BIG get BIGGER
North Carolina landed a string of high profile corporate expansions in the last year, led by large companies mostly unfazed by the pandemic.
The coronavirus notwithstanding, North Carolina continues to make its mark as one of the top states in the country for business growth. While many industries show up on Business North Carolina’s annual list of the largest job-creating projects, pharmaceuticals takes a dominant role with massive investments planned by global giants Pfizer, Merck, Eli Lilly and Audentes Therapeutics.
The rankings are based on major job announcements in the year ending June 1 and include the number of committed positions and pledged investment. We also have reported the state and local incentives that are included with most large projects.
While most of the announcements occurred before the coronavirus pandemic, which has put the U.S. into recession, the companies appear committed to the projects. State incentive payouts hinge on meeting job-creation and investment targets. To encourage the companies in the face of a struggling economy, the N.C. Department of Commerce is giving companies involved in the Job Development Investment Grant program an extra year to meet requirements.
In good times or bad, the Tar Heel State’s combination of a talented workforce, relatively low taxes and living costs, and a traditionally pro-business regulatory approach has made it a favorite of corporations. For the third straight year, Forbes ranked North Carolina first in its Best States for Business, while the CNBC network ranked it third in its similar listing. Site Selection magazine rated the state second in its annual business-climate ranking, just behind Georgia.
- New jobs: 1,600
- Projected investment: $153 million
- Incentives: $72 million
- HQ: Mooresville
Lowe’s is investing heavily to sell more home-improvement products online and wants Charlotte to be its digital hub. The retail chain is putting its global-technology center in the Queen City’s South End neighborhood, where it will occupy 15 floors of a 23-story, 357,000-square-foot tower. There, Lowe’s will employ more than 2,000 data scientists, architects, analysts and artificial intelligence experts, including 400 positions transferred from Mooresville. Salaries will average $117,000 annually, more than double the Mecklenburg County average. The
project is expected to be completed in 2021.
Henderson, Guilford counties
- New jobs: 1,200
- Projected investment: $138 million
- Incentives: NA
- HQ: Seattle
Amazon is adding more than 1,000 jobs in North Carolina for the second year in a row. After opening giant fulfillment centers in Garner and Charlotte last year, the world’s largest online retailer is headed to Kernersville, where a similar operation is expected to employ 1,000 people when it opens this summer. The company hasn’t disclosed its investment, but Greensboro TV station WFMY estimated the site’s value at $110 million. In May, Amazon said it would invest $28 million in a delivery station in Mills River, near Asheville, that will add 200 jobs. The company, which reported $281 billion in 2019 revenue, added 6,400 N.C. employees in response to higher demand for online orders because of the coronavirus pandemic, and more than 3,500 are expected to stay on full time, a spokesperson says.
- New jobs: 1,165
- Projected investment: $103.4 million
- Incentives: $32.3 million
- HQ: Raleigh
The communications-software company that helps power videoconferencing programs such as Zoom, Skype and Google Meet is planning a major expansion in its hometown, spending $70 million on a 500,000-square-foot headquarters and paying $30 million for a 40-acre state-owned site. Bandwidth will add 1,165 positions in R&D, operations, sales and administration over the next eight years, with an average annual salary of nearly $97,000. It will receive as much as $32.3 million in reimbursements from the state over 12 years for the project and is eligible for $10.75 million from a state industrial development fund. Bandwidth had 1,728 customers in 2019 and reported $232.6 million
Wake, Mecklenburg counties
- New jobs: 930
- Projected investment: $70.5 million
- Incentives: $22.7 million
- HQ: Redmond, Wash.
Microsoft is creating nearly 1,000 jobs through two projects. The company is adding 500 jobs in Morrisville, mainly in software development positions, and investing $47.5 million in the expansion. It is expected to reach the job target by 2023. The computer and software developer is investing $23 million to expand its 22-acre Charlotte campus and create 430 jobs, mainly in engineering and management. The jobs in Wake County are expected to average about $125,000 annually, while the compensation in Mecklenburg will average about $99,000.
5. Q2 SOLUTIONS
- New jobs: 749
- Projected investment: $73 million
- Incentives: $9.6 million
- HQ: Morrisville
Q2 Solutions is capitalizing on growing demand for genomic testing in clinical trials with its latest investment in the Triangle. The clinical laboratory services provider is building a precision medicine and genomics testing site in Durham. Q2, a joint venture between IQVIA and New Jersey-based Quest Diagnostics, is moving to the new Q2 Solutions Genomics Center of Excellence in N.C., which will be completed in two phases over the next seven years. The 749 jobs will have average annual salaries of about $89,379, nearly $21,000 more than the county average.
- New jobs: 600
- Projected investment: $18.4 million
- Incentives: $12.3 million
- HQ: Norwalk, Conn.
Cary will soon be home to Xerox’s fourth Center of Excellence focused on accelerating digital technology, joining the printing giant’s others in Palo Alto, Calif., Webster, N.Y., and Toronto. The $18.4 million investment will add 600 jobs, mainly in the tech sector. Xerox, No. 347 on the 2020 Fortune 500, is developing a training program with Wake Technical Community College to expand its talent pipeline. The company had 2019 revenue of more than $9 billion.
