CCCC, Mertek Solutions partner for progress

Mar. 09, 2013 @ 04:56 AM

Jerry Pedley, owner and president of Mertek Solutions, can't help but smile when he talks about what his company does: the design and manufacture of automated testing and assembly equipment.

“This is the [most fun] thing you can do at work,” he said. “We design and make assembly equipment for everything from cosmetic cases to intake manifolds. There's a great variety — always something new.”

It was 1989 when Pedley moved to Sanford from Chicago to work for Synchro Automation on Lee Avenue. In 1990, he and fellow Synchro workers Wayne Dove of Sanford and Mitch Poe of Carthage set up Electro-Mechanical Specialties in Sanford, with Pedley as president. EMS designed and built automated manufacturing systems for companies throughout North America.

To be successful, the company needed skilled manufacturing workers. 

“Someone introduced me to Roland Brown, then the tool and die instructor at Central Carolina Community College,” Pedley said. “I called him up and said, we need three or four  employees. He sent some over, and we hired them.”

The company was successful and, in 1996, Pedley received the Small Business Person of the Year Award from the Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce.

In 2002, the company was sold to Meikle Automation, a Canadian company, and Pedley became that company's division manager. He owned the building site and built Meikle a new building in 2002. Meikle closed April 30, 2010, and Pedley was left without a paycheck and with a mortgage payment still due.

“May 1, 2010, the building was empty,” he said. “In my case, it was restart or go belly-up. I just do not know how to do anything else.”

Pedley's son, Jeremy, had formed Mertek Solutions Inc. in November 2009. After Meikle closed, Jerry Pedley became the company's president and Jeremy its vice president in charge of sales and applications. They moved the company to the vacant building, where it has thrived.

Jerry Pedley credits his father, Merle Pedley, (for whom Mertek is named) with having taught him while he was young that determination and hard work lead to success.

“I remember his saying, ‘Can't never did nothing,’ told to me many times, Pedley said. “My dad and his brother started farming when they were 11 and 13 when their father was taken in a corn picker accident. My dad taught me that when something ends, you can either sit back and complain or go to work. I went to work harder than ever."

Mertek Solutions diversified, found more customers and branched out . It is now a globally oriented company whose engineers design and build automated testing and assembly equipment for a wide range of products in various industries. Since it opened in 2010, the company has grown to 33 employees and $4 million in annual sales.

Pedley still looks to Central Carolina Community College as his primary source for workers and worker training. That includes his grandsons, who are also employees: Justin Pedley, who went to CCCC, and Jacob Pedley, who is working on his associate in science degree. All the technicians and engineers are either graduates or have received skill training through the college’s engineering and industrial technologies programs.

“Training at CCCC is a good base for what we do here,” said Craig Hart, of Gulf, who designs electrical assembly machines.

He received his training in machining, tool and die, electronics and other job skills at CCCC. He also went through the college’s “Train the Trainer” program through its Industry Services Office to learn how to train others on the job.

“The training I received at CCCC has helped me in everything I do,” he said. 

CCCC President Dr. Bud Marchant said that the college works with industry and the community to empower people through education.

“We are pleased to call Jerry Pedley and Mertek Solutions an industry partner of the college,” he said. “Since Jerry opened his first company in Lee County back in 1990, we have been fortunate to work closely with him in providing high-quality training for his workforce. It has been a win-win-win, with the college able to train people for good-paying jobs; Jerry’s companies having a source for skilled workers; and the larger community benefiting because those workers are able to stay in their communities and contribute to them. This synergism helps to create the economic and social well-being of the area we all call home.”

Pedley and Mertek Solutions employees are as enthusiastic about serving the communities where they reside in Lee, Chatham, Harnett and Moore counties as they are about manufacturing.

“Giving back to the community is our company philosophy,” Pedley said. “Our employees do a good job of that, such as coaching little league teams and supporting community events. For me, personally, there is a lot of satisfaction in being involved in the community. I've made lots and lots of good friends, and it’s fun to watch the kids at the activities.”

He has been active in the Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce, serving a term as chairman. During the Family Fun Day at the Raleigh Executive Jetport in Lee County, he provides free rides in his Cherokee plane.

Pedley said he is excited about promoting manufacturing in North Carolina. The company is a member of the N.C. State University Industrial Extension Service's Manufacturing Makes It Real Network and does everything possible to promote manufacturing in North Carolina. In 2012, Mertek Solutions hosted the first local Manufacturing Day event.

Part of promoting manufacturing — and the skilled labor force on which it depends — is serving on Central Carolina Community College advisory boards for industry. As a manufacturer, Pedley provides input on what manufacturing skills are wanted and needed.

Each November, a NC FIRST Robotics Competition is held, and Mertek Solutions gets involved by providing space at its plant for a local team to work on its robot. The competition is held at CCCC’s Lee County Campus.

Pedley is now busy with Mertek, Pedley Group, and restarting his original company, Electro-Mechanical Specialties. EMS will focus on contract manufacturing and product design. He said he will look to CCCC again for skilled workers.

Cathy Swindell, CCCC director of Industry Services, has been working with Pedley since 2003, providing in-house training for his employees in whatever skills they need.

“I’ve done a lot of training for Mertek,” she said. “Jerry’s company typically looks at us first when they're looking for employees. Any place you go, if Jerry has an audience, he’ll say something complimentary about our college — he’s our strongest cheerleader.”

Pedley agreed. 

“We think a lot of CCCC at Mertek Solutions,” he said.

For more information about Mertek Solutions, visit www.merteknc.com. For more information about Central Carolina Community College's engineering and industrial technologies programs or other programs, visit www.cccc.edu.