2022 Manufacturing Awards Banquet

The Southwest Virginia Alliance for Manufacturing hosted its annual Manufacturers’ Awards Banquet in celebration of National Manufacturing Day on Thursday, October 6th. Business and community leaders from across Southwest Virginia gathered at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center to celebrate manufacturing and its achievements over the past year.

Attendees enjoyed networking, drinks and appetizers before the program began with dinner. Attendees were welcomed by Melinda Roberts, Vice Chair of the SVAM Board of Directors. Melinda recapped SVAM’s accomplishments since its 2021 Banquet, recognized membership, and thanked the organization’s supporters. The keynote speaker for this year’s Banquet was Erin Streeter, Executive Vice President of the National Association of Manufacturers. The keynote topic was, “Competing to Win: Powering America’s Manufacturing Resurgence”. Erin focused on her perspective of the needs of the nation’s manufacturing companies and her organization’s efforts to meet those needs.

This year’s event sponsors were The Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center, Washington County IDA, The Appalachian Council for Innovation., Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority, and Neikirk Image Photography.

The focal point of the dinner was the awards ceremony. SVAM presents these awards is in pursuit of its goal to change the perception of manufacturing and increase the number of individuals pursuing careers in manufacturing. At this year’s Banquet, SVAM presented awards in six categories – each category chosen to showcase to the community the impactful ways manufacturers benefit Southwest Virginia.

Continue reading for information about each of this year’s award winners.


Award Winners


Marty Holliday presents Somic America with the Community Impact Award.

Community Impact Award presented to Somic America, Inc. of Wytheville, VA

Somic America, Inc. strives to be a community partner. They have employees that are board members of the Wytheville Economic Development Authority, Wytheville Parks and Recreation, Wythe Arts Council, SVAM, and countless coaches and community leaders. They routinely participate in area golf tournaments to support various organizations. Their employees have started a Relay for Life team to support cancer research and are constantly looking for ways to be involved and support our community. 

It is highly encouraged from day one of onboarding to participate in community outreach and the management team is on board with making our communities a better place to raise our children and enjoy this beautiful place we all get to call home. This company is always offering some sort of opportunity to either give back or participate in a program to volunteer time to help our fellow neighbors. This company sets the standard for what a company should be in regard to supporting our region. 


Jeff Dunnack presents Strongwell with the Innovations in Manufacturing Award.

Innovations in Manufacturing Award presented to Strongwell of Bristol, VA

Strongwell pultruded a carbon fiber-reinforced beam to be inserted as a component within a newly-designed ultralight fifth wheel for commercial tractor trailers. The beam works with steel to improve fatigue and overturn strength while significantly decreasing weight of the overall structure. 

The end product produced is not highly visible, but critical to road safety. The CFRP beam is hidden internally within the fifth wheel system. In most instances, it sees no loads during normal operation; it only comes into play when the wheel experiences plastic deformation during an overturn event. Its sole job is to absorb the load and redirect the deformation to ensure the security of the locking mechanism while offering significant fuel savings, higher cargo capacity, and reducing carbon footprints through final production.



“Strongwell is honored to receive the SVAM 2022 Innovations in Manufacturing Award. Since 1956, Strongwell has been supplying reinforced fiber polymer composites to multiple markets throughout the world. Our team members, suppliers, and cohorts made this product and achievement possible. This is just one of many testaments as to what our capabilities are as a manufacturer, employer, and as a supplier within our region, sector, and industry.” – Te-Kai Shu, Social Media and Business Development Manager, Strongwell



Sean Blackwell presents Innovative Millwork Technologies with the Excellence in Safety Award.

Excellence in Safety Award presented to Innovative Millwork Technologies of Chilhowie, Virginia

In 2021 Innovative Millwork Technologies realized they had safety issues and needed to implement a robust safety program that would address the safety of their production floor. Using the Kaizen approach, they started in the area that had the most safety issues. They involved each team member in a process that focused on safety-related issues, from equipment, the layout and flow of material, personnel turn-over, and any other possible safety issues that needed to be addressed. They came up with a punch list of items, which they addressed and made changes as needed. 

In daily production meetings with the supervisors, they have a section of the meeting devoted to safety. They also have a suggestion box and encourage employees to use it to promote ideas that will help enable them and their co-workers to be safe. Innovative Millwork Technologies has started an OSHA-approved type of safety bingo, monthly safety meetings, and safety slogan contest to keep employees involved. They have support and buy in from the top down. This company believes the most important part to sustaining a safety or any other program is the employees believing in the program, being involved in the program and seeing results of their work.


“Innovative Millwork Technologies (IMT) in Chilhowie, VA is honored to be recognized by SVAM for the Excellence in Safety Award for 2022. We would like to thank SVAM for the safety training provided over the years for its members. Keeping our employees safe is at the top of our organization’s priority list. For our IMT family to be rewarded for our safety program is certainly a highlight and major accomplishment for 2022, we look forward to continuously pushing our mindset, culture, and behavior towards safety.” – Larry Wyatt Plant Manager, Innovative Millwork Technologies



John Bebber presents Samuel Pressure Vessel Group with the Community Choice Award.

Community Choice Award presented to Samuel Pressure Vessel Group of Lebanon, Virginia

SPVG is a staple in the community, donating nearly $17,000.00 to various organizations and causes in the area including: Lebanon Police Department, The Town of Lebanon (4th of July celebration), Toys for Tots, Star Ministries, Shop with a cop, Russell County Public Schools, and Local Little Leagues.

