Editorial: Another sign of Caldwell County's changing times

Aug. 03, 2014 @ 01:15 AM

Caldwell County has an additional symbol of its economic transformation.

But unlike Google’s gated white monolith on a hill or the conversion of Broyhill Furniture’s iconic former headquarters into the home of the rapidly growing pharmaceutical maker Exela Pharma Sciences, this new symbol involves a kind of business that at its base is familiar to this region.

Carolina Locust Inc. is a sawmill – and yet it aspires to be so much more, and the language used by its founder, Stubby Warmbold, is that of a man with a vision and a mission beyond business.

“We have a strong social mandate,” Warmbold said early in his speech at the company’s ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday. The term “social mandate” came up several times in his speech and in conversation later.

He sees the company not just as a way to make money but to improve the Earth – turning scrap wood and sawdust into electricity (using an engine he himself designed, "patent pending"), creating hazelnut oil for conversion into fuel, providing trees to reforest damaged landscapes, growing food plants without soil – all of this on a plot that essentially will eventually be energy-independent and will put no more carbon into the air than its plants take out.

His business aim is not just to make money by making people’s lives better but to help make our lifestyles sustainable.

Not only that but he plans to hire some people who have struggled to rebuild their lives after drug or alcohol problems, essentially trying to reforest some of the area’s damaged human landscape and restore its health.

Warmbold plans to do well by doing good, and he has a track record that says he can do it – look up Black Locust Lumber, CitiLog and CitiWood Works.

You may run into Warmbold or members of his family out and about in the coming months and years. He jokes that they are prepared to be called “damn yankees,” though he notes that since he is a Canadian his family didn’t actually have a dog in the fight known alternately as the Civil War or the War of Northern Aggression.

The Warmbolds may find that outsiders, even yankees, can get a warmer welcome here than they might have a century ago, particularly if they have ideas that could help heal the world, or even just our little part of it.