North Carolina Economic Development Guide

2014

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CASE STUDY KEYS TO SUCCESS Piece by piece, a Chinese computer-maker builds its future in North Carolina. BY VIKKI BROUGHTON HODGES PHOTOGRAPHY BY STEVE EXUM T he 20-step process starts with motherboards. Assembly-line workers add components such as processors and random-access memory along the way. Most of the 115 workers are called "manufacturing colleagues," and many of them are women — their fingers have an easier time with the intricate assembly work. Some wear white lab coats. Colorful straps on their shoes prevent static electricity from damaging the products they build during each eight-hour shift. Other workers test each device before it's packed and shipped. Sharon Nance and daughter Stephanie work on the line. They started the same day at the Whitsett personal-computer plant, which PC-maker Lenovo Group Ltd. Whitsett Challenge: The financial gains manufacturers found in cheap overseas labor are being erased in part by higher transportation costs. Solution: Lenovo, the largest computer-maker in the world, opened a production line in Whitsett to build computers and other devices, taking advantage of skilled labor and proximity to growth markets. It already had service and fulfillment centers there, and its North America headquarters in nearby Morrisville. Whitsett is in the heart of the state's best-known manufacturing region. Lenovo is drawing from that experienced workforce to staff its new computer assembly line. N ORT H C A R OL I N A E CON OMI C D E V E LO P M E N T GU I D E 27

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