Navassa manufacturer finds success in new facility but falls short of job creation deadline

The $700,000 grant came with the promise to create 238 jobs in two years; a timeline that Pacon Manufacturing failed to keep up with.
Published: Oct. 14, 2022 at 11:25 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 18, 2022 at 11:19 AM EDT
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NAVASSA, N.C. (WECT) - Three years ago, Brunswick County entered into an agreement to grant Pacon Manufacturing $700,000 for the company to bring 238 jobs to the region. Now, the county has applied for a second extension after Pacon fell 19 jobs short of the agreement’s requirements.

But extension requests aren’t out of left field; Brunswick Business and Industry Development Executive Director William “Bill” Early says that they’re a standard practice depending on the circumstances. Though an extension may seem to imply poor performance, Pacon has been largely successful in its new manufacturing facility and headquarters in Navassa.

Pacon Manufacturing manufactures wipes, pads, towels and other supplies and primarily sells to other businesses. Before 2019, Pacon was headquartered in New Jersey.

Early says that Pacon’s move to Navassa was partly due to cost: they were looking to expand and knew they could likely find a cheaper space outside of New Jersey. A formerly vacant, old U.S. Marine Building became the home of a second manufacturing facility and a cheaper space for Pacon’