Restaurants/Food, Travel

Dempsey’s Bout with Honey Bees in Mayodan

In Mayodan, NC (pop. 2,500) a battle for survival is raging.  A short walk from the partially demolished old Washington Mill, which used to provide power to the area’s residents, past the rows of former millworkers’s houses, you’ll find Melvin Dempsey Nelson.

The former Washington Mill - partially demolished for salvage value

The former Washington Mill – partially demolished for salvage value

Melvin’s property spans a few acres, with a few buildings and lots of white boxes set near the trees.  Twelve years ago, Melvin started raising Honey Bees.  He and his daughter named the enterprise St. Dominic’s Honey after the bee charming Irish saint by the same name.  He has around 30 bee boxes and a small bee garage structure, just down from his house.  It’s a labor of love and gives him something to do – from tending to the wooden boxes, checking on the bees and finally harvesting the honey.

St. Dominic's Bee Farm in Mayodan, NC

St. Dominic’s Bee Farm in Mayodan, NC

He works on the farm when he has enough energy and feels like it, though he admits his age is starting to take a toll on him.  He works with a handful of members of his church that want to help and learn about beekeeping.  Though he prefers to just walk out and do what he wants to do, rather than coordinating several people to help.

A few years ago he was making 106 gallons of honey per year, last year he was down to 50 gallons.  He is passionate about the plight of the honey bee.  He blames skyrocketing farming demand which led to imported bees, mites, diseases, and pesticides.  Last year he spent $2,000 fighting pests and diseases in his hives.  There’s a lot of research on the topic from NC State Apiculture, NC State’s Honey Bee Research, NC Beekeepers, and even UK studies.

story continues below photos
Bee Box at St. Dominic's Honey

Bee Box at St. Dominic’s Honey

St. Dominc’s charges $17 per quart or $9 per pint.  Doing the math on 50 gallons, his revenue was roughly $3,500.  In prior years it was $7,000.  Subtracting out expenses and factoring in labor, there doest seem to be much profit if any.  He was sold out on my most recent visit, he’d been out since November and wouldn’t have more honey until June.  I’ll be back then to get some honey and enjoy another chat.

If you visit the area, a nice place to start is the Recreation Center at 300 S. 2nd Avenue (Hwy 220 and Hwy 135 intersection).

Madison Mayodan Recreation Center at 300 S. 2nd Ave in Mayodan, NC

Madison Mayodan Recreation Center at 300 S. 2nd Ave in Mayodan, NC

Madison Mayodan Recreation

Madison Mayodan Recreation

MM Rec Center Design in Brickwork

MM Rec Center Design in Brickwork

Bocce Ball Court at MM RecBocce Ball Court at MM Rec

Game Room at MM Rec Center

Game Room at MM Rec Center

From the Rec Center – you can walk next door to the Washington Mill site and see the demolition.  To get to downtown, head North on 2nd Avenue.

Downtown Mayodan Coca Cola Mural

Downtown Mayodan Coca Cola Mural

Deep Fried Everything

Deep Fried Everything

A shining entrepreneurial star in Mayodan is Charlie’s Soap, a natural cleaning agent.  Charlie and I served on the Entrepreneurship board at UNCG.  The Triad could use more entrepreneurs like Charlie.

From his website:

Charlie Sutherland Sr. rarely did anything without a purpose in mind. But even he couldn’t foresee what would come to pass when he stood in front of our North First Avenue building all those many years ago. In the photo at right, as he stares at the old Mayodan, N.C., fireman’s dance hall that he had plans to turn into an oil manufacturing facility, you can just about see his wheels turning. And turn they did. From 1976 until his passing in 1994, Charlie Sr. left his mark on this company: a legacy of dedication to excellence with a personal touch.

Charlie JrCharlie Sutherland Jr.

Charlie Sr. is most certainly the “Charlie” of Charlie’s Soap, but his son, Charlie Jr., actually created first the oils and then the cleaner that would come to be known as Charlie’s Soap. While you may not be able to see the wheels turning in this photo (some prefer to think of it as a screw loose), you cannot deny the gumption of a man who, on his wife Jane’s birthday in 1983, quit his day job and took over the small company that had little chance for success.