Durham, Wilson counties
- New jobs: 480 jobs
- Projected investment: $737 million
- Incentives: $12.7 million
- HQ: Kenilworth, N.J.
The giant pharmaceutical company is building a $650 million production space at its Maurice R. Hilleman Center for Vaccine Manufacturing in Durham and expanding its packaging operations in Wilson. The 225,000-square-foot Durham plant will create ingredients for its HPV vaccine, Gardasil 9. The 391 new jobs will have an average annual salary of $73,382, higher than Durham County’s average of $68,731. Merck is investing $87 million to expand packaging operations in Wilson, creating 89 jobs. About $57 million will be used to establish a filling and packaging line for its vaccine that prevents stomach infections in children.
8. AIRCRAFT SOLUTIONS USA
- New jobs: 475
- Projected investment: $100 million
- Incentives: $4.8 million
- HQ: Miami
Aircraft Solutions is building one of the world’s largest hangars at Kinston’s Global TransPark. The aircraft recycling center will repurpose old commercial plane parts and include a paint shop.
Average annual wages for the 475 new positions is $47,069, about $10,000 more than Lenoir County’s average. Aircraft Solutions joins more than a dozen business and government organizations that
operate at Global TransPark.
9. ELI LILLY
- New jobs: 462
- Projected investment: $474 million
- Incentives: $12.4 million
- HQ: Indianapolis
Pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly made the state’s third-biggest investment pledge in the last year. Its plan, which includes investing nearly $500 million over the next five years, is to open a Durham plant for manufacturing its Trulicity and Tirzepatide self-injectable drugs that treat Type 2 diabetes. Most of the hiring is planned to start in 2023. New positions will pay an average annual salary of more than $72,000. Eli Lilly picked North Carolina over Indiana and Pennsylvania for the operation. It ranked No. 145 on the 2020 Fortune 500 list with more than $22 billion in 2019 revenue.
10. KALYANI GROUP
- New jobs: 460
- Projected investment: $170.3 million
- Incentives: $5.1 million
- HQ: Pune, India
India-based conglomerate Kalyani Group is heavily investing in Lee County, building a large manufacturing center for its subsidiaries, Kalyani Precision Machining and Bharat Forge America. The $3 billion parent company’s Sanford project consists of an aluminum forging plant to manufacture car components for Bharat Forge and a high-precision machine shop for Kalyani Precision Machining. Kalyani is investing $127.3 million in the Bharat Forge development, which will create 304 jobs, and $43 million in the machine shop, where 156 jobs will be added.
- New jobs: 413
- Projected investment: $30 million
- Incentives: $2.3 million
- HQ: Tempe, Ariz.
Online car dealer Carvana is expanding into Concord with a 200,000-square-foot inspection and recommissioning plant at the former Philip Morris cigarette site. The project is expected to create 413 jobs over the next five years. They’ll have an average annual salary of $39,000. Carvana sells cars on its website, then uses eight-story glass structures — called car vending machines — in major cities as storage areas for buyers to pick up their vehicles. Carvana posted about $3.9 billion in 2019 revenue.
12. ONTEX OPERATIONS USA
- New jobs: 403
- Projected investment: $93.3 million
- Incentives: $3.1 million
- HQ: Aalst-Erembodegem, Belgium
The Belgian company selected North Carolina for its first U.S. expansion and will be the initial tenant at Greensboro developer Roy Carroll’s 350-acre Rockingham Corporate Park. The diaper manufacturer plans to invest $93.3 million in a 250,000-square-foot site where it will employ production workers, maintenance personnel, logistics specialists, supervisors and other staff. The company hasn’t disclosed what products will be produced at the plant. Construction began in May, and it is expected to be completed next year.
13. WELL DOT
- New jobs: 400
- Projected investment: $3.1 million
- Incentives: $4.4 million
- HQ: Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill beat out Boston to become the headquarters of Well Dot, a health care startup whose software platform uses artificial intelligence to provide health insights. Well Dot raised $25 million in 2019 and will spend $3 million to establish its operations center, which will employ clinical and health experts, software developers, data analysts and corporate personnel. Salaries will average $63,000, nearly $17,000 more than the Orange County average. The company has 25 employees in Chapel Hill and plans to add 400 over a 12-year period.
- New jobs: 403
- Projected investment: $39.9 million
- Incentives: $7.6 million
- HQ: Zurich
ABB, which focuses on electrical products, robotics and industrial automation, is creating more than 400 jobs with an expansion at its Mebane plant, making Orange County’s largest private employer. The company is investing nearly $40 million to upgrade equipment and expand its plant by 50% to 600,000 square feet. New jobs, with an average annual salary of about $71,000, will include product management, assembly and engineering. ABB relocated its U.S. headquarters to Cary in 2009.
- New jobs: 377
- Projected investment: $6 million
- Incentives: $5 million
- HQ: New York
The online insurance broker, which helps consumers compare offerings, is opening a technical and operations center in Durham, creating 377 jobs with an average salary of $72,216. The company has raised more than $150 million in funding since its start in 2014. Ernst & Young named CEO Jennifer Fitzgerald its 2019 Entrepreneur of the Year for the New York region.
