Vertex Rail Technologies LLC announced it will add more than 1,300 jobs and invest $60 million in Wilmington over the next six months as it starts producing rail cars in the former Terex Cranes facility.
Gov. Pat McCrory was among state and local dignitaries on hand for the announcement, which speakers including Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo and New Hanover County Commission Chairman Woody White applauded as a significant step in the area’s economic development.
“This is a big deal; I mean, a really big deal,” Saffo declared. “Every day’s a great day in Wilmington, but this is an extremely great day.”
Vertex CEO Don Croteau said Wilmington was selected over other locations in other states because of the Terex facility, Wilmington’s amenities and the people involved in wooing the company here.
“This is a fairly unique building in a wonderful part of the world,” Croteau said, noting the workforce laid off when Terex closed the facility in 2011 could contribute to Vertex’s initial employment.
“We are truly looking forward to a long, lasting, growing relationship with Wilmington and the state of North Carolina” Croteau said.
The facility, which will produce specialty tank cars designed to serve the country’s oil and energy market, is expected to produce 1,342 jobs, a majority of which Croteau said would be filled by North Carolinians. Once operational about six months from now, Vertex projects it will produce 1,400 rail cars in its first year and 4,500 cars the year after that.
The production is aimed at meeting federal regulations to replace old rail cars that are deemed obsolete. The new tank cars would be safer and more resilient, said McCrory, who emphasized the company would help in restoring the state’s manufacturing industry, while revitalizing a building that has been vacant three years.
“This is great news for manufacturing in our state,” McCrory said. “We can’t live off just the service industry alone. Manufacturing—Wilmington’s going to continue to be a major part of that dynamic trend not only throughout the United States but throughout North Carolina.”
The Massachusetts-based company plans to hire at least 10 percent of its Wilmington workforce through the local Hometown Hires program, and Croteau and others said many of the jobs would be targeted to unemployed military veterans. The company will be represented in an NC Works job fair, which is open to the public but targeted to veterans, this Friday, Nov. 14, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Cape Fear Community College’s Schwartz Center. Croteau said the facility would be opened to the community in an event Dec. 6, and he said the company would start its hiring process in January.
Jobs will range from assemblers and fitters, welders, and painters, and include positions in engineering, logistics, quality assurance, sales, safety and management. Salaries will average about $40,000 annually, according to a press release, which notes an economic analysis by UNCW’s Woody Hall that projects an annual economic impact of $1.1 billion for Brunswick, Columbus, New Hanover and Pender counties.
State Transportation Secretary Tony Tata said North Carolina will contribute more than $600,000 toward infrastructure improvements to accommodate the facility, which is located on Raleigh Street just south of the Port of Wilmington. Those funds include $200,000 from N.C. Railroad Company dividends for improvements to the rail line serving the facility, $305,000 from economic development funds for improvements to a rail crossing on River Road, and $100,000 in contingency funds for improvements to Raleigh Street.
“This is exactly the type of project those funds are intended for,” Tata said, noting McCrory’s charge to create jobs through improvements to existing infrastructure.
District Attorney Ben David was among the event’s speakers to talk on the Hometown Hires program, which he said he started in an effort to connect job-ready employees with businesses in the community. David said he applauded Vertex for utilizing the program and investing in not only the community, but its people.
Speakers also applauded the efforts of Wilmington Business Development, the economic advancement group that recruits business and industry for New Hanover and Pender counties and the City of Wilmington. White, the New Hanover County chairman, said Thursday’s announcement is the return on investment in economic development efforts and Wilmington Business Development specifically.
“These things don’t happen by chance,” White said. “For those of you who ever wanted to know what (Wilmington Business Development does), this is it. This is what they do. And I can’t tell you how proud we are as a board, and as a county how fortunate we are, to have you as our economic partner.
“This is the dividend and the return on our investment,” White said, “and we thank you for that. Well done.”
Mayor Saffo joined White in welcoming Vertex to Wilmington, noting the city’s history not only with manufacturing but with the railroad industry.
“Wilmington was always known as a railroad city,” Saffo said. “The longest railroad in the world at one time was from Wilmington to Weldon, and here we are about to build rail cars again here in Wilmington, North Carolina.
“As my good friend Scott Satterfield with Wilmington Business Development has told me many times, economic development recruitment is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. And I want to thank you folks for all you have done over there to help bring this great company to Wilmington, North Carolina.”