Take a look at our team members behind-the-scenes. They come to work in Graham, NC each day – ready to make sure your order is entered, produced and slit with the highest quality and then shipped correctly to your door.
We call it the Acucote Difference.
Meet Earl Curran, VP Business Development
Earl Curran has really seen a lot of changes in the label and packaging industry since he joined it 33 years ago, first with a competitor in Wisconsin and then for the last 23 years with us at Acucote.
He joined the company as a sales manager when he made the decision that it was time to bring his family back south. Earl recalls, “I wanted to stay in the industry and was game to relocate anywhere between Virginia and Florida. Ironically, I ended up in my own backyard as I grew up about an hour away from Acucote.”
Earl has spent so many years with Acucote because it’s the “…right company with the right owner. I have good people around me and still really enjoy the industry.” In thinking about his long tenure with the company, the biggest change came when Acucote made the foundational decision about 17 years ago to become a specialty substrate provider. He notes that this change, “…made it a more interesting company both for our team and for our customers. I still find it exciting to engineer a solution for our customers. Every time you do it – no matter how small or large – it feels like a win. Especially when it helps our customer gain new business and higher margins.”
When you ask Earl for his personal “words of wisdom” he’ll humbly tell you,“Life really isn’t all that complicated when you think about it. Honesty and hard work is really the secret — put forth the effort and you get what you put into it.”
In his personal time, Earl lives a nomadic water life – splitting time between his North Carolinian lake and beach homes. That’s where he unwinds and spends time with his wife, three adult kids and three grandkids. Each Monday he’s back in Graham – recharged and ready to tackle the challenges of helping Acucote grow through new business development.
Meet Tamitha VanPelt, Production Scheduler
Tamitha joined Acucote 17 years ago fresh out of Guilford College with a degree in accounting.
Over the years, she has held positions in finance, purchasing and finally in production scheduling for the past 5 years. The purchasing experience provided her with broad knowledge about raw materials and what it takes to get supply to the plant – which helps as she creates plans and schedules.
Tamitha epitomizes our focus on flexibility. Although she creates a daily plan and schedule she has to be ready and flexible, as the schedule can change.
She really enjoys the close knit relationships she’s built with her Acucote teammates, the day-to-day challenges of her position and how she’s been able to grow with the company.
When she’s not scheduling at Acucote, Tamitha’s enjoys spending time with her husband and two kids, ages 10 and 14. They enjoy spending time outdoors, going on hikes, and long before “pandemic baking” was a thing, Tamitha and her family were baking sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls from scratch! Asked if she shares her output with the office, Tamitha laughs and says – “No, the kids won’t let me!”
Meet David Wilson, Head Coater/Floater
David Wilson is not only a head adhesive coater, but he is also the lead operator on Acucote’s pilot laminator. He is also cross-trained to float around the plant wherever he’s needed. If an employee is out of the office David’s ready to jump in and help — from driving a tow motor to operating rewinders and any type of coating equipment.
This broad array of skills comes from the fact that he has been at Acucote for the past 22 years, essentially his entire working life.
What makes someone stay at one company for so long? For David it’s the fact that, “I like my job and being a machine operator. I enjoy figuring things out, making the machine run as good as possible. I really enjoy the work.”
David is also clearly passionate about the products that Acucote produces. Even on his honeymoon, enroute to the Outer Banks, David and his wife, Renae, stopped at one of the local North Carolina wineries because, “We do a lot of the pressure-sensitive adhesive materials that are used on their bottles. I really liked showing off something I had my hands on.”
When not at the office, David and Renae enjoy the great outdoors — camping, fishing and hiking with their two four-legged “kids” — seven-year-old part Pyrenees / Lab / Australian Shepherd litter mates Sashi and Zoe. A perfect night is spent by the fire on a cool Autumn evening with his in-laws who live nearby. They are also quite active in their congregation as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
David appreciates the fact that Acucote is a “…good place to work. It’s a place where I can come in every day, work hard, learn as much as I can. Even after 22 years, I’m always learning. And if you learn something each and every day, you can grow from there.”
Meet Michelle Smith, Strategic Sourcing Manager
“Successful procurement means being flexible and adapting quickly when sourcing raw materials to help predict our customers’ needs.”
That’s how 25-year Acucote veteran Michelle Smith describes her challenging and rewarding position at Acucote. After gaining a degree from UNC at Chapel Hill, Michelle worked in purchasing for a couple of North Carolina furniture manufacturers before finding her way to Acucote. She quickly discovered that the label industry had far quicker lead times and turnaround!
