Economic development activity is soaring in Kinston, NC and Lenoir County, with recent projects taking flight in such diversified industries as food production and research to pharmaceuticals and aerospace. These advancements illustrate the continued success businesses experience here and the range of jobs available.
Smithfield Packing is starting production at its $85.5 million expansion in 2013, and Spirit AeroSystems began delivering its first center fuselages to France for the Airbus A350 wide body in late 2011. DuPont affiliate Pioneer Hi-Bred completed a 26,000-square-foot research and development center for soybean and corn farming in 2012, while West Pharmaceuticals is investing $29 million to expand its Kinston plant.
“Lenoir County's rebounded well in the environment that's happened over the last few years,” says Mark Pope, Lenoir County Economic Development executive director. “With the economy where it’s been, we've been very blessed."
In the past five years 11 existing and 11 new companies have announced a combined $1 billion in new investments and the creation of more than 4,100 jobs.
Food Production, Research Help Growth
Smithfield will add 330 jobs next year, doubling the company's workforce in Lenoir County with a new hot-dog facility, cranking up in early 2013, and bologna production to follow. Smithfield previously upgraded its ham and lunch-meat facility and is adding a lot of technology, including robotics.
“This will be a state-of-the-art hot-dog system, probably one of the latest in this country,” Smithfield official Dennis Pittman says. “We'll be able to produce more hot dogs with a longer shelf life because of the clean room environment that is being set up.”
Lenoir Community College has helped find qualified workers, and local leaders have been encouraging and responsive for Smithfield to stay and expand, Pittman says.
“We've had a good workforce there, a workforce that accepts a new challenge when something new comes along,” he says. “Not only that, the infrastructure seems to be there with the training and all through the community college.”
Pioneer Hi-Bred’s new R&D center “shows agriculture is still alive” and “will help farmers develop new ways to farm,” Pope says. “We hope to see more things come with Pioneer and DuPont in the facility at our industrial park.”
Sanderson Farms’ poultry complex, which opened in 2011, is at full capacity with 1,562 employees, processing 1.2 million chickens a week, Pope says.
Aerospace, Pharmaceutical Firms Expanding
Spirit now has almost 400 employees at its Airbus fuselage and wing spar facility, and it will add 150-200 jobs beginning in 2013 for Gulfstream wing production. Airbus parts are transported to France, which benefits the North Carolina Global Trans Park logistics cluster, Pope says.
“Activity has been very good for the county and for the Global Trans Park,” Pope says. “We're seeing folks from North America to international companies looking at both parks. Some of them will be tied to aerospace whether with Spirit or just aerospace companies seeing some of the success stories of Spirit with the workforce and the training we can do.”
Pope says West Pharmaceutical has completed some construction with more to come on its “clean rooms, and upgrading that to a world-class facility.” More jobs and training are on tap for 2013.
Adding high-tech industry has inspired the younger generation to focus on education, including STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) labs.
“There are good-paying jobs to be had if we just prepare them properly,” Pope says.
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