Small Business Spotlight: Ashley Latham Photography

Ashley Latham, Owner of Ashley Latham Photography

Rockingham County, NC (June 14, 2020) – Growing up, Ashley Latham, owner of Ashley Latham Photography, never imagined herself as one of Rockingham County’s most sought after photographers; in fact, she dreamed of being a teacher; a career which she later pursued and thoroughly enjoyed.

After high school (in Eden), Ashley graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of North Carolina at Asheville where she received her Bachelor of Science in Psychology and K-5 Teaching Licensure. Shortly after graduating college, Ashley began her teaching career in the Alamance-Burlington School System where she taught both 5th and 1st grades.

After several years of teaching, Ashley and her husband, Seth, decided it was time to have children of their own. When Ashley’s first child was born, she wanted to capture every moment and bought her first dSLR camera.  Before she knew it, she started having requests from friends, family, and acquaintances to capture their special moments as well.  As Ashley and her husband prepared to welcome their second bundle of joy in 2011, Ashley made the decision to halt her teaching career to allow herself the opportunity to pursue her passion and talent for photography.

In 2014, Ashley opened her first studio which was located on the second floor of Pace Stone in Uptown Eden. As momentum continued to rise, she realized Ashley Latham Photography was becoming more than a one woman show and hired her first employee.  By this point in time, Ashley was capturing virtually every special moment including newborns, pre-schools, weddings, maternity, high school seniors, family, and engagements…if you were living it, she was capturing it.

When Ashley decided it was time to find her permanent studio home, she knew Uptown Eden was where she wanted to be. At the time, there were several buildings available in the three block section of Uptown Washington Street; buildings that had sat empty for years and were in need of quite a bit of work. Ashley saw nothing but opportunity and beauty in those buildings, and when it came down to deciding, she chose three. Ashley purchased these three buildings, which sat side by side, with a studio vision that would be more than just a place to shoot portraits. She saw the opportunity to create a total package photography experience for her clients; one that would allow them to come in, be pampered, photographed, and leave with a gorgeous portrait ready to be hung as soon as they brought it home. Today, through hard work and determination, Ashley’s 5,000 square foot studio offers a licensed salon, expansive shooting space, a projector-based viewing room, as well as a custom frame shop.

Ashley attributes much of her success to the amazing team of employers she has on staff.  “There is no way we could deliver the level of quality and customer service that we do without the staff here at Ashley Latham Photography,” Ashley stated.  Continuing education is also important to her, which shows through her degrees including the national recognition of being a Certified Professional Photographer. She is an active member in Professional Photographers of North Carolina and Professional Photographers of America, where she has led classes to help other photographers as well. She stresses that it’s not only important to learn the craft of photography itself, but to learn how to manage a successful business. 

“I never imagined the growth of Ashley Latham Photography,” stated Ashley. “If someone would have told me 15 years ago I would be a photographer working in my own studio, I would have thought they were insane. Now, I can’t imagine doing anything else. While there is always room for improvement, I feel very blessed to be where I am now and cannot thank my clients enough for their support over the years, as well as my husband, three children, and my parents who have all cheered me on throughout this journey. I am excited to see what more the future holds for Ashley Latham Photography.”

For more information or questions about Ashley Latham Photography, please visit


Cockram Named North Carolina Economic Developer of the Year

Left to right: Leigh Cockram, Rockingham County Economic Development Director and Randall Johnson, NCEDA President

Rockingham County, NC (June 9, 2021) – Each year, the North Carolina Economic Development Association (NCEDA) presents an annual award to the individual who best exemplifies leadership in the state’s economic development efforts.  The North Carolina Economic Developer of the Year award is given in recognition of the winner’s contributions to expansions and projects completed during the previous calendar year.

The Rockingham County Center for Economic Development, Small Business, and Tourism is excited to announce their very own Leigh Cockram, has been named NCEDA’s 2021 Economic Developer of the Year.

“I am very proud of Leigh for all she has accomplished in such a short period of time,” stated Lance Metzler, Rockingham County Manager. “I had the pleasure of meeting Leigh several years ago when she was working with another organization I knew immediately, she was a go-getter and would be a tremendous asset to Rockingham County. After a few conversations at various times, the right doors opened, and in February 2019 she became an integral part of the Rockingham County team. The news of Leigh’s award comes as no surprise to myself because there is truly no one more deserving of being honored with such a noble recognition.”

Prior to coming to Rockingham County, Cockram was director of business development and strategic initiatives at Danville’s Institute for Advanced Learning and research. Additionally she had held economic development posts and private-sector jobs in southern Virginia, including two years as founding director of the Southern Virginia Regional Alliance, a regional partnership, and was an entrepreneur herself with her own highly successful sportswear company. Needless to say, success in her field has never been obstacle and something she has found often.

While Cockram’s first year (2019) in her position in Rockingham County was highly successful, year two proved to be one for the books. As 2020 began, Cockram and her economic development team, found Rockingham County at a pivotal point and were already working diligently to gain momentum in the coming year.  Just after the turn of the first quarter, Ontex Group announced their $93 million investment which would also create more than 450 jobs. Ontex, a Belgium based manufacturer of affordable, disposable hygiene products, would soon call the new South Rockingham Corporate Park (SRCP) their new home and serve as its first occupant, which spurred interest in the area and led to the addition of a 174,000 square foot shell building in the park as well. Cockram’s strong negotiation tactics were instrumental in the much needed infrastructure expansion to the park which made industrial development in this area a reality.

