Community is strong in agriculture, advanced manufacturing, building products
Wilkes County’s economy is multitasking, with several industries experiencing success and contributing to the area’s growth. Here are some examples:
Wilkes County ranks among the top seven counties in North Carolina for total agricultural sales, with an annual economic impact of about $550 million, which accounts for 35 percent of Wilkes’ gross domestic product. About 20 percent of the county’s jobs are tied to agriculture; there are 1,095 working farms. Top commodities include cattle, poultry, hay, corn silage, tobacco and nursery plants. The honey industry is growing too, thanks to companies like Brushy Mountain Bee Farm and Miller Bee Farm.
Tyson Foods employs 2,600 workers at its chicken-processing plant, making it the largest employer in Wilkes County. The company controls both the manufacture of its meat products and their distribution to local stores in order to guarantee optimal freshness and consistency.
Suncrest Farms Country Hams is a locally owned company that produces such items as country hams, pork side meat and pork skins. Its products are found at major retail outlets, including Food Lion, Publix and Walmart, to name a few. At InterFlex Group in Wilkesboro, 90 employees make specialty packaging for fresh foods, packaged foods and pet products.
Worldwide Protective Products manufactures hand and arm sleeve garments that protect workers in the food processing, automotive and aerospace industries. WPP also makes full-body protective uniforms for the glass and steel industries. The company recently expanded its North Wilkesboro plant by 25 percent for more manufacturing and warehouse space.
Meanwhile, promoting economic growth in the advanced manufacturing sector is the Northwest North Carolina Advanced Materials Cluster, a partnership between Wilkes Community College and local governments in Wilkes, Alleghany and Ashe counties. As a result, WCC today offers several classes and programs related to advanced materials manufacturing.
Gardner Glass Products employs about 140 people who manufacture glass for the home improvement industry. Window World, with corporate headquarters in North Wilkesboro, operates 205 locations across 46 states, making it the largest window replacement company in America.
Founded in North Wilkesboro, Lowe’s operates 1,700 home improvement retail superstores, and Wilkes County today is home to Lowe’s Customer Support Center-East facility. Louisiana-Pacific Corp. employs nearly 200 people at its Wilkesboro plant, where it manufactures home siding and other products for home construction, repair and remodeling applications.