By COREY DAVIS
Manufacturing continuously has been a leading industry in the local area. In Nash County, Carolina Gateway Partnership Vice President Krista Ikirt said, the labor force roughly is about 44,000. She added manufacturing jobs make up as much as 18 percent of Nash County’s employee population.
“This shows that we rely heavily on manufacturing jobs in Nash County,” she said.
Headlightdata.com, a website that provides up-to-date economic and workforce information reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, recently released data that showed Nash County ranked fifth in the top 10 counties for the most manufacturing jobs created in 2014.
Chris Engle, president and chief analyst for Headlightdata.com, said Nash County created 3,112 new manufacturing jobs and the ranking is out of 2,746 counties that had data available for both 2013 and 2014. Engle said the jobs included those that were brought back and filled after being lost during the recession. The data included counties that are part of bigger metropolitan areas such as Detroit, Mich., San Francisco, Calf., San Jose, Calif. and Kansas City, Mo.
“It’s about a 70 percent growth that didn’t occur the year before,” Engle said referring to Nash County. “Job growth is a positive and it can signal to the outside world that the manufacturing economy in Rocky Mount is doing well and hiring people. This is a great thing for Nash County because there are a lot of big counties on this list that have created manufacturing jobs.”
Ikirt said there are several contributing factors showing the rise of the manufacturing economy in Nash County. Engle said the automotive and pharmaceutical industries, sectors that Cummins Rocky Mount Engine Plant and Hospira fall under respectively, are going strong in the current national economy.
“Some of that data is Hospira’s expansion. Cummins and Universal Leaf North America have added jobs, and Honeywell has brought back employment,” she said. “They had some layoffs during the recession. Also, we had some new jobs announcements in food processing with Carolina Innovative Food Ingredients and Nutkao USA.”
Don Williams, president of Lewis Advertising and chairman of the Carolinas Gateway Partnership, said mainly because of the recession the local manufacturing sector has undergone a major shift.
“Manufacturing jobs have been the backbone in Nash County for many years, and it used to be in tobacco and textile products,” Ikirt said. “Now, our manufacturing jobs have transitioned into advanced manufacturing, advanced technology and food processing. When you look at those new food processing jobs, the technology around those jobs aren’t basic jobs anymore. We’ve moved away from traditional manufacturing.”
Ikirt, who recruits for Nash County at the Partnership, said the data can serve as another marketing tool, knowing that competition is fierce when it comes to economic development agencies trying to persuade industries to relocate to a particular area.
“The more we can create a positive image for this area and toot our horn about good things, that makes a difference for CEOs of companies and site selectors that are looking at our area and is definitely a good recruitment tool.”
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