16. PAMLICO AIR
- New jobs: 305
- Projected investment: $10 million
- Incentives: $1.5 million
- HQ: Washington, N.C.
The air filtration manufacturer opened a Wilson plant to produce air filters for commercial, industrial and retail customers. The project is expected to reach 305 jobs with an average annual wage of $32,557, lower than the county average of $44,012. Pamlico also has plants in Lake Wales, Fla., and Wichita Falls, Texas. CEO Travis Stephenson and Ron Abel, director of operations, are former executives at Flanders, a Washington-based public company that was acquired for $430 million in 2016.
- New jobs: 300
- Projected investment: $500 million
- Incentives: NA
- HQ: New York
The world’s largest pharmaceutical company is the second-biggest capital investor in this year’s list with a half-billion dollar plan for Sanford — and no state incentives are involved. Pfizer’s 250,000-square-foot plant will focus on highly specialized manufacturing that creates gene therapies for patients suffering from various genetic diseases. Its existing 230-acre Sanford campus employs 650 and collaborates with Pfizer’s operations in Chapel Hill and Morrisville on different stages of the drug-production process. It also has 300 employees at a Rocky Mount plant.
18. GOLDENHOME INTERNATIONAL
- New jobs: 257
- Projected investment: $86 million
- Incentives: $3.2 million
- HQ: Xiamen, China
Chinese cabinet maker GoldenHome International is investing $86 million to establish its North American headquarters in Concord. The new jobs will have an average annual salary of $42,593. GoldenHome will begin hiring in 2021 for executives, interior designers, production operators, salespeople and IT experts. GoldenHome employs more than 4,000 worldwide, and its products are sold through 2,000 stores.
19. MEDLINE INDUSTRIES
- New jobs: 250
- Projected investment: $65 million
- Incentives: $4.3 million
- HQ: Northfield, Ill.
The nation’s largest privately held medical-supplies manufacturer with $12 billion in annual sales is building a 1.2 million-square-foot distribution center in Mebane. The $65 million project will create 250 jobs over five years with an average annual salary of $35,468. Officials say the center will eventually employ as many as 600 people. The facility is expected to open by late 2021.
- New jobs: 237
- Projected investment: $11.2 million
- Incentives: $2.1 million
- HQ: Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
A second Florida-based pet-supply company is entering the state’s market, following Chewy’s 1,200-job expansion into Rowan County last year. SynergyLabs is investing $11.2 million in a manufacturing plant in Hildebran. The new jobs will have an average annual salary of $40,568. The privately held company sells grooming aids, stain and odor products, training equipment, nutritional supplements, and flea and tick controls to customers in more than 50 countries.
21. UNIX PACKAGING
- New jobs: 226
- Projected investment: $19 million
- Incentives: $1.2 million
- HQ: Montebello, Calif.
The beverage and packaging company chose Morganton for its first manufacturing facility on the East Coast in late May. Unix Packaging produces beverages including flavored and distilled waters, soft drinks and kombucha, while also providing bottling and packaging services for national retailers. Salaries will average $39,000. Unix is slated to receive $1.2 million in incentives, provided it creates 151 full-time jobs by the end of 2022.
22. AUDENTES THERAPEUTICS
- New jobs: 209
- Projected investment: $109 million
- Incentives: $9.4 million
- HQ: San Francisco
Audentes, which is owned by Japan’s Astellas Pharma, is building a 135,000-square-foot gene-therapy manufacturing plant in Sanford, It’s slated to open next year. The new jobs will have an average annual salary of $84,000, nearly double Lee County’s average. Audentes focuses on gene therapy for rare neuromuscular diseases.
23. PAMLICO YACHTWORKS
- New jobs: 207
- Projected investment: $12 million
- Incentives: $2.6 million
- HQ: Boston
Boat manufacturer Pamlico Yachtworks is expanding into North Carolina and investing $12 million in a 24,000-square foot manufacturing plant in Washington. A division of family-owned MJM Yachts, Pamlico plans to create 207 jobs over the next five years, starting with about 40 in the first year. The company has been making sailboats since 1977 and yachts since 2002.
24. FOCUS SERVICES
- New jobs: 200
- Projected investment: $1 million
- Incentives: NA
- HQ: Roy, Utah
Focus Services opened a call center in downtown Tarboro in late May, following a recruitment that included the Carolinas Gateway Partnership, the town of Tarboro and Edgecombe Community College. The company employs about 3,000 at 13 centers, including a Greenville location.
- New jobs: 160
- Projected investment: $2 million
- Incentives: NA
- HQ: Garden Grove, Calif.
Through6, which makes apparel for various brands, is investing $2 million in a Sanford plant, where it will add 160 jobs. The company’s new manufacturing site will provide cut, sewing and printing services for its clients. Specializing in rapid responses to orders, Through6 is hiring technologists, printing and sewing operators, and warehouse personnel for a late-summer opening.