the NC Chamber and presenting sponsor Old Dominion Freight Line kicked off a “Coolest Thing Made in N.C.” competition, crowning the Saf-T-Liner C2 Jouley Electric School Bus made by High Point-based Thomas Built Buses the 2020 winner. The bus was selected from 72 nominees after two rounds of more than 50,000 votes by the public.
“We are grateful to the entire manufacturing community — the backbone of our state’s economy for more than a century,” says Gary Salamido, CEO of the NC Chamber. “As we say at the NC Chamber, what’s made in North Carolina makes North Carolina.”
Here’s a look at the contest winners.
Thomas Built Buses Saf-T-Liner C2 Jouley Electric School Bus, High Point
Thomas Built Buses, founded in High Point in 1916 and owned by Germany’s Daimler Trucks North America, is known for its iconic bright yellow school buses across the U.S. Although its winning electric bus may look ordinary on the outside, it is far from the gas-guzzling model that has transported generations of students. The electric bus has many environmentally friendly benefits, including running emission-free with no fossil fuels, which saves on operating costs. It also is much quieter than traditionally fueled buses. The vehicle can hit speeds of up to 65 mph, accelerating from zero to 60 mph in 45 seconds. It has as much as a 135 mile operating range with a 220 kWh power source. The bus takes about two to three hours to fully charge, and it includes a specialized battery packaging for increased safety.
NO. 2 FINALIST
Cat 299D3 XE Compact Track Loader, Sanford
Caterpillar’s hulking machinery can be seen on almost every construction and development site across the country. What makes its compact track loader so popular is its powerful engine, high-output hydraulic system and other technologies that allow workers to dig, load and handle material with little effort. The loader’s cab was redesigned to allow 15% additional space for the operator and a wider opening door that makes it easier to enter. Its quieter design includes a rated operating capacity of 3,560 lbs. and gross power of up to 110 HP. The loader also features integrated Smart technology with attachment recognition, tailored controls and grade assist.
NO. 3 FINALIST
George’s BBQ Sauce, Nashville
Where there’s North Carolina barbecue, there’s sure to be mouthwatering sauce. George’s Sauces brews and bottles its scratch-made eastern- and western-style sauces in Nashville. Brothers George and Ed Stallings invented the original sauce recipe in 1975. The tangy vinegar-based sauce is prepped with crushed peppers, apples and spices. George’s claim to fame is “It’s good on everything except banana pudding.” And it’s true: The sauce has been used on everything from fruit to party snack mix to meats to vegetables. The family-owned company’s condiments were cited as some of the “Best in the Carolinas” by Rachael Ray magazine.
NO. 4 FINALIST
HondaJet Elite, Greensboro
The jet’s sleek design includes the Over-The-Wing Engine Mount configuration — which reduces the shock wave and drag and increases performance and efficiency — and lightweight and durable composite fuselage. The Greensboro-based division of the Japanese automaker took care to enable the jet to fly faster, higher and farther, with a larger cabin size and less noise pollution than rivals. It has a max cruise speed of nearly 486 mph at an altitude as high as 43,000 feet (usually commercial airlines fly between 31,000 to 38,000 feet) and a range of more than 1,437 nautical miles. Honda says it also designed the jet’s cockpit after studying pilot and passenger movements and ergonomics. Its modern cabin features a private restroom, full-service galley, a industry first speakerless in-cabin sound system and Wi-Fi, with room for as many as eight passengers. The list price of the HondaJet Elite is about $5.3 million.
THIS YEAR’S OTHER SEMIFINALISTS INCLUDED:
Southern Supreme Fruitcakes; Bear Creek
Big Spoon Roasters Nut Butter; Durham
Cree | Wolfspeed’s Silicon Carbide; Durham
Benevolence Farm Chamomile & Lavender Healing Salve; Graham
Nugget Kids Couch; Hillsborough
Mt. Olive Pickles; Mount Olive
Bosch Stainless Steel Dishwasher SHX88PZ55N; New Bern
Thermador Double Wall Oven PODS302W; New Bern
Pepsi; New Bern (originated), bottled throughout N.C.
Smithfield Bacon; Tar Heel
Artisan Leaf Handcrafted Tobacco Leaf Tables and Surfaces; Wilson