More than 300 new jobs for Kinston/Lenoir County

Wesley Brown and Joel Gerber

April 22 , 2010

A $5.3 million incentive package featuring perks from both local and state agencies lured a national cabinet manufacturer to choose its Kinston plant as the supporter of a new product line and recipient of more than 300 jobs.

Officials from MasterBrand Cabinets joined a representative from the governor’s office Thursday to announce 334 new jobs with an annual average salary of $25,000 will be coming to Lenoir County over the next three years.

Gov. Bev Perdue, originally scheduled to be on hand to make the announcement, was unable to attend because of the impending birth of a grandchild.

“North Carolina remains home to the finest furniture and cabinet makers, and industry rapidly adapting to master the evolving changes of a world market,” Perdue said in a press release. “Our highly-skilled workers, custom training programs and top quality of life continue to attract companies looking for the perfect place to grow and thrive.”

The company plans to invest more than $3.75 million during that time span at its Kinston facility with by increasing its production output of 1,000 cabinets a day to 3,000 daily.

The growth — made in response to the introduction of a new product line that will released in the fall — will more than double the facility’s workforce, which now stands at 200.

“This is what we need in our community,” Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy said. “We need good jobs here, and this is a company that has a got a good tradition here for providing good jobs and we have got the skilled labor that they need. These jobs of $25,000 a year or more are going to help a lot of our families that are hurting here.”

Ron Cullison, general manager of MasterBrand’s Kinston Operations, would not divulge the name of the new brand of cabinets, but did say the Indiana-based manufacturer will begin to take applications today for the open positions.

“There will be opportunities on the production floor, as well as in engineering, manufacturing management and entry level office type jobs,” Cullison said. “We plan to hire 100 by the end of the year and will probably start hiring people mid to late summer so we need to get a full pool of applicants as soon as possible.”

The announcement, which was made before approximately 150 people at Lenoir Community College’s Waller Building Auditorium, was made possible in part by an incentive package that included grants and tax incentives from the N.C. Department of Commerce and Revenue, Lenoir Community College, Lenoir County Commissioners, City of Kinston and the Lenoir County Committee of 100.

Cullison said the incentives, which add up to roughly $5.3 million for MasterBrand, made the difference between the company choosing Kinston over other existing plants in Auburn, Ala., Martinsville, Va., and the company’s main hub in Jasper, Ind.

“The incentives had a lot to do with it — that was a big deal for us,” said Cullison, who added location, size of the facility, and number of local skilled workers factored into the decision. “We are glad we could partner up with the local and state officials and come through with those.”

In the package, MasterBrand will get credits of $12,500 per job created due to Lenoir County being a Tier 1 county.

The company also will receive a $200,000 grant from the One North Carolina Fund, a $306,000 grant from Lenoir Community College to allow the school to train the workforce, and close to 6 percent of a $3.75 million machinery and investment grant.

“When you get in competition, where the economy is right now, you want to make sure it is a very close competition to make sure a company like this could do a project somewhere else,” Lenoir County Economic Development Director Mark Pope said. “We were in competition with other states for those 334 jobs. Incentives are just a part of the game today; without those, they would be going somewhere else.”

Lenoir County residents were ecstatic about the news.

“It is an excellent step in the right direction,” Anita Sykes of Lenoir County said. “In a small county, what seems like a little bit of economic change is a much bigger bit of change when you are able to see some growth and development. It means providing more for families, and having more opportunities.

“Many children leave this area because there are not jobs here for them.”

Allen Jarman, of Pink Hill, agreed

“Any time there is an increase in jobs and the tax base, it is a positive thing that helps build a better community,” said Jarman, who works for Barnhill Contracting Company in Kinston. “Slowly, but surely, everything is starting to turn around. You have just got to stay optimistic.”

MasterBrand hopes to add more in the future.

“We hope for the best,” Cullison said. “There are some clever things we can do to get more capacity in the plant, but at a certain point, we can only build so many cabinets.”

Murphy was more optimistic.

“We have a professional group of teams between the department of commerce and Lenoir County and the city of Kinston working together, and there is no doubt in my mind we are going to have more announcements in the near future,” he said.

Wesley Brown can be reached at 252-559-1075 or wbrown@freedomenc.com. Joel Gerber can be reached at 252-559-1076 or jgerber@freedomenc.com.



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