Through scrimping and saving, a little blood and a whole lot of luck, people were finding out about us and starting to ask where they could pick up some of Charlie’s soap. It had grown beyond an industrial cleaner for machines and textile quality control; people were taking it home and using for literally everything from false teeth to diesel engines.

By 2002, Charlie Jr.’s boys joined the cause and started the long-overdue process of officially branding the product as Charlie’s Soap. They took their grandparents’ ideals, their father’s guts, their own dreams and experiences and turned a small-town shop into a world-class business with product sold to 50 states and 50 countries. So, we must be doing something right!

Charlie's Soap in downtown Mayodan, NC

Charlie’s Soap in downtown Mayodan, NC

You can head West on Main St. past a small public park to Ayersville Rd.  Go South on Ayersville a couple hundred feet between Long St. and Washintgon St. to find St. Dominic’s Honey and Melvin.  From there you can walk South on Ayersville to Washington St. and go East on Washington passing the former mill workers houses.

Cacti on Washington St

Cacti on Washington St

Houses along Washington St

Houses along Washington St

From there you’re just a couple hundred feet from where you started on 2nd Avenue so head back South to the Rec Center.

Walking around Mayodan, you can see the importance of Ruger’s new 220,000sf plant with 450 jobs (former Unifi plant) and planned expansion by 2017.  Ruger’s CEO stated that the decision was based on the people of the area.  Having met Melvin and Charlie, I’d agree.

There are lots of former mill towns across North Carolina.  How to attract more entrepreneurs, farmers, industry, and tourism is something they’re all struggling to solve.

Ruger's Mayodan Plant

Ruger’s Mayodan Plant (former Unifi)

Aerial Map of Mayodan

Aerial Map of Mayodan

Government, Social Media, UNC

GO’s Ascent with Carolina Plott Hound

Carolina Plott Hound, the top NC conservative news aggregator, has published three of Greensboro Observer’s stories in the last week.  Today CPH’s top story is Obamacare (ACA) to Cost UNC $47 Million.  Last week they linked to stories about UNC Financials and UNC Foundation Financials – both stories contain Excel spreadsheets and detailed numbers in an effort to provide greater transparency to the people of our State.

Carolina Plott Hound - NC Conservative News Aggregator

Carolina Plott Hound – NC Conservative News Aggregator

Government, UNC

$156 Million Project vs. Teachers of Pitt County

The UNC Board of Governors approved a $156 million student center at ECU.  I spoke and voted against the measure in both Thursday’s UNC BOG Budget & Finance Committee and the Friday’s main UNC BOG meeting.  In both instances, I was the lone vote to deny.  It was Item 10 – Authorization of Non-Appropriated Capital Improvement Projects.  The ECU vote was split out in the B&F meeting because of the number of ECU officials attending the committee meeting.    I voted against the ECU item, but voted to approve the other items in a separate vote.

My concerns included:

  • $425 estimated student fee increase.  Approximately $10-11 million per year.
  • Raising fees, but taking credit for holding tuition flat is disingenuous.  
  • Construction costs of $156 million for 280,0000sf of buildings and parking deck.  A thorough review of construction costs for all projects across all campuses should be done.  In addition, those costs should be compared to private sector costs.
  • It is important to note that the instructional budget for Pitt County schools is $25 million per year.  This ECU student fee increase is $10-11 million per year by comparison.

On the same day as the UNC BOG vote for the ECU Student Center, Pitt County Schools announced that it would have to cut teachers’ hours because of ACA (Obamacare).  The impact of ACA (Obamacare) to the UNC System is $47 million per year.  We are going to struggle to deal with all these unanticipated costs.

Financial resources are not unlimited.  We must consider the financial impact of our decisions on students, teachers, taxpayers, and the area.

Government, UNC

My Invocation at UNC Board of Governors February Meeting

Rev. Dr. McCorkle – at the laying of the University’s cornerstone in 1793 (slightly paraphrased)
He talks about the absolute importance of God in all our endeavors, the need  for and benefits of public education.

Psalm 127:1
Unless the Lord Builds the House
A Song of Ascents. Of Solomon.
Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it, labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to His beloved sleep.