As the third quarter came to a close, the largest economic development announcement in the County’s history was revealed; Nestle Purina would invest $450 million in the former MillerCoors site and with it bring just over 300 new jobs. The loss of MillerCoors in 2015 was a devastating hit to the entire county and to have this building occupied once again, was exactly the economic win the County needed, and Cockram knew it. Cockram worked non-stop, including nights, weekends, and even while on vacation, to secure Rockingham County as this Fortune 500 Company’s new home. With her amazing skill set and impeccable negotiation skills, she was able to put together an impressive incentive package for the company that ultimately sealed the deal.

But Cockram was not done yet; in early December 2020, Farmina, an Italian based pet food company, announced they would invest $28.5 million in their first U.S. facility to be located in the Reidsville Industrial Park (RIP). This announcement was the first announcement for RIP in over two years. Additionally days after Farmina’s announcement, a number of existing industries announced expansions to their current Rockingham County facilities which, also created not only new investment but jobs as well. These announcements came as a result of the CDBG grants Blow Molded, Night Owl, Acrow, and Sturm Ruger were awarded, which Cockram played a hand in them obtaining. To say 2020 was an amazing year for this “Rock Star” is an understatement!

“I was happy to contribute to the nomination of Leigh Cockram for this prestigious award,” stated Mike Dougherty, Director of Economic Development, City of Eden. “She and her staff worked tirelessly to bring unprecedented success to our county in 2020.”

Rockingham County looks forward to seeing what the future holds with Cockram behind the reigns and is beyond appreciative of the amazing work she has already accomplished.

For more information or questions, please contact Tara Martin, Economic Development Marketing Manager at


Gem-Dandy Celebrates 100 Years in Business

Rockingham County, NC (June 2, 2021) – Rockingham County’s Office of Economic Development, Small Business, and Tourism is excited to celebrate the 100th year of Gem-Dandy Accessories. During the month of June, Rockingham County Economic Development will highlight Gem-Dandy in the Western Rockingham Chamber of Commerce store front window, along with other Rockingham County industries.

Gem-Dandy, a successor to the Penn Suspender Company, started in downtown Madison, North Carolina by the Penn Family in 1921. Their first major product, the GEMCO Adjustable Garter, was quickly patented as the first fully adjustable garter for men, women, and children. The company later entered into the belt business which has landed them with several popular brands such as Greg Norman ®, Pebble Beach ®,  John Deere ®, Berne ®,  REALTREE ®, Roper ® and Colours by Alexander Julian ® as well as their own proprietary brands including Danbury Golf, Danbury Workwear, Lady Danbury, G-Bar-D Western Outfitters and Cowgirls Rock. Today, they are one of the country’s leading belt and accessory companies and serve retailers around the globe.

Gem-Dandy Accessories attributes their longtime success and prides themselves on quality. The majority of the leather for their products comes from India, Italy, China, and they even use American hides which are tanned in Mexico.  Their unique designs, which are done in house in their downtown Madison facility, set them above their competitors. Throughout their 100 years, they have been able to roll with the punches and conform to the needs and wants of their customers, and it has truly worked in their favor.

“When we see a local industry who has been in operation for a century, you know they are doing something right,” states Leigh Cockram, Rockingham County Department of Economic Development Director. “We wish Gem-Dandy another 100 years of prosperity and growth.”

For more information or questions, please contact Tara Martin, Economic Development Marketing Manager at


Ice House Brings Confidence to Rising Entrepreneurs

– Local Entrepreneurship Program Celebrates Graduation of Eight Participants –  

Rockingham County, NC (May 27, 2021) – The Rockingham County Office of Economic Development, Small Business, and Tourism recently hosted their first Ice House Entrepreneurship Program (Ice House). The program, made possible through funding and support through NC IDEA, focused on inspiring and engaging aspiring entrepreneurs through discussions and work pertaining to the principles of entrepreneurship verses the process of becoming a successful professional.

A total of eight participants ranging from ages 17-62, graduated from the program six week program. The series ended with each participant presenting their business plan while integrating the techniques they had acquired through the courses. While no two business plans were alike, they all held the same value of being thoroughly planned out.

“Being successful as an entrepreneur is not about luck; instead, it is about working hard, persevering, and having confidence in your own abilities,” said Joseph Strader, class participant. “This course does a great job of helping you develop the skills you need to succeed as an entrepreneur and also offers a workshop for your business ideas.”

Small business is often referred to as the heartbeat of a community and entrepreneurs are the backbone that hold those small businesses strong and tall. Entrepreneurs bring new and improved products, technologies, and radical innovations which have the ability to transform consumer’s lives as well as the entire economy. Entrepreneurship generates employment opportunities, spawn new markets, and improve productivity. Being a successful entrepreneur takes a certain mindset, will, and willingness to learn, which each of Rockingham County Economic Development’s participants possessed.

“What I love about this course is it really dives into the core skills and qualities it takes to be an entrepreneur, rather than just teaching basic business concepts,” said Adam Mark, Small Business Manager, Rockingham County Economic Development. “The hope is the county can continue to build off of this momentum by integrating this curriculum into a broader eco-system that offers a variety of programs to help grow and sustain both out new and existing small buinesses.”

Although six week program has wrapped up, the original group of graduates plans to continue to meet on a monthly basis to continue building their strong mindset as well as share ideas.

Rockingham County Economic Development is currently planning its next Ice House Entrepreneurship Program, which will tentatively be scheduled for fall 2021. Information will be shared as dates are confirmed.

For more information or questions, please contact Tara Martin, Economic Development Marketing Manager at