According to the North Carolina Department of Commerce, the state gained 24,224 new jobs through business and industry and $10.1 billion in new private investment in 2021. These announcements were new economic development records for North Carolina.
Under Golden LEAF's recently adopted strategic plan, the Board of Directors has prioritized increasing job creation and economic investment in rural, economically distressed, and tobacco-dependent communities.
Golden LEAF funds economic development projects that focus on creating and retaining jobs, attracting new business to North Carolina, expanding industries and training new workers. Primarily, these projects are meant to create, expand, or improve business activity in tobacco-dependent, economically distressed or rural communities. Golden LEAF partners with the North Carolina Department of Commerce, the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, and local governments to provide gap funding for public infrastructure or workforce training necessary to enable job creation.
In order to measure the success of a job creation and economic investment project, Golden LEAF tracks outcomes such as investment in publicly owned infrastructure; investment in privately owned property, plant, and equipment; new, full-time jobs created; average annual wage of new, full-time jobs directly tied to the new industry; and business start-ups. Golden LEAF also tracks narrative outcomes including jobs retained that were at risk without Golden LEAF support, comparison to county wages, and job creation in identified job sectors.
Read about some of the successful projects funded through the Economic Catalyst Program under the funding priority of job creation and economic investment:
Rockingham County elevated water tank
The Golden LEAF Board of Directors awarded $2.2 million to Rockingham County for the construction of a 500,000-gallon, elevated water tank to provide sufficient water pressure for a new manufacturing facility of the Ontex Group, a Belgian manufacturer of personal hygiene products. The company is located in South Rockingham Corporate Park, along I-73 and US 65. The water tank will provide service to other businesses and residences in the area. Rockingham County contributed $30,000 toward the water tank project. To date, the water tank associated with this project has been constructed, and Ontex's facility is complete.
Ontex Group anticipates hiring 403 employees over a five-year period. Positions at Ontex will receive an average annual wage of more than $40,000, approximately $5,000 more than the current average wage of Rockingham County residents. Ontex has already created 79 new positions. Approximately $1.5 million has been invested in public infrastructure, and Ontex has invested $27.4 million in privately owned property, plant, and equipment. Ontex Group anticipates this project will result in a total capital investment of $93.3 million.
Vance County equipment lease
The Golden LEAF Board of Directors awarded $522,987 to Vance County to purchase equipment to be leased to Mako Medical Laboratories, a medical testing company that was expanding to a new location in Henderson, N.C. Mako Medical has been named the fastest growing privately held business by the Triangle Business Journal for two consecutive years. The company had considered expanding to other states including Ohio, Louisiana, West Virginia, and South Carolina. Mako Medical anticipated creating 153 new jobs by 2021. To date, the company has reported the creation of 290 full-time jobs, paying an average of $47,208.79, exceeding expectations. In addition, Mako Medical reports employment of more than 500 contracted employees at their Vance County site.
Martin County rail spur extension
The Golden LEAF Board of Directors awarded $200,000 to Martin County to support the extension of a county-owned rail spur into the county-owned Martin Regional Business Park in Everetts. The rail spur was extended to serve Weitron, Inc. and five other sites in the park. Weitron, Inc., a worldwide distributor of refrigerants for automotive, residential, commercial, and industrial air conditioning, and cold storage applications. The facility produces refrigerant for use in a variety of applications, receiving raw product via rail and packaging and distributing it at the site.
The company anticipated creating 31 new jobs within three years, paying an average annual wage of $32,839, plus benefits, compared to the county average of $28,287. The project has resulted in 32 new jobs with an average annual salary of $34,443, exceeding expectations. Weitron anticipated a capital investment of $13.4 million over five years. To date this project resulted in $9.5 million in private capital investment with additional investment expected by 2023, and $1.8 million in new public infrastructure.
Blue Ridge Community College training center
The Golden LEAF Board of Directors awarded $550,000 to Blue Ridge Community College to support efforts of GF Linamar, LLC, a joint venture comprised of Linamar Corporation and GF Automotive, to locate a light metal foundry in Henderson County. The new facility produces high-pressure die cast products for the automobile industry. The company was expected to create 350 new jobs with an average annual wage of $47,013 plus benefits, significantly higher than the county average.
Golden LEAF funds were used to help equip the new Southeastern Advanced Molding Technology Education Center (SAMTEC) with the purchase of a high-pressure die casting cell that the college used to train potential and incumbent GF Linamar employees and employees of other companies in the region. No other community college in the state had this type of training equipment and capability.
To date, the project has resulted in 428 new jobs at GF Linamar. The average annual wage of those jobs is $50,112. The company has invested $196,712,965 in privately-owned property, plant, and equipment. Blue Ridge Community College has helped 451 students complete post hire training.