CrateTech Inc. sets up shop at GTP to support Spirit AeroSystems
Kinston Free Press
Nearly two years after Spirit AeroSystems opened its doors in Kinston, the first glimmer of what state and local officials call an “aerospace cluster” can be seen in the form of CrateTech Inc.
“I think what you’re seeing now is, hopefully, the beginning stages of what could be some pretty significant growth,” company President Ray Fricks said Tuesday.
CrateTech Inc. was founded in the Seattle area in 1993 by Fricks and his wife Cherie. The company, which also has offices in Chicago and Wichita, Kan. — where Spirit is headquartered — specializes in customized crating and packaging, and shipping services of materials for the aerospace industry, other industries and individuals looking to ship specialty items.
“Anybody that makes something too heavy for a cardboard box, that’s where we come in,” Fricks said.
The company has an existing relationship with Spirit at its Wichita facility, and won a contract to build crates for components built at Spirit’s manufacturing facilities at the N.C. Global TransPark in Kinston.
Four employees of CrateTech, including Fricks, are in Kinston now, building crates for Spirit in a hangar next to Mountain Air Cargo’s facility at the GTP. They will set up shop in 25,000 square feet of space in the TransPark’s recently completed shell building in a few months.
GTP spokeswoman Alanna King said the shell building, known as GTP-7, is completed and has its certificate of occupancy — additional modifications must be made to accommodate CrateTech’s needs. Total space is 100,000 square feet.
“We are pleased to welcome CrateTech as the first tenant in our new shell building,” Jim Fain, Global TransPark president, stated. “Having existing space available enables us to meet the needs of clients like CrateTech. The company is an important addition, bringing innovative aerospace packaging capabilities to our campus.”
CrateTech employs 130 people company-wide, and Fricks expects the Kinston workforce to grow to 15 to 20 people in the next two to three years, as Spirit continues to develop its Kinston operation.
“We’re excited to be here,” he said. “I think it’s going to be good for Kinston; I think it’s going to be good for us.”
Fricks is a native of Seattle, but noted his father has North Carolina roots, having grown up in the town of Murphy, in the western part of the state.
He watched Tuesday afternoon as Operations Manager Bill Elliott — who will manage CrateTech’s Kinston facility — and James Stotz, a packaging specialist, prepared the bottom frame of an 80-foot-long container meant for shipping fuselage components for the Airbus A350 XWB passenger aircraft.
Spirit also manufactures wing components for the A350, and the Gulfstream G250 corporate jet, in Kinston.
Wes Bolste, the shop foreman, could be seen sealing a container of smaller wooden shipping crates.
“Overall impression is, favorable,” Elliott said when asked how he was finding Kinston. “(I am) really happy to be here in North Carolina.”
Fricks said CrateTech is accepting applications for positions in Kinston, including truck drivers, crate builders and warehouse helpers.
Anyone interested in applying should contact Elliott at [email protected]
“This is really the type of backbone work that makes the world go around,” Fricks said.
The company president said CrateTech’s Kinston operation would not only serve Spirit, but any other aerospace company or other entity with shipping needs within a 200-mile radius of the city.
State and local officials have been working in recent years to build an “aerospace cluster” around Spirit, by recruiting smaller firms such as CrateTech to support large aerospace manufacturers and build up a North Carolina supply base — and more jobs.
“For the big company to be here you’ve got to have smaller companies to support it,” Lenoir County Economic Development Director Mark Pope said Tuesday. “This is a move in the right direction, so we’re very happy to have CrateTech here.”
David Anderson can be reached at 252-559-1077 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at DavidFreePress.