Over the years she’s seen a big shift in Acucote’s markets and segments. When she began, the company sold mostly commodity paper PS materials. Michelle notes that, “Today our emphasis is on customization where we excel and offer more products than our competitors. Our business development and sales teams bring us ideas daily and we have become very adept at quick changeovers and multiple adhesive changes.” And that means that Michelle has more raw materials to source and keep up with. She adds, “I’m constantly looking for more specialty items — the best materials to fit the need, at the best cost and quality.”
Michelle attributes her longevity at Acucote to the fact that “ …you know everybody, you’re not one of hundreds of people in a cubicle.” Over the years she’s attended countless Acucote “family” weddings, funerals, bachelorette parties and other life events. She even met her husband, David, through an Acucote co-worker!
Michelle has been a member of ISM – Institute for Supply Management for 15 years and holds multiple professional certifications from the organization.
When she’s not at work, Michelle enjoys spending time with her family, being active in church life and taking mini-vacations to the beach or the mountains in the region.
Tim Easter, IT/Database Administrator
“In juggling, you can’t focus your eyes on any single ball (or object) you’re controlling because you inevitably lose sight of the other things. You have to keep your gaze on the overall area.”
This is the philosophy that drives Tim Easter, IT/Database Administrator at Acucote and amateur juggler!
Tim has been with Acucote for the past 13 ½ years. After a stint with the US Navy, he finished college in Charlotte, NC with a degree in electrical engineering. He moved up north to the Burlington area and took a job in the textile industry and then later in computer instruction in Greensboro before finding his way to Acucote.
Today, he wears many hats – or better said juggles many balls – making sure there are zero problems in workflow through the company. Tim’s team ensures that the process is smooth from order entry to scheduling to production to slitting to loading and on finally to shipping.
Like so many long-term Acucote team members, when you ask about his longevity, Tim notes, “I enjoy the people I work with. It’s an excellent company – everyone in management all the way down… It’s often challenging, but I enjoy that.”
One specific challenge Tim and his team faced was getting the entire company seamlessly working from home at the start of COVID 19. He is very complimentary with the way that everyone rose to the challenge and is thriving in this environment.
Tim’s parting advice to anyone considering a career at Acucote? “If you don’t understand – stop and ask questions. When you make a mistake – own up to it.” And meanwhile keep all those balls and clubs in the air at all times!
Ryan Russell, Process Engineer
Ryan started his career at Acucote as soon as he obtained his degree in Mechanical Engineering from NC State. He spent three years with the company before moving out of the area. And, we’re very happy that he then returned to Graham and Acucote where he has worked for the past six years.
His role is to make upgrades to manufacturing equipment, design pieces of machinery and upgrade controls and wiring. He enjoys the constant variety and that he “goes wherever he’s needed on the plant floor.” Ryan’s the type of person who naturally pays a lot of attention to details – a necessity for the kind of work he does. He notes, “ I’m a planner. I like to plan out, and then follow the plan. You’re going to get thrown curve balls and need to be ready to handle them.”
Ryan appreciates the fact that management at Acucote always listens to his input and that the successful company is constantly investing in upgrading the equipment. He acknowledges that if there’s a true need, “we find a way to put it in a plan and make the necessary investment.”
After hours you’ll find Ryan finishing DIY projects around the house, hanging out with his two kids and brewing his own beer. We’re all looking forward to tasting his latest IPA!
Meet Kiara White, an AR/AP Administrator
Kiara joined Acucote five years ago, after starting in a temp position. She works with the Accounting team, and connects primarily with our customers through email, ensuring that invoices are sent out correctly. She commutes each day from Greensboro, NC but the friendly people, positive environment and open-door policy at Acucote makes it “well worth the 38 mile drive.” She particularly likes the fact that she “knows exactly what she needs to do every day, has a steady rhythm and can prioritize her work.”
And her colleagues are quick to tell you that Kiara is always friendly, with a big smile on her face, ready to lend a hand.
When not in the office, you’ll no doubt find Kiara with her nose in a mystery or crime novel, completing a Sudoku puzzle or binge watching an old tv series. Ask her anything about “Grey’s Anatomy!”
