North Carolina Economic Development Guide


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39 North Carolina Economic Development Guide moved nearly 40 machine tools and fi ve assembly lines to the North Carolina plant without expanding its fl oor space. In 2010, IndustryWeek magazine named it one of the nation's top 10 industrial plants. Snap-on and other nearby manufacturers cite obvious advantages to locating in this rural region. Healthier environments, less traf c and lower costs are among them. "Fairview has some absolutely beautiful areas and extracurricular activities," says TE Connectivity's Turpin, whose plant is near the Blue Ridge Parkway and Chimney Rock State Park. "That's part of the work-life balance at TE. We have trails and other amenities all around, and that attracts people." Cultural traits aren't easily defi ned, but some manufacturing executives cite them anyway. "In an area like this, there's tremendous word of mouth, good or bad," says Jef Mooney, general manager of Birmingham, Ala.- based Altec Industries Inc.'s Yancey County factory, which makes specialized truck bodies. "If it's not a good place to work, you can't hire anybody. But if it's good, people go home, tell their friends and relatives, and you get a good workforce with a really good work ethic. There's not as much job hopping as in a big city. If you have the reputation of treating people better than anyone else, you're going to have people knocking down the door to work here." How many knocks is relative. Sparse populations mean fewer workers. Graham County, for example, has 3,200 in its workforce. "Some employers come in here and say, 'There are a lot of trees around, but where are the people?'" laughs Cherokee's Carpenter. He and others say the region's transition from fading traditional industries, such as textiles and furniture, is a double-edged sword. Through his county recently had a less than 6% unemployment rate, higher unemployment in other counties means deep labor pools fi lled with workers who defy many rural stereotypes. Altec Industries counts utilities, such as Charlotte-based Duke Energy Corp., the nation's largest, as customers. Yancey's Profi tt says it's the county's largest employer with more than 500 workers. Mooney says the massive plant, which was completed in 2006, combines traditional manufacturing tasks, such as fabrication and welding, with the latest laser cutting and computer-controlled machining. Massive metal-stamping presses pound out body panels, and overhead cranes dip nearly completed bodies in giant tanks of anticorrosion primer before painting. It's a similar scene at American Emergency Vehicles in West Jef erson, founded there but acquired by Orlando, Fla.-based Allied Specialty Vehicle Corp. in 2010. The nation's largest manufacturer of emergency vehicles, AEV's 283 employees built more than 1,200 in 2015. They ranged from lightweight van-type ambulances that sell for $75,000 to massive $300,000

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