Issue link: http://businessnc.epubxp.com/i/756318
19 N o r t h C a r o l i N a E C o N o m i C D E v E l o p m E N t G u i D E urn right up there off the main road, go a little ways and take another right," the clerk at the country store says. He adds with a grin, "I don't think you'll miss it." His meaning is soon clear: The pine plantations that line both sides of River Road in the tiny rural community of Cofield suddenly give way to a massive industrial complex. Its inner workings are even more striking than finding the plant here on the upper Chowan River, where tugboats nudge barges of scrap metal to its dock. Figures in fireproof hoods go about their jobs in what could be the caldera of a volcano. Roaring, 3,000-degree furnaces belch orange flame as overhead cranes shuttle cauldrons of molten metal toward rollers that flatten it into steel plate. Charlotte-based Nucor Corp.'s Hertford County steel plant began production in 2000. Nucor is the nation's largest steel maker and one of the world's largest recyclers, and this plant alone can turn out more than $1 billion worth of steel annually. Nearly 480 employees here typically earn about $90,000 a year, almost triple Hertford's average. To the southwest and about 90 miles inland is another plant, but one more attuned to its rural Tar Heel setting. Forklifts dart about, unloading hundreds of tons of orange-hued sweet potatoes, Nash County's second largest crop to tobacco. The potatoes tumble along conveyor wash lines, on the way to being sliced, pureed, dehydrated, ground into flour or otherwise processed. Carolina Innovative Food Ingredients Inc. supplies the global food industry with filler materials for soups, baked goods, pet food and other products. The company is part of Richmond, Va.-based Universal Corp., whose separate, 1.2 million-square-foot Universal Leaf subsidiary nearby is among the world's largest tobacco processors. Dissimilar as they are, the steel and food manufacturers have a bond. Nucor is widely considered North Carolina's largest industrial energy user, and Universal is one of eastern North Carolina's largest natural-gas consumers, says Rich Worsinger, director of energy resources for the nearby city of Rocky Mount. Within two years, the two could have something else in common. Utilities unite to bring a natural-gas pipeline to eastern North Carolina, bolstering the state's energy resources. B y E D W A R D M A R T I N c a s e s t u d y | e n e r g y POWER PLAY "T The Atlantic Coast Pipeline will provide natural gas to power stations including Duke Energy's Sutton Energy Complex in Wilmington. The combined-cycle plant came online in November 2013, replacing a 59-year-old coal plant.