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
the fruit of the womb, a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

Rev Dr. McCorkle continues

For my own part, I feel myself penetrated with a sense of these truths; and this I feel not only as a citizen of the State, as a member of civil as well as religious society.

To diffuse the greatest possible degree of happiness in North Carolina is the aim of our government and God’s will.
The happiness of a nation depends on national wealth, success, just laws, and liberty.
Those objectives require an educated populace.
Help us educate the people of this State.
Help us create public places of education that give our citizens the means to live a happy and productive life.
This in turn we hope will lead to a more successful and productive nation.
Help us use our universities to encourage industry to provide careers for our citizens.
All these successes depend on dissemination of knowledge.

Knowledge is wealth, it is glory —whether among philosophers, ministers of state or of religion, or among the great mass of the people.
We celebrate our thought leaders as kings.
Uncivilized people cannot have, or rather cannot educate such leaders, though many capable children with unlimited potential are born and buried among them.
Knowledge is liberty and law.
When the clouds of ignorance are dispelled by the radiance of knowledge, power trembles, but the authority of the laws remains inviolable;
and how this knowledge, productive of so many advantages to mankind, can be acquired without public places of instruction, I know not.

May this hill be for religion as the ancient hill of Zion; and for literature and the Muses, may it surpass the ancient Parnassus! We this day enjoy the pleasure of seeing the corner-stone of the University, its foundations, its materials, and the architects of the buildings, and we hope ever long to see its stately walls and spire ascending to their summit.

Guide us Lord and help us serve the People of this State.

I pulled most of the quotes from Sketches of North Carolina by William Henry Foote (  Rev Dr. McCorkle’s quotes start on page 532.
I included the entire Psalm 127:1 – the book doesn’t quote the whole psalm, but it appears to have only a portion of his speech.  I also paraphrased some parts of the speech for brevity and modern reference.
The relevant text from Sketches of North Carolina is:
Page 532
On the 12th of October, 1793, the first lots in the village were sold, and the corner-stone of the first building was laid, with masonic procession and ceremonies, by William Richardson Davie. The Rev. Dr. McCorkle, of the Presbyterian church, the only clergyman then in the corporation, addressed the assembly at length. From his speech the following are extracts:–“It is our duty to acknowledge that sacred scriptural truth, Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it; except the Lord keepeth the city, the watchman waketh but in vain. For my own part, I feel myself penetrated with a sense of these truths; and this I feel not only as a minister of religion, but also as a citizen of the State, as a member of civil as well as religious society. These unaffected feelings of my heart give me leave to express, with that plainness and honesty which becomes a preacher of the Gospel and a minister of Jesus Christ.””To diffuse the greatest possible degree of happiness in a given territory is the aim of good government and religion. Now the happiness of a nation depends upon national wealth and national glory, and cannot be gained without them. They in like manner depend upon liberty and laws. Liberty and laws call for general knowledge in the people, and extensive knowledge in matters ofPage 533
State; and these, in fine, demand public places of education. * * * * How can any nation be happy without national wealth? How can that nation, or man, be happy that is not procuring the necessary conveniences and accommodations of life? How can glory or wealth be procured or preserved without liberty and laws, as they must check luxury, encourage industry and protect wealth. They must secure me the glory of my actions, and save from a bowstring or a bastile; and how are these objects to be gained without general knowledge? Knowledge is wealth,–it is glory–whether among philosophers, ministers of state or of religion, or among the great mass of the people. Britons glory in the name of a Newton, and honor him with a place among the sepulchres of her kings. Americans glory in the name of a Franklin; and every nation which has them boasts her great men. Savages cannot have, rathercannot educate them, though many a Newton has been born and buried among them. Knowledge is liberty and law. When the clouds of ignorance are dispelled by the radiance of knowledge, power trembles, but the authority of the laws remains inviolable; and how this knowledge, productive of so many advantages to mankind, can be acquired without public places of instruction, I know not. * * * * “May this hill be for religion as the ancient hill of Zion; and for literature and the Muses, may it surpass the ancient Parnassus! We this day enjoy the pleasure of seeing the corner-stone of the University, its foundations, its materials, and the architects of the buildings, and we hope ere long to see its stately walls and spire ascending to their summit.” The discourse was followed by a short but animated prayer, closed with the united Amen of an immense concourse of people.

