By Kevin Maurer
Inspired by a drive-by shooting of a 16-year-old in 2015, Wilmington entrepreneur George Taylor and 11 local gang leaders came up with a plan to help solve the city’s gang-violence problem. Last June, Taylor launched Tru Colors Brewing, which employs about 30 active Port City gang members. The company’s first line of beer is slated for release in the next few months.
“[Gang violence] is an economic problem,” Taylor says. “It isn’t about social issues or race. Gangs are more like fraternities or clubs than organized crime. Some crime goes on, but that is not the objective. They’re kind of bad at it. They get arrested a lot.”
Tru Colors plans to open a brewpub later this year. While a permanent location is under consideration, the company is working out of the offices of Untappd, a Wilmington-based company that makes an app for beer drinkers. Taylor, who has launched several technology companies, is chairman of both Untappd and National Speed, a local shop for performance-auto enthusiasts.
Taylor, 57, plans for Tru Colors to employ as many as 90 gang members. Staying in the gang is an employment requirement so the workers can positively influence other members.
While plans for the brewpub are finalized, the company launched an apprentice program in January that acts as a job-placement service. “We couldn’t hire enough people in the brewery right now,” Taylor says. “We had a lot of momentum, so we put the apprentice program together to keep things moving.”
The brewery recruits and vets each apprentice before accepting him or her into a three-week training course that includes group workout sessions and life-skills training. Tru Colors, which is solely funded by Taylor, pays the apprentice a $30,000 salary and covers workers-compensation insurance and payroll taxes. The brewery bills client companies a flat $15 an hour. Seven apprentices have graduated from training and now work for Wilmington area construction companies.
Lamar Wheeler was released from prison in August and was barely supporting his family when he got the apprentice job. Now he is a believer in Tru Colors’ mission.
“The whole purpose of it coincides with my purpose as a man,” Wheeler says. “What I represent — making a change for the better. One of my goals when I was locked up was to come back and bring peace. Tru Colors gave me the opportunity to do what I wanted to do.”
WASHINGTON — InterMarket Technology will create 57 jobs and invest $2.7 million in a headquarters and manufacturing plant. Started in 1995, the Wayne, N.J.-based company makes recycling bins and displays for convenience, grocery and dollar stores.
BEULAVILLE — Precision Hydraulic Cylinders was acquired by Leggett & Platt, a Carthage, Mo.-based diversified manufacturer, for $85 million. The seller was Austin, Texas-based Owner Resource Group, which acquired a majority interest in the company in 2014.
GREENVILLE — Jeff Compher took a $1.26 million buyout and will step down as athletic director of East Carolina University on May 1. Compher has held the position since April 2013.
ROCKY MOUNT — Southeast Service planned to lay off 105 custodial workers after Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools ended its contract. The Nashville, Tenn.-based company does business
as SSC Service Solutions.
ROCKY MOUNT — Kyle Stephens was named publisher of The Rocky Mount Telegram. He succeeds Mark Wilson, publisher since 2013, who retired. Stephens was previously publisher of a nondaily newspaper group owned by Florida-based Cooke Communications, the Telegram’s parent company.