Smithfield expanding with investment
Junious Smith II
Kinston Free Press
January 24, 2014
Smithfield Foods is expanding in Lenoir County, not with brick and mortar, but with an investment of $16 million in personal property, including cutting-edge technology.
The announcement was made at Thursday’s meeting of the Lenoir County Board of Commissioners.
“Lenoir County is very grateful for the continued support and dedicated commitment to the community afforded by Smithfield Foods, Inc.’s continued success and progress,” The Lenoir County Economic Development Department said in a statement late Thursday.
Officials are uncertain if the investment will mean new jobs are added to the company.
However, Mark Pope, the county’s economic development director, said there were many positives for the expansion.
“The good part is the way Smithfield has stayed committed to Lenoir County,” Pope said. “They’re providing a $16 million capital investment, and we can use the tax revenues to put into other services.”
Smithfield Foods has been in Kinston for more than 35 years, establishing itself on West Vernon Avenue in 1978. In 2006, the company opened a state-of-the-art facility on Smithfield Way, closing the old plant two years later.
Pope said the expansion was only a fraction of the investment the company has placed into Lenoir County and he hopes there are additional jobs brought into the community.
“They have invested more than $85 million into the county as far as property, equipment and robotics,” Pope said. “In 2011, they were projected to provide more than 330 additional jobs and have surpassed that. There are more than 800 (Smithfield) employees in the community, and hopefully they’ll keep growing and bring even more jobs here.
“Not only has Smithfield invested in the community, but they also participate in things such as United Way and the food bank. They’re all over the world and could take their business anywhere, but they chose Lenoir County. We’re very fortunate to have them here.”
Lenoir County Commission Chairman Craig Hill said the board is excited about the tax returns for the community.
“There’s a $390,000 incentive package over a five-year period, and the return will be more than what is compensated for it,” Hill said. “The investment will surpass what we do, and it speaks highly of the community Smithfield continues to expand here.”
Lenoir County Manager Mike Jarman said Smithfield has been a great corporate partner with the county for many years.
“The whole company has been doing expansion with the merger with China,” Jarman said. “It’s great anytime a company grows in the county, continues a great relationship and provides the citizens with opportunity. They’re great to work with and we’re thankful they’re continuing to grow here.”
Kinston City Manager Tony Sears said the expansion will also be very beneficial for the city.
“We’re looking at a time period where the sales tax isn’t as strong, so having additional property tax helps offset that,” Sears said.
Lenoir County Commissioner Eric Rouse said he couldn’t see any negatives in the Smithfield expansion.
“This will increase the tax base and will bring jobs in, as local people will have to install machinery,” Rouse said. “The boost in economy is another feather in Lenoir County’s cap.”