Rock Hill company develops protective gear for cheerleaders

Have you seen the Internet video sensation that shows a cheerleader being pummeled by a football team rushing onto the field?

The home video of a high school cheerleader in Washington state being accidentally trampled by a football team as it rushed through a banner being held by the young woman has been viewed more than 1.5 million times on YouTube and on television newscasts across the country. But it has also inspired a new marketing campaign for Rock Hill entrepreneur Wells White, who with his wife and a design team has invented protective gear for cheerleaders.

White is producing a video ad campaign showing a cheerleader in a similar circumstance, but spared the embarrassing moment thanks to the protective gear, called Pyraapparel.

White also is trying to donate some of his patent-pending gear to the cheerleaders at Auburn High School, where the accident occurred. Thankfully, the cheerleader involved was not gravely injured.

"Protective gear for cheerleaders?" you may ask. "Are you serious?"

Absolutely. Several years ago, White and his wife Pam, a cheerleading coach at Clover High School, noticed that Pam's cheerleaders were frequently leaving practice with bruises and scrapes from practicing their dazzling stunts and pyramids -- hence the name Pyraapparel.

"The girls just get beat up. They work really hard," Pam White said this week.

Wells White -- who has made his living in real estate -- recognized the opportunity. He and his wife outlined the basic idea for the apparel and teamed with a designer at the product development and marketing firm Enventys in Charlotte.

The group spent more than two years developing Spandex-like shirts and pants with padding along the knees and forearms stitched inside the fabric, White said. Non-slip grips are strategically located on the shoulders and hips to make lifts and throws easier.

"Initially, we thought, 'Somebody is already doing this, because it's so obvious,'" Wells White said. But he searched for a similar product and couldn't find one.

White also teamed with local cheerleaders to make sure the apparel would be functional, yet stylish.

"Girls aren't going to wear it if it doesn't look good," said Loren Bailey, a former Clover High and Winthrop University cheerleader. Bailey, now also in real estate, wore the gear during practice at Winthrop and offered the Whites feedback. Now, she models the product for Pyraapparel ads and the Web site

White -- who also invented a mini cutting board that fastens to your thumb for slicing fruits and veggies called a Zefter -- recently received his first large shipment of the clothing from his manufacturer and is ready to launch the product on a large scale. You'll be able to see the video campaign on YouTube in the near future. He's hoping you'll see the apparel at cheerleading competitions soon.

White said Pyraapparel obviously isn't designed to withstand a linebacker's blow, but he does believe it can help cheerleaders avoid the bumps and bruises their sport provokes.

Freightliner moves, Red Coach site named

Freightliner's decision to move its sales and marketing division -- and maybe its headquarters eventually -- to York County from Portland, Ore., appears to have started at least two years ago.

York County Economic Development director Mark Farris this week said executives for the nation's largest truckmaker met with county officials two years ago, but they didn't announce which company they represented.

After a dinner meeting, the Freightliner CEO flew to Washington, D.C., to meet with the Chinese premier, Farris said. "At that point, we didn't know who it was, but we knew it must be pretty big," Farris said.

The big move is also bringing some big-time money. Farris said the 340 jobs the company will relocate to a parcel of land near Big Allison Creek off S.C. 274 boast an average salary of $62,000 a year.

A redevelopment plan for the site of the former Red Coach Inn is nearing completion. Officials at last week's Rock Hill Economic Development Corp. meeting said a prospective developer wants to name the site "Renaissance Square," and build townhouses at the site of the old 45-room inn that had gained a reputation as a haven for drugs and prostitution. The developer has until Nov. 30 to submit a final plan and purchase the site, and officials expect to announce more at the December meeting of the RHEDC.

Chits 'n' bits

Farm Bureau Insurance of York County is the Greater York Chamber of Commerce's business of the month.

Waddell Homes of Rock Hill recently received the "2007 Builder of Integrity" award from Quality Builders Warranty Corp. Recipients of the award demonstrate excellence in customer service and quality construction.

Martha and Tommy Dorsey of York recently were named "New Designers of the Year" by Home and Garden Party Designers.

Rock Hill-based Hydra Platforms was recently featured in an article in "South Carolina Business," a statewide publication by the S.C. Chamber of Commerce. Founder Garth McGillewie and his son, Garth McGillewie Jr., were pictured in a large center-page photo. McGillewie Jr. returns this week from a trip to China with state business leaders. I'll try to catch up with him soon and report on what he learned during his trip.