Through a diversity of industries and a strong workforce, manufacturing in Lenoir County has experienced tremendous growth in recent years.
“We’ve had good fortune over the last seven or eight years,” says Mark Pope, executive director of the Lenoir Economic Development Department. “We’ve had about 29 new or expanded industries announced, totaled over 4,100 jobs, and had over a billion dollars in capital investments.
“We’ve turned a corner and been very blessed by the good Lord, and we’re moving in the right direction.”
Historically a region for agriculture and textiles, Lenoir County has seen a variety of new companies moving here and existing ones expanding. The area now has around 5,300 employees in the manufacturing sector, Pope says, after having lost some 8,000 jobs in the late 1980s and early ’90s.
“We learned a lot from that,” he says. “Now, instead of just being agriculture and textiles, we’ve got several different industries. What we did learn was to become more diversified.”
One of the county’s strengths is its education system. The 2+2 Engineering program at Lenoir Community College is an example. It is a partnership between the school and state-supported universities such as North Carolina State and East Carolina. Following completion at LCC, students may apply for admission as juniors in engineering at one of the participating universities.
Here are some of Lenoir County’s manufacturing success stories:
Electrolux Home Products – With nearly 800 employees, Electrolux is the largest manufacturing employer in Lenoir County. The plant came to Kinston in 1989 and produces a variety of kitchen appliances.
Associated Materials – As it experiences an expansion that will create 252 new jobs and investment of more than $5 million over the next five years, Associated Materials is even more pronounced as a major manufacturer in Lenoir County. The parent of several North American manufacturing and distribution operations, AM serves both the remodeling and new constructions market in the U.S. and Canada.
West Pharmaceutical Services – The Pennsylvania company is commemorating 40 years in Kinston in 1914. The facility, located on 24 acres of land with more than 181,000 square feet, is currently in the process of a $29 million expansion that will bring in additional jobs. The Kinston site produces high-volume devices and pharmaceutical components.
MasterBrand Cabinets – This company is perhaps best known for the line of Martha Stewart Living cabinets it is producing. Founded in 1999, the addition of the premium cabinets to its production added around 350 employees. It now has 475 workers.
Spirit AeroSystems – The region’s highly skilled workforce was part of what led Spirit AeroSystems to locate at the North Carolina Global TransPark near Kinston in 2010. The company, the world’s largest independent supplier of commercial airplane assemblies and components, continues to expand and plans to hire another 800 employees within the coming years.
DuPont – This company may not have the impact it did when it first came to Kinston in the early 1950s and had as many as 3,600 employees, but it maintains a strong presence here. The Kinston plant produces Sorona polymer, which is used in carpet, clothing and other products.
Read more about Kinston's economic development.