In addition to these monetary donations Samuel has also donated food to the local church food pantry, and has contributed to the firepits for fundraising program. 

SPVG’s dedication to the community speaks for itself in terms of dollars, and reliability. Of the $17,000.00 donated, $10,000 was directed to the Town of Lebanon (Lebanon Police Department for new equipment, and the town’s 4th of July celebration), where SPVG is located, a direct investment in the community Samuel calls home. 

“Samuel Pressure Vessel Group is very proud and humbled for winning the Community Choice Award. It is one of our guiding principles to give back and support our surrounding communities and employee families.  It brings us joy to help organizations out during Christmas to help provide gifts for the children, buy uniforms and advertising for the ball teams and help our towns with celebrations and other needs.” – Lori Brewster, Human Resources Generalist, Samuel Pressure Vessel Group



Somic America, Inc. Group Photo

Manufacturer of the Year Award presented to Somic America, Inc. of Wytheville, VA

Somic America, Inc. demonstrates innovation through an offsite warehousing project which opened up significant floor space, by reducing their scrap/production ratio by 40%, and through multiple Kaizen projects.

Somic America, Inc. strives to be a community partner. From top management to the floor level employees, there is an open door policy for asking for donations and or labor to support a cause. They consistently look for ways to engage employees to give back to our communities and will continue to do so in the future.

This facility promotes a safe and healthy work environment for their employees. They reduced their incident rate nearly 40% from 2020, and 54% from 2019. 

Finally, this company has shown dedication and devotion to its employees with recent contributions and investments. Including a 29% wage increase on base pay, investing in the equipment in Wytheville, and a plan is in place to invest 25 million dollars in this facility over the next 5 yrs. Also, great effort is put forth in kaizen activity. Reducing cost to produce product will yield more opportunities to invest in their people and processes.

Somic Ishakawa was established in 1916. We are a global manufacturer of automotive suspension parts that currently supplies Toyota, Subaru and Honda.. Somic has a presence in Japan, China, Indonesia, India, Thailand, France and United States. Somic has had a footprint in southwest Va. since 1989. Currently we are 450 associates strong in the Wytheville facility, producing appx. 340,000 pcs per day. 

We could not do this without: 1. A customer service team that truly puts the customer first, even when it hurts, 2. A quality team that strives to be perfect, 3. An engineering team driven to improve every day, 4. A management team that can work through difficult situations, be compassionate to others and hold each other accountable while focusing on daily goals, 5. Last but not least, a strong HR team that will smile and laugh when they can, cry when others are hurting, pray when others are in need and be that stern voice of reason when necessary.

Because of these teams, last year was a success. We achieved:

      • 40% reduction in safety incident rate
      • Customer reject rate of 2.8 PPM vs a goal of 15
      • 0 Safety Critical rejects at customer
      • 100% OTD with no backlog to customers
      • Entered a successful venture with Camrett Logistics to free up shop floor space for better product flow and new equipment
      • Reduced scrap cost 308k from previous year by reducing scrap/production ratio by 40%
      • Spent 7M dollars on new equipment with a plan to spend 25M in 5 yrs
      • Showed great appreciation and respect for hourly associates with a 29% wage increase in base pay
      • Donated nearly 9k dollars to various schools and organizations in Wythe county and surrounding area
      • And we had a lot of fun participating at Chataqua festival, scaring kids at Mayhem on Main Halloween celebration, picnicking with our families at Hungry Mother Lake and playing a bunch of golf tournaments for worthy fundraisers.

Even with our great improvements, we still have a ton of work to do. Our Continuous Improvement mindset pushes us to always want to be better. We are always talking about what we can do to be better tomorrow than we are today!” – John Griffith, Plant Manager, Somic America, Inc.


Kelly DeBusk presents Chip Havens with the Manufacturing Employee of the Year Award.

Manufacturing Employee of the Year Award presented to Chip Havens of Appalachian Plastics in Glade Spring

Chip has been trained in every aspect of the production process at Appalachian Plastics. His willingness to take on additional responsibilities has made him an invaluable production manager. He is able to fill in for any missing team member if needed to ensure production numbers are met. Chip consistently wins the perfect attendance award each quarter. He is there on time everyday and stays until the job is done. He works with his team to ensure they do their best work and works with his team and upper management to address all problems that he may encounter.He is willing to put any overtime needed to finish a project on time or to troubleshoot any issue that he may encounter.

Chip began working for Appalachian Plastics in 1999, starting on the production floor right out of high school. He now runs 2 of the 3 departments at Appalachian Plastics. He schedules production for each of his winding teams and makes adjustments when team members are absent. He goes over drawings with the assemblers to make sure they understand the specific assembly configurations of a project. He ensures the quality of everything that goes out in these departments and takes responsibility if the customer is not completely satisfied. When the plant manager is absent, Chip has been trained to fill in and is able to manage all 3 departments and the customer changes, calls, and requests.

Chip leads by example and is still willing to step into any production job he is needed to fill to ensure production deadlines are met. He has been an integral part of new product development resulting in increased revenue at the facility. He exemplifies hardwork, dedication, a positive attitude, and exceptional leadership skills. He truly is a valuable asset to Appalachian Plastics.


“The SVAM award was a great honor to receive.  It made me feel appreciated for the work I do everyday.  Without manufacturing the world would stop.  I am beyond thankful to the leaders at my workplace, Appalachian Plastics, and SVAM for this opportunity.” – Chip Havens