Robeson County’s good fortune in attracting an ammunition manufacturer that will create 150 jobs is welcome news for Scotland County, as well, say local economic development officials.
It was announced earlier this week that Cape Fear Arsenal Inc., a manufacturer of ammunition products in the Southeast, will invest in excess of $15.2 million in locating a manufacturing plant in a vacant 65,000 square foot building in Lumberton
“We’d rather have the business coming here, but any kind of economic development in our region is very helpful to our county and will likely provide jobs for people here in Scotland County,” said Tonia Stephenson, president of the Laurinburg-Scotland County Area Chamber of Commerce.
When businesses like Cape Fear Arsenal locate nearby, Stephenson said that Scotland County may also benefit by becoming a target for companies that do business with them.
“Any time new industry comes to the area there is a potential for vendors of products that they use or manufacturers of raw materials that they may use to locate here in Scotland County as part of an overflow effect,” Stephenson said.
According to county Economic Developer Greg Icard, companies considering locating in Scotland County often ask for a list of other businesses that have recently invested in nearby areas.
“They’re looking to see companies and corporations that have located in your county in the past three or five years,” Icard said. “They’re looking to see if the industries in your region are growing.”
Cape Fear Arsenal says the average yearly wage of the 150 new jobs will be about $41,000, with salaries varying according to position.
Icard said it is likely some of those jobs will be filled by Scotland County residents.
“Businesses often pull workforce from as much as 45 miles away,” Icard said. “We would rather have them locate here, but depending on exactly where the plant is located, you will probably have people from all over apply to those jobs.
“There are places in Richmond County where half of the workers are from Scotland County. From the regional perspective of economic development, ultimately (the new Robeson plant) benefits our county and all surrounding counties.”
David Hargitt, the CEO of Cape Fear Arsenal Inc., a manufacturer of ammunition products in the Southeast, told The Robesonian on Wednesday that he looked at five counties in South Carolina and four counties in North Carolina before deciding to locate his company in Robeson County. He credited the good working relationship with Greg Cummings, Robeson County’s economic developer, and others involved in recruiting businesses to the area, for his choosing Lumberton.
The CEO said that he is aiming for an early-July ribbon-cutting for his manufacturing facility.
“We are very excited about being here,” he said.
Wagram Rep. Garland Pierce said the local workforce was a factor in the company’s decision to locate in Robeson County.
“North Carolina’s tremendous workforce continues to attract businesses to our state, and we’re excited to have Cape Fear Arsenal coming to Robeson County,” he said.
North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory commented on the announcement earlier this week, saying that “our state has a strong manufacturing legacy.”
McCrory said in his joint statement with Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker that “this new facility advances that legacy with an innovative process that will result in much-needed, high-paying jobs for workers in Robeson County.”
Cape Fear Arsenal is a private corporation that focuses on products that will primarily be sold to law enforcement, but it also expects to bid on contracts for the military and state agencies.
“CFA is very appreciative of this opportunity to partner with the state of North Carolina and Robeson County as we look to do something positive in this industry,” Hargitt said. “Without the state and local government’s outstanding support, CFA’s ability to provide these opportunities in Lumberton would not have been possible. CFA will apply innovative manufacturing technology and the highly competent Robeson County workforce to produce various calibers of pistol ammunition for an already stressed and lacking ammunition market.”
Cummings said his office has been working to bring Cape Fear to the area for 13 months.
“This is a great day for our county. This project will help strengthen our tax base and lower our unemployment rate,” Cummings said.
The average wage in Robeson County is about $26,000, and Cummings pointed out that dollars paid employees are spend an average of five time before leaving the local economy, producing a positive rippled effect.
The project was made possible in part by a performance-based grant from the One North Carolina Fund of up to $490,000. The One North Carolina Fund provides financial assistance through local governments to attract business projects that will stimulate economic activity and create new jobs. Companies receive no money up front and must meet job creation and investment performance standards to qualify for grant funds. These grants also require and are contingent upon local matches.
Other partners that helped with the project include: the state Department of Commerce; the N.C. Community College System; North Carolina Southeast, Robeson County; City of Lumberton; Robeson County Economic Development Commission; and the Robeson County Committee of 100.
“This new manufacturing facility will provide solid employment opportunities for an area that was hit hard by the recession,” state Sen. Michael Walters said. “… These jobs that pay about $15,000 above the county’s average salary are the kind of jobs we need to cherish …”
The Robesonian newspaper contributed to this article