Government, UNC

Obamacare (ACA) to Cost UNC $47 Million per Year

Obamacare will cost the University of North Carolina System $47 million per year starting in 2015 for its 8,586 employees that exceed 30 hours per week that don’t have State insurance.  This is a recurring annual expense.  The workers include temporary/visiting faculty, graduate or teaching assistants, post-doctoral employees and student employees.  This group is in addition to the primary UNC workforce that is already covered by the State Health Plan.

Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) employers are required to provide qualified health insurance plans to much of their workforce or face hefty fines.  Due to this mandate, the University of North Carolina and other State government agencies, as employers, must provide healthcare coverage for certain non-permanent employees or face significant fines.

The University’s existing health plan is currently administered by the State Health Plan.  At $5,435 per employee annually, this is an Unfunded mandate that will have a significant impact on the UNC system and state agency budgets.  With approximately 8,586 qualifying employees (that exceed 30 hours but aren’t currently insured) in the University, UNC will have to find approximately $47 million to comply with the Affordable Care Act mandate (based on 2014 rates of $5,435 per employee – however costs may be higher in 2015).

State Health Care Costs History:

2012-13: $5,192
2013-14: $5,285
2014-15: $5,435  ($1,400 increase, +34% over last seven years)

The University is responding by seeking lower cost insurance and asking for approval to provide these workers a cheaper plan.  It is also exploring cutting the hours of 50-75% these 8,586 employees to keep them under 30 hours per week.

The University hopes that by reducing the number of qualified employees’ hours (similar to Darden restaurants pilot program that it later reversed) and offering a lower cost plan – the cost impact could be reduced to $11-22 million per year.  I would brace for a $30-50 million impact.

The implementation date is 1/1/2015 – so campuses has already started setting aside money to deal with the impact.  Learn more by reading the UNC Board of Governors February 2014 meeting materials.

$47,000,000 per Year

$47 Million Impact to UNC from Obamacare

$47 Million Impact to UNC from Obamacare

Government, UNC

Spreadsheet of all UNC Foundations Activity Statements and Balance Sheets

In an effort to provide greater transparency and encourage active participation in the financial analysis of the UNC System – here is a link to another dropbox folder with UNC Foundations’ Activity Statements and Balance Sheets.  These are set up in a side by side comparison format similar to the other UNC System Financial Statement Analysis.

As with the other post, this is public information that my office has formatted for ease of comparison.  Feel free to share and comment below.  Corrections are welcome.

UNC Sign

UNC Sign


Shelter vs Sheltered Taxes

There’s a difference between providing shelter and sheltering taxes.

“Your princes are rebels and companions of thieves. Everyone loves a bribe and runs after gifts. They do not defend the orphan, and the widow’s cause does not come before them.” Isaiah 23 “Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” Isaiah 16-17

Two Sisters and 5 Children Live Here in South Africa

Two Sisters and 5 Children Live Here in South Africa

Two Sisters with their youngest in South Africa

Two Sisters with their youngest in South Africa


Parking Meters and Parking Decks – Payments, Phones and Poetry

I’ve seen some interesting parking technology in my travels.  As with most technology, the question of who it benefits is hard to answer.  Is it the parking consumer by making his life easier by accepting credit cards or mobile phone payments?  Or the municipality by making it easier to collect parking fees and fines?  The tech companies who sell the products?  Or the businesses located nearby?

Parking Lot Red and Green Lights Indicate Available or Occupied

Parking Lot Red and Green Lights Indicate Available or Occupied

In Las Vegas, the coolest parking technology was lighting above each parking space in a deck that indicated green for available and red for occupied.

That information fed back to a message board on each deck that showed how many spaces were available and in which rows.  No more hunting for parking spaces or pulling into a deck only to find out all the spaces were occupied.

Space Available

Space Available

Parking Meters - Take Credit Cards

Parking Meters – Take Credit Cards

Parking Meters - Pay by Phone or Credit Card

Parking Meters – Pay by Phone or Credit Card

In Scottsdale, the parking meters allow for credit card payments or even payments by phone.  No more searching for coins or going into a store to look for change.  There was also an option to pay via phone.

In London, friends of mine use an app with preloaded payment options that will alert them if they are running out of time and ask if they want to reload the meter.

Two examples of these technologies are Park Mobile and Digital Pay Tech.

I’m not sure if we will we see these technologies come to Greensboro or if they are  worth the investment.  But it might be worth looking into as we have increasing parking demands in downtown GSO.

Even though Greensboro doesn’t have this technology yet, we do have local blogger Billy Jones, the Blogging Poet, who has an entire thread dedicated to Parking Meter Poetry.  Billy’s got some great poetry and fiction on his various blogs.

Parking Meter Poetry?  I was inspired, so I wrote a song about it. Like to hear it?  Here it goes!

“Parking meter technology is a changing, but we still have to feed the meter.”

Thank ya very much.


Will Inflation and Interest Rates Rise? ACA Impact?

Will the ACA drive up the costs of goods (inflation) and hence nominal interest rates?  I’m concerned that it will.  Frankly, I’m concerned that they will go up anyway, but that ACA could be the trigger.

I commented about it on Ed Cone’s thread about Hagan/ACA and part of his reply was “and our ongoing low-inflation/low-interest-rate era, and the possibility that reform will slow healthcare cost inflation.”

Maybe I’m wrong, but I think we’re at the bottom of historically low interest rates/inflation.  What if ACA marks the end of low-interest rates?

I entered the real estate market in 1991 when the Prime Rate was in the 8’s and 9’s.  The 10-year treasury was around 8.  I’ve watched Prime and Treasuries bump around.  It’s my belief that treasuries are at an all time low and anyone who isn’t locking their rates is gambling.  I believe the Prime Rate could increase from 3.25 to 5.5-8% in the next three years.

US Prime Interest Rate History

US Prime Interest Rate History

Likewise, I’m concerned that 10-year treasuries could reach 6-8% over the next few years.

Historical 10yr US Treasury Rates

Historical 10yr US Treasury Rates –;range=my;compare=;indicator=volume;charttype=area;crosshair=on;ohlcvalues=0;logscale=off;source=;

The one-year CMT gives us an indication of the historically low rates:

1yr CMT Index

1yr CMT Index

Inflation.  I’m concerned that ACA will result in higher cost of goods sold and inflation. I’ve heard business owners talking about the additional costs they will incur by having to provide health insurance. I’ve also seen estimates and had discussions about premiums going up (which would likely have to in order to cover those with preexisting conditions). I believe those costs will be passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices. A jump in prices means inflation.  A rate of 3-5% inflation is not out of the question – we only need to look back to 2007 to find 4% inflation or 1990 for 6%.  ACA advocates argue that health care costs (which account for 7% of the CPI weight) will decrease, but I haven’t seen any indication of that in the real world.  

CPI only looks at consumer paid health care costs, not employee paid.  Per BLS CPI Notes –  “Since medical care only includes consumers’ out-of-pocket expenditures (and excludes employer provided health care), its share in the CPI is smaller than its share of gross domestic product (GDP) and other national accounts measures.”  

It may make CPI for medical costs look good, but shifting dollars around from the consumers to their employers, medical providers or government – doesn’t make the cost magically disappear.  Those costs will reappear in other areas.  

Historical US Inflation Rates

Historical US Inflation Rates

Interest Rates.  With inflation comes higher nominal interest rates as they are the sum of the real interest rate and inflation. I’m concerned that interest rates will rise over the next few years. As interest rates rise, the cost of products and services will rise as well. That leads to even higher inflation.

Inflation and Interest Rates are Related

Inflation and Interest Rates are Related

Stock Market Adjustment?
 A high interest rate environment would have devastating effects on the economy and stock market.   I’m a bear anyway, but I believe a shift in interest rates could topple the market highs.

In summary, I’m concerned that ACA will increase the cost of goods, drive up inflation, and increase interest rates.

What are your thoughts?  The comments section is at the bottom of the page.