Technology drives growth in Eastern North Carolina's advanced manufacturing sector
From household goods to aerospace components and engines, Eastern North Carolina has a thriving, technology-driven advanced manufacturing sector.
The region’s skilled workforce, network of training resources and location advantage create an ideal climate for advanced manufacturing investment.
While manufacturing in the region was built largely on textiles dating to the early 1800s, the sector has evolved into a sophisticated, technology-driven enterprise that includes major clusters in aerospace, consumer products, automotive components, precision instruments, HVAC equipment and engine production, among others.
The manufacturing industry accounts for 17 percent of the total workforce in Eastern North Carolina, with household names including Bridgestone Americas, Cummins, Georgia-Pacific, Perdue Products, Pfizer and Smithfield Foods having major oprations in the region.
Aerospace operations (Kidde Aerospace and Spirit AeroSystems), engine manufacturers (Consolidated Diesel, Metaldyne and Stanadyne) and appliance makers (Electrolux and BSH Home Appliances) all have found a home in the region.
The region has fashioned a number of advantages to support advanced manufacturing growth. An ideal location along the mid-Atlantic coast, a skilled workforce and a network of training resources create an ideal climate for advanced manufacturing investment.
Resources such as the Rural Jobs Accelerator, a partnership among economic development organization NCEast Alliance and North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center, assists small- and medium-sized manufacturers in creating and retaining jobs in the region by improving operational performance, developing the STEM talent pipeline, and growing their sales in the automotive and aerospace markets. NCEast, the Small Business and Technology Development Center and the North Carolina State University’s Industrial Extension Service provide direct support to participating companies.
A deep pool of highly skilled, goal-oriented and motivated potential employees transitioning each year from the region’s military installations at Camp Lejeune, Fort Bragg and Seymour Johnson Air Force Base enhance the region’s skilled labor market.
Elements of Success
The combination of location, workforce and support have written dozens of manufacturing success stories in Eastern North Carolina. In Tarboro in Edgecombe County Keihin Carolina System Technology produces automotive engine control units for Honda vehicles all over the world. In 2017, the company announced a $13 million expansion along with plans to add more than 40 jobs to its 400-employee workforce over the next three years.
“KCST provides these world-class products with a combination of highly trained associates with advanced robotic technologies and automated manufacturing processes,â€ says David Catt, Keihin plant manager.
In Kinston in Lenoir County, Spirit AeroSystems announced in early 2018 a $55.7 million expansion at the state-owned North Carolina Global TransPark where the aviation company manufactures wing and fuselage parts for massive Airbus planes. With 600 employees, Spirit remains the largest tenant at the TransPark and currently operates out of two buildings, including a 680,000-square-foot manufacturing operation.
Commitment to Quality
In Goldsboro in Wayne County, North Carolina Manufacturing has done business under that name since 1990, although owner Ray Mayo has been involved with owning other companies in the manufacturing sector for nearly 40 years.
“Today, our customers are large companies that send us parts that they don’t have the capacity or capability to run on machines themselves. We make their custom parts to order – largely for the aerospace and nuclear power plant industries,â€ says Steve Mayo, Ray’s son and vice president of North Carolina Manufacturing. “One thing that my father has always insisted is that our company will never compromise on quality because when making parts for aerospace or the nuclear industry, the precision parts we make must be perfect.â€
North Carolina Manufacturing has 18 employees, and Mayo says the shop stays busy all the time.
“The manufacturing sector remains strong in Eastern North Carolina, and our company has developed new customers both in 2017 and 2018,â€ he says. “We work closely with the Wayne County Development Alliance as well as Wayne Community College, which offers many good education opportunities for people who want to get into advanced manufacturing or other mechanically inclined industries.â€
Wayne Community College has established the on-campus Wayne Works Advanced Manufacturing Center.
“Our company offers a four-year apprenticeship with on-the-job training, and we partner with Wayne Community College for their classroom instruction,â€ Mayo says. “The advanced manufacturing field is an exciting industry these days, with much computerization and other high-tech advancements. In addition, it’s a very well-paying career.â€