In February 2013 under Legacy Paddlesports, Liquidlogic and Native Watercraft celebrated the opening of their new factory in Fletcher, N.C. For Liquidlogic founders Woody Callaway, Shane Benedict and Bryon Phillips the move was the culmination of a 13-year-old dream. The company that started small and worked to keep its family-style work structure finally came home.
"This was our dream," says Liquidlogic co-founder Benedict. "The goal was to have the whole thing operating in western North Carolina so Woody and I could paddle the Green when we wanted to."
"We designed our boats in a little cabin on the mountain in Saluda, North Carolina," Benedict says. That was in 2000, and within a year the fledgling company moved to an old farmhouse overlooking an abandoned apple orchard. In those days, Liquidlogic's small crew designed, sold and marketed the boats, but did not make them. The manufacturer was located in Pennsylvania.
As time passed, their company grew. Then in 2006, Liquidlogic merged with a young company called Legacy Paddlesports, relocated to Greensboro, N.C., and moved all of their manufacturing in state. Then the Great Recession hit, prompting the Legacy Paddlesports team to do some soul-searching. "When we came around to the culture we wanted, we asked if we could facilitate that culture in Greensboro, NC, and we realized we couldn't," says Bill Medlin, Legacy Paddlesports CEO. "We wanted people to interact with us and come to us—you know, go boating." There's not much boating around Greensboro.
Legacy Paddlesports was growing. Company leaders realized they would need a staff of 300-400 people, and that they wouldn't find enough workers in the Greensboro region that shared the company's values, which are rooted in river culture and outdoor sports. One spot did have plenty of those people—the same place where Liquidlogic had started. "There are so many people who live here because they love the outdoors, people who are wonderfully skilled and value principle. So we chose to move here and tap into a valve of people," Medlin said. Legacy has since hired 120 people in the western North Carolina area.
River people are well represented on the Legacy staff. A past Green Race champion, Al Gregory, manages the building as the facility manager, and Chris Roberts is the overall manager. "That was the major goal of Liquidlogic and Legacy," Woody Callaway says, "to bring the paddling community into our company." Probably the best place to find a Liquidlogic employee is at the Green, especially on race day. I interviewed Benedict on the riverbank just downstream of Gorilla, and every so often he would stop what he was saying to holler at another paddler charging the big drop, then explain to me, "he works for us too."
Over 13 years ago, the Liquidlogic founders' dream was to build kayaks in the mountains near their beloved rivers. "We knew we can make good kayaks and that's what we wanted to do," Benedict says. Through the years Benedict, Callaway, and Phillips realized they have the opportunity to create good jobs that help everyone have a quality life. We are all working together to design, make, and sell great kayaks. We are all part of that process and its important that we work together. If we succeed we get a richer working environment and a more productive system.
Everyone is starting to settle into the factory, making new boats and bringing in new people. After more than a decade, the new factory marks more than a move. Benedict says. "It really marks more of a new beginning for those of us that started Liquidlogic than anything. We always wanted LL to be based in the mountains near Asheville and along the Green River and this move finally acheived that goal.”