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  • Allen Turner

RadixBay a high-level IT security, coding center

The novelist Thomas Wolfe had it wrong, at least as far as Greg Lovette is concerned: you can go home again.

Lovette, a 52-year old native of Columbus County, proved that point Friday when a ribbon-cutting was held in the Tabor Industrial Park for RadixBay, a privately-held information technology company he founded in 2013.

With the opening of the Tabor City facility, RadixBay now has footprints in Charlotte, India and Columbus County. RadixBay was founded by Greg Lovette, 52, who grew up between Tabor City and Fair Bluff in the Jam community. The company develops computer applications that large enterprises use to conduct their businesses and then provides ongoing support for those applications.

Lovette says he anticipates establishing several rural centers in North Carolina, and the Tabor City site is the first.

His base of operations is in Charlotte, but the idea behind establishing rural centers is to enable the company to operate profitably without having to pay the higher wage scales found in the urban areas of North Carolina while, at the same time, being able to offer wages in rural areas that far exceed prevailing local wages.

Here in Columbus County, Lovette envisions hiring people at salaries ranging from about $35,000 to $65,000 annually. Six employees already are on board locally and Lovette expects to have at least 25 people working within the next two years.

Without attempting to get too technical about what RadixBay provides its customers, Lovette explained that all companies today use forms of computer-based technology to help run their business, including web pages, financial accounting, manufacturing and inventory control and e-commerce. For such technology, RadixBay gives companies skill sets to install and modify software systems, develop custom and proprietary systems and support those systems, including servers, databases and software.

In a way, it was a stroke of luck that resulted in Lovette’s first rural center being located in his home county. As he told the Columbus Jobs Foundation at their annual membership meeting in Whiteville last month, he was home and happened to mention to his sister, Roxanne Bullock, an account ant with the Whiteville CPA firm of Thompson, Price, Scott, Adams, that he was looking to establish a location in a rural area but cautioned her to keep that confidential.

“ Q u i t e n at u r a l ly, ” h e laughed, “the first thing she did was tell her boss, Alan Thompson, who immediately told Rick Edwards.”

Edwards, chairman of the Columbus Jobs Foundation, called Lovette the next day and said, “Get down here. I want to sit across the table from you and have a conversation.” Lovette said. “We had that conversation, and the rest is history.”

Lovette is a 1983 graduate of Tabor City High School, where he played football for the late Jack Holley. His parents, Weldon and Doris Ann Lovette, still live in the Tabor City area and were on hand for Friday’s ribbon-cutting. Lovette’s wife is the former Christy Graham, who grew up just across the state line in the Green Sea section of Horry County.

Following high school graduation, Lovette attended UNCWilmington, where he majored in computer science.

“At 18 years old, I was a dumb redneck from Tabor City and the Jam who had no idea what he was doing,” Lovette told the Jobs Foundation in February. “When I got to college, I decided my major would be anything other than a tobacco field. In the early 80s, it didn’t take a genius to figure out that computer science was the way to go.”

That was a good decision for Lovette. He ended up at Price-Waterhouse in Charlotte after college and then started his own IT company, which he operated for 16 years before selling it. He then started another company, which he sold nine years later.

“That was a great success story,” Lovette said Thursday, “but what happened was that as soon as we sold, all the work started being shipped to India.”

He continued, “It became obvious to me that those folks over there in India and those folks in Charlotte are not any smarter than the folks I went to high school with, so I wondered why we can’t expend our own energy right here in Columbus County to bring our folks here up to speed to do the same thing.

“That, in a nutshell, is how this idea of creating rural centers for his company came about and is the reason for Friday’s ribbon-cutting in Tabor City.”

The name RadixBay is a combination of two things, Lovette said. “Radix is an algorithm for sorting large quantities of data. Like most computer majors, I learned radix in college. The whole premise of our company is sorting order from chaos. The word ‘bay’ was just a tip of the hat to the first company I owned, which was called Baytree.”

Lovette’s initial meeting with Edwards resulted in the acquisition of facilities in the Tabor City Industrial Park. The company’s first employee came on board in May and, although that person works in Charlotte, his job is to support people at the Tabor City operation.

“If you’ve got local folks who are passionate about what they’re doing, that’s when you can see things happening,” Lovette said. “There’s no specific government program being handed down from Washington that’s going to make anything happen. It’s private individuals who believe in their community deciding they’re going to do something. The good news is that since we have done this thing it is absolutely resonating with our customer base.”

