Above: A look inside Pfizer's manufacturing facility in Rocky Mount, NC. (Image courtesy of Pfizer)
With its skilled labor pool, low business costs and abundance of shovel-ready sites, North Carolina has wide-ranging appeal for manufacturers. In 2021, the state drew a number of new manufacturing facilities to its borders, including Toyota's major announcement in November of its plans to establish a major battery manufacturing plant in Greensboro and JELD WEN, which unveiled plans this month to add a second shift at a new plant that it opened in July of 2021.
Today, we’re focusing on the latest trends in North Carolina’s industrial sector and exploring the state’s ten largest manufacturing companies.
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According to data collected by MNI, compiler of the industrial information that powers IndustrySelect, North Carolina is currently home to 8,723 manufacturers employing 554,784 workers. These include some key companies in the food products and automotive sector, which we’ll explore in a moment. But first, here are some key statistics on the state’s industrial sector based on MNI’s survey of North Carolina manufacturers.
According to MNI, Charlotte is North Carolina’s largest city based on manufacturing employment, home to 44,041 workers. This is followed by Greensboro with 25,614 and Winston-Salem with 16,671 workers.
Read more: Top Manufacturing Cities in the U.S.
Other top cities in North Carolina include
• High Point (16,287 jobs)
• Durham (14,265 jobs)
• Raleigh (11,493 jobs)
• Research Triangle Park (10,937 jobs)
• Hickory (10,768 jobs)
Mecklenburg County is North Carolina’s largest county in terms of industrial jobs, home to 65,649 workers. This is followed by Guilford County (53,149), Wake (45,775), Catawba (31,037) and Durham (30,295).
Taking a look at the state’s top industries, food products manufacturing ranks as the state’s largest industrial sector based on number of jobs, employing 67,040. Second-ranked industrial machinery and equipment ranks second with 65,390 jobs, while third-ranked chemicals accounts for 44,044. This is followed by transportation equipment manufacturing with 44,002 jobs and rubber/plastics, with 42,422.
According to IndustrySelect database of 460,000 U.S. industrial companies, there are 34,388 executive contacts among North Carolina's manufacturing companies, including 4,674 presidents, 2,506 owners and partners; 2,903 vice-presidents and 2,928 sales, marketing and purchasing executives.
Other facts to know about North Carolina manufacturers, based on IndustrySelect’s advanced criteria available to subscribers, include ownership, distribution and other trend. Let’s take a look:
• 2% of North Carolina manufacturers are women-owned
• 1% are minority-owned
• 12% are publicly-owned companies
• 13% import raw materials
• 26% distribute their products internationally
Notably, a higher percentage of North Carolina import raw materials to make their products, compared to the national average of 11%. Additionally, the Tar Heel State has a larger percentage of public companies at 12% compared to the national average of 5%.
North Carolina is home to a number of major companies in the food processing, pharmaceutical and transportation equipment industries. Next, we’ll take a look at the state’s top companies.
|IBM Corp.||8,000||Research Triangle Park||NC|
|Smithfield Foods, Inc.||5,000||Tar Heel||NC|
|Fleet Readiness Center East||4,000||Cherry Point||NC|
|GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy Americas, LLC||3,000||Wilmington||NC|
|Pfizer, Inc.||3,000||Rocky Mount||NC|
|Tyson Foods, Inc.||2,540||Wilkesboro||NC|
|R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.||2,500||Tobaccoville||NC|
|The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., Fayetteville Plt.||2,500||Fayetteville||NC|
|Butterball, LLC||2,400||Mount Olive||NC|
|Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations||2,200||Wilson||NC|
1. IBM Corporation (Research Triangle Park, NC)
Headquartered in Armonk, NY, IBM (International Business Machines) dominates the world of computer hardware, middleware and software and also provides consulting services. At their Research Triangle Park location, 8,000 employees work on IBM software, storage systems and systems technology.
2. Smithfield Foods, Inc. (Tar Heel, NC)
Founded in 1936, Smithfield Foods is among the world’s largest pork producer, processing hogs from 2,500 separate U.S. farms. The company’s Tar Heel facility employs 5,000 and processes up to 35,000 hogs per day.
3. Fleet Readiness Center East (Havelock, NC)
The Fleet Readiness Center in Havelock is one of eight of the U.S. Navy’s facilities for maintenance and overhaul of naval aircraft, components and equipment. At the Cherry Point site, 4,000 workers produce aircraft parts and rebuilt helicopters.
4. GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy Americas, LLC (Wilmington, NC)
GE-Hitachi is a joint effort to serve the world’s nuclear energy industry. At this facility in Wilmington, 3,000 employees make light water reactors for operators of boiling and pressurized water reactors. The facility also works on steam turbines and parts.
5. Pfizer, Inc. (Rocky Mount, NC)
With 88,000 employees worldwide, Pfizer is among the world largest pharmaceutical companies, made even more famous in 2020 as among the first developers of a COVID-19 vaccine. Pfizer’s Rocky Mount location focuses on disposable hospital supplier, intravenous solutions and parenterals. Employing 3,000, the facility ranks as North Carolina’s sixth-largest industrial employer.
6. Tyson Foods, Inc. (Wilkesboro, NC)
Headquartered in Springdale, AR, Tyson Foods is multinational food products company, and ranks as the world’s second largest processor of meat products and produces 20% of all the pork, beef, chicken consumed in the United States. The Wilkesboro site, home to 2,540 workers, focuses on chicken processing and packaging as well as frozen poultry products.
7. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. (Tobaccoville)
R.J. Reynolds is the second-largest producer of tobacco in the U.S., founded in Winston Salem in 1875. The Tobaccoville location is the company’s largest facility, occupying 2 million square feet where 2,500 employees process tobacco and produce tobacco products.
8. The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. (Fayatteville, NC)
Headquartered in Akron, OH, Goodyear Tire & Rubber is among the world’s largest tire manufacturers, making tires for a wide range of vehicles, including trucks, passenger cars, farm equipment, SUVs, motorcycles, construction equipment and more. In 2019, Goodyear’s Fayatteville location announced a major expansion for its larger rim-diameter tire making operation. Goodyear Tire is North Carolina’s 9th largest industrial employer, accounting for 2,500 jobs.
9. Butterball, LLC (Mount Olive, NC)
Further demonstrating North Carolina’s stronghold in the food processing industry, Butterball, LLC is a major producer of turkey products, including whole turkey. The Mount Olive, NC facility is the world’s largest turkey plant, processing 17 million turkeys annually. 2,400 employees work at the plant, making it North Carolina’s tenth largest manufacturing facility based on the size of its workforce.
10. Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations (Wilson, NC)
Rounding out our top 10 list of the largest manufacturing operations in North Carolina is Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations. Employing 2,200 workeres in the town of Wilson, this 2 million square-foot facility is a major producer of automotive tire.
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Note: This article was originally published in January 2021. It is updated annually to reflect new trends and statistics.