Meet Cecil Meeks, Truck Load Coordinator
There’s a joke around the plant that “Cecil Meeks came with the building.” And that’s pretty close – as he worked in the former textile facility before it closed and he moved to South Carolina. The building was later purchased and renovated by Acucote, and on a trip to visit his mother, Cecil noticed cars outside his old workplace. He stopped in, was immediately hired and has been with Acucote for the past 32 years.
Like many long-time Acucoters, Cecil has worked all over the plant – including coating, shipping and receiving, finishing – even a stint as a truck driver. Cecil attributes his longevity to the fact that “this family takes care of my family at home.” He lives to satisfy internal and external customers and notes, “If you don’t give everything to what you’re doing — you won’t get anything out of it.”
Today he’s proud of his role as Truck Load Coordinator – where he handles all the outbound truckloads from the plant and Acucote’s five distribution centers. Cecil appreciates the fact that his department is the “last line of defense” – ensuring that customers get the right product, in great shape, ready to put on the press.
When he’s not at work, you’ll find Cecil building keepsake chests in his woodshop, riding a motorcycle and spending time with the apple of his eye – his two-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter.
And like everything else in his life – Cecil has handled COVID 19 with calm and preparedness. Working 9-10 hours/day during the current pandemic has not phased him as he “feels blessed to be able to come to work each day – getting out material that’s essential to keeping the country rolling.”
Meet Kelvin Wilkins, first shift coating operator
Kelvin started in the slitting department and has been with Acucote for the past 22 years. With the support of the company, he has been trained to run just about every machine on the floor. Today he’s primarily assigned to our wide web machine, but can fill in wherever he’s needed.
Kelvin loves the confidence that comes with being able to jump in and run any Acucote machine – so much so that he drives over an hour every day just to come to work. His advice to young teammates? “Always show up early, ask questions and be open to learning new things.”
When he’s not working, you’ll no doubt find Kelvin riding his 2015 Harley Street Glide and cheering for his three kids who he’s quick to tell you “have all earned full rides in college for track and field.” His son is actually a pro hurdler and an Olympic-bound athlete.
Meet Connie Carter, Customer Service
Having worked for a local printing company Connie has over 25 years of industry experience prior to joining Acucote. She worked her way up from printer, to scheduling, environmental safety and ultimately Customer Service Manager. She even relocated to South Carolina when the company was sold but returned North to help with her ailing grandparents.
Coming from a printing background Connie truly understands the customer’s needs and deadlines. She notes, “I believe Acucote does everything within our control to meet the customer’s needs. I have seen the production team come in and work Saturdays to get the customer’s order out in a timely matter. Our shipping department works diligently to get the product out via the best carrier to get to the customer in a timely matter.”
Connie loves the fact that Acucote is a small company, and that the leadership is supportive of their employees. She adds, “As it is family-owned, we don’t have hurdles to jump through to take care of our customers. Everyone is a team player. And our CEO always makes sure we know how the company is doing and and what our goals are for the year.”
Weekends find Connie taking care of her elderly mother and reading vast volumes of mystery novels. She also confesses to loving Southern Cooking – be sure to get her to make you her grandmother’s recipe for Smothered Chicken next time you visit Greensboro!
Meet James Royster, Machine Operator
Machine Operator since 1987. James has spent a lot of time working with our slitters and his personal motto is to “take the time to get it done right the first time and never have to redo the work.”
James has spent the last 32 years with the company because Acucote is “…a great company to work for. It’s like family – everyone’s treated with respect. We grew together and there’s a lot of love there.” He believes that the Acucote difference is that it’s a responsive, privately owned company with a true passion for its customers.
When James isn’t slitting your material, you’re likely to find him riding his Kawasaki Mean Streak bike out to Wrightsville Beach near Wilmington. That’s where he hangs out with his friends, relaxes and gets ready for Monday and another busy week at Acucote.
Wayne Eakes, Quality and Process Manager
Wayne has spent 17 years at Acucote – and like many of our leaders, he started on the coating line and worked his way into his current role. He loves his job and particularly enjoys the unique challenges of resolving customer challenges and contributing to new business opportunities. Wayne appreciates that Acucote is “customer-driven and customer- focused” and that “we can compete against any of the bigger guys through quality and service.”
When he’s not at work, you’ll find Wayne cheering for UNC basketball and following his three kids’ sports – on the soccer field in the spring and fall and the basketball court in the winter.
His five-word personal motto sums up why Wayne is a great example of the Acucote Difference: “I listen and I respond.”