While no local economy is recession-proof, Greenville-Pitt County’s economy may come close, thanks to international influence and a healthy mix of traditional and cutting-edge manufacturing such as bioprocessing. “There was a time when our client base was virtually all domestic.
Now it’s almost a 50-50 split between international and domestic,” says Wanda E. Yuhas, executive director of the Pitt County Development Commission. “We still have a lot of manufacturers, but we are seeing differences in the kinds of manufacturers.” DSM Pharmaceuticals and DSM Dyneema collectively are one of the county’s largest employers, and they exemplify the Greenville area’s embracing of high-technology and biotech manufacturing. What’s more, DSM is headquartered in The Netherlands, adding to the area’s global credentials. DSM provides custom pharmaceutical manufacturing and packaging as well as clean-room production of Dyneema®, a lightweight, high-performance fiber used in health care, the military and other sectors. At the other end of the scale, Greenville is the home of Pioneer Surgical Orthobiologics, housed in the Technology Enterprise Center, a small-business incubator that Yuhas says “allows for the possibility of taking intellectual property from concept to marketplace.” The incubator is where Pioneer Surgical conducts research and development while manufacturing in small batches its premier product – an injectable biopolymer for tissue regeneration. Also in the Technology Enterprise Center are laboratories and classrooms for Pitt Community College, which trains students interested in the bioprocessing field.
“We have some real strengths at the community-college level and the university level in terms of bioprocessing,” Yuhas says. “We have everything from a simple certificate program to a two-year degree to a four-year degree and all the way up through graduate degrees.” She says Pitt County is combining those education resources with Wayne County’s research and development strengths to recruit heavily in the bioprocessing arena. Yet the traditional manufacturing sector – if it can be called that in today’s world of robotic and computerized operations – is strong in Pitt County, too, Yuhas adds. She points to home-grown manufacturers Grady-White Boats and internationally diversified The Hammock Source, which controls about 85 percent of the hammock market, as examples of the county’s industrial strength. Japan has recognized the beauty of setting up shop in Pitt County.
ASMO Greenville manufactures small electric motors for vehicles – the ones that move wiper blades, seats, windows and so forth, making 38 of the 41 such motors needed by Toyota, Yuhas explains. “That gave us a good, strong core of Japanese companies, which is a good growth sector for us,” she says.