Lovette praised the Columbus Jobs Foundation, the Tabor City Committee of 100, the Golden Leaf Foundation, Edwards and Columbus County Economic Developer Gary Lanier for helping make his company’s location here possible. “Gary just worked like crazy to make it happen. People are passionate about it, and it is going to work.”

Among the dignitaries at Friday’s ribbon-cutting was Dan Gerlach, president of the Golden Leaf Foundation, which is charged with using federal tobacco master settlement funds to help local areas whose economies were devastated by the decline of the tobacco industry. The Golden Leaf Foundation provided $ 6 5 , 2 3 4 i n grants to RadixBay. $40,000 of that went to purchase a backup power s u p p l y t h a t weighs a ton and which will provide the RadixBay building with three hours of power in the event of a power outage, Lanier said Friday. In addition to the power supply, Golden Leaf money was used to build a conference room and other incidentals at the facility.

Gerlach said that Golden Leaf ’s mission is to work to bring jobs and economic development to southeastern North Carolina and he lauded former Sen. R.C. Soles Jr. for helping Golden Leaf get funds from the master settlement agreement. “Making sure that rural North Carolina is not left out and that parts of the state that were so dependent on tobacco got some of that money placed into their economy. I can think of no better example of this than the 21st century jobs a company like RadixBay is creating.

“Is there any better story,” Gerlach asked, “than a native s o n o f t h i s county saying, ‘I moved away, but I know the people here; I know they’re going to work hard, and I’m going to give them a chance”?

The Golden Leaf Foundation also has been charged with helping with hurricane relief and recovery.

“At our next board meeting, we will be considering grants to help here in Tabor City and over in Fair Bluff and Boardman, because we don’t want a natural disaster to become an economic disaster.

He said that Al Leonard, town manager in Tabor City who also works part-time for Fair Bluff, Boardman, Cerro Gordo, Brunswick and Chadbourn, was a driving force behind the fact that Golden Leaf will be looking at doing hurricane relief here.

Economic Developer Lanier also spoke briefly during Friday’s ceremonies, and said that in addition to the Golden Leaf Foundation, organizations playing a major role in RadixBay’s locating in Tabor City included the N.C. Dept. of Commerce, the Tabor City Committee of 100, the Columbus County Board of Commissioners, the Columbus Jobs Foundation and Construction Systems, Inc. of Fayetteville. CSI project manager Jim Scott is a native of Fair Bluff and Lanier said that Scott had only billed for 10 hours of services in helping get the RadixBay Tabor City project underway, although he had invested over 150 hours of his time in the effort. Lanier heaped praise on North Carolina’s Southeast, which helped his office develop economic impact estimates, and said that it is expected that RadixBay will have an economic impact of more than $6 million on the area. Lanier also recognized Rep. Brenden Jones, Sen. Danny Britt, and county Economic Development Board vice chair R. Mitchell Tyler.

Tyler told the group it is companies like RadixBay that will help stop the “brain drain” that occurs when the county’s brightest graduates move away because of better economic opportunities elsewhere.

“This is going to be the beginning of the end of the brain drain in Columbus County,” Tyler said. “It makes you feel good when you have a product of the Columbus County schools go away and then come back home to stop the brain drain. We’re bringing our people back here and we’re going to see things happen quickly in Columbus County.”

Lovette agreed and recognized Southeastern Community College President Dr. Anthony Clarke, who was in the audience. “Dr. Clarke and SCC are working with our company to develop programs to provide us with qualified graduates to hire. We’re helping the college develop a curriculum so their graduates will already be certi- fied, and that’s great for us and will enable us to move so much further along,” Lovette said. “It really is a brain drain. The smartest and most ambitious and the brightest are the most likely to leave, and Dr. Clarke and his staff are going to help us stop that.”

Columbus County Commissioner Vice Chair Amon McKenzie brought greetings from his board. “It’s good to stand before folks where you see progress taking place right before you,” he said. “We need more companies like this throughout our county, because we want to keep our young people here and the only way we can do that is to have local opportunities for them to sustain themselves and their families. We’re wide open for opportunities.”

Jones, a Tabor City native serving his first term in the House of Representatives, said, “Columbus County will not be a ‘brick and mortar’ county anymore. We’re going to have to get technological and RadixBay is a first step. Who knows? Columbus County might become the Silicon Valley of the east.” Jones said that former Sen. Soles “has done so much for our area over the years and we’re looking forward to carrying on his legacy.” Jones added, “Being a part of this means more than anything else that I’ve done in Raleigh. It feels really good that we’re cutting a ribbon in Tabor City.”

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