Manufacturing is a robust and vital sector to North Carolina’s business community. In fact, manufacturing is North Carolina’s largest employer industry and contributor to GDP. As the exclusive state affiliate for the National Association of Manufacturers, the North Carolina Chamber is proud to represent and advocate for our state’s manufacturers, who serve as the engine of technology development and innovation in North Carolina! In its “Made in NC: Spotlight on Manufacturing” article series, the NC Chamber highlights North Carolina manufacturers that are strengthening North Carolina through innovation, workforce development, community involvement and diverse career opportunities. Read the Stephenson Millwork story and watch the video below to see how this third-generation family business stands out for not only their ongoing dedication to quality, but also their commitment to their employees and the communities where they live and work.
Made in NC: Spotlight on Stephenson Millwork
It was 1946 and Russell Stephenson left his father’s lumber business and sought out to focus on woodwork craftsmanship. He built Stephenson Millwork with a commitment to providing the highest-quality products in the millwork industry. Stephenson Millwork began in a simple 3,200-square-foot building in a cow pasture with only seven employees, and specialized in building cabinets. Three generations and 68 years later, the company has grown to the largest architectural millwork company in the Carolinas and one of the largest in the southeast, but has maintained the same commitment to quality that was laid as its foundation in 1946. Today, Stephenson Millwork employs nearly 100 employees at its plant in Wilson and showroom in Raleigh.
For Stephenson Millwork, North Carolina has always been home. With the state’s construction activity a step ahead of other markets around the country, it has been a good place for them to grow. Russ Stephenson Jr. pointed to the collaboration between government and industry as critical in moving the state forward in spite of some challenging environments. He went on to discuss the North Carolina Chamber’s role in this, which has “resulted in job growth that fueled our economy and encouraged in migration of new business and expansion of existing.”
Three Generations of Quality, Community, Innovation
Today, Stephenson Millwork provides engineering, fabrication, finishing, and installation of custom architectural millwork for the commercial, institutional, and residential construction industries, which includes practically all interior exposed wood and solid surface materials. There is a major focus on higher education and health care markets. Beyond their high-quality products and service, Stephenson Millwork stands out for their commitment to their employees and the communities where they live and work.
This third-generation family-owned-and-operated business embraces their employees as family and goes above and beyond to look out for their well-being. This, in turn, has led to significant innovation. Stephenson Millwork was the first in the industry to install a central air filtering and recovery system for sawdust generated in the wood machining process, in order to assure a clean air work environment for their workers. This also allows the shavings to be accumulated and used as fuel to provide heat in the winter for its plant. For their innovative way to protect their employees while looking out for the environment, they received the “NC Clean Air Award” the first year the system was in place. To that end, Stephenson Millwork has been at the forefront of green initiatives in its industry, as an early member of the Forest Stewardship Council and certified for chain of custody.
The commitment to community exemplified in the company’s business practices is equally important to the Stephenson family and their employees. They were recently recognized by the United Way for their 50 years of running an employee campaign to encourage ongoing, company-wide civic engagement at Stephenson Millwork.
As you can see, Stephenson Millwork is an exemplary corporate citizen. Perhaps though, their key to success in cultivating the Stephenson Millwork family culture is the sense of pride they instill in each of their employees. Hanging prominently in their plant is a sign that reads, “A person who works with his hands is a worker, a person who works with his hands and brain is a craftsman, and a person who works with his hands, brain, and heart is an artist.”