WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Governor Pat McCrory announced Thursday Vertex Rail Technologies will be opening a railcar production facility in Wilmington that will bring more than 1,300 jobs to the area.
McCrory, officials from Vertex Rail Technologies, and the city of Wilmington made the announcement during a press conference held at the site of the vacant Terex Corporation on Raleigh Street.
Massachusetts based Vertex plans to hire 1,342 employees and invest more than $50 million to produce rail cars at the vacant facility.
"It's always a great day in the City of Wilmington, but today is an extremely great day," said Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo about the announcement.
Vertex CEO Don Croteau stressed that between 1,250-1,300 jobs will be filled by people from the area. Vertex plans to hire assemblers, fitters, welders, and painters as well as personnel with expertise in engineering, logistics, quality assurance, sales, safety and management.
Both McCrory and Croteau stressed the importance of hiring military veterans to work at the company.
"The military can help fill that void so we're using the military as a recruitment tool. Plus it's the right thing to do, to reward people coming home with a job," McCrory said.
The Governor also stated that Wilmington has a great opportunity to design new and improved railroad cars that are required at the federal level of government.
"The federal government is finalizing new recommended specifications for safer and more resilient tank cars and we're gonna have the company right here in Wilmington to make that difference and meet that needs of both safety and new federal requirements," he said, adding that all pre-existing rail cars designed to transport crude oil will have to be replaced by 2017.
The average salary will be approximately $40,000 annually, according to company officials.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation will provide approximately $305,000 from the Economic Development Fund to help improve the railroad infrastructure surrounding the facility. The Rail Division of the DOT will contribute $200,000.
The state will also contribute $100,000 to improve Raleigh Street to help alleviate any congestion issues Vertex employees might facing coming to work.
Croteua said the unique facility played a large role in attracting the company to Wilmington.
The five-building complex located on 68 acres will allow Vertex to quickly ramp-up production of high-demand rails cars needed to transport crude oil from states like Texas and North Dakota.
"A lot of this falls into place," McCrory said. "You have the right site, at the right time, at the right place when new [regulations] need this."
And while the buildings were an important factor, Croteua said what really sealed the deal for Wilmington was when Cape Fear Community College officials vouched for the area's workforce.
"That's probably the biggest headache," the CEO said. "It's not the technology. It's not the design. It's not necessarily the facility."
Unlike many major economic recruits, Vertex didn't apply for city, county or state incentives, according to Wilmington Business Development.
"Everything you offered was so good and so strong that the incentive issue for us was really pretty minor," Croteua said.
Jamir Jumoke, Program Manager for United Way's Hometown Hires, was one of the many community stakeholders in attendance at Thursday's announcement. The Hometown Hires program is partnered with Vertex and will provide 10 percent of the company's new hires.
Jumoke said the program is designed to get people out of poverty and into the workplace. District Attorney Ben David said while many were hit hard by the recession, many families in our area have been fighting against poverty and struggling to support loved ones for generations. The Hometown Hires Program works to break that cycle.
"What we are going for is a ripple effect. They might be in a family unit where a $40,000 a year job like Vertex has could truly transform that entire family unit," David said.
Jumoke said the organization operates in a three county area and has an applicant pool that's ready to work for companies like Vertex Rail Technologies.
"United Way is very very excited about this innovative collaboration. We really appreciate the people at Vertex bringing these opportunities to Wilmington and giving us a chance to excel as a community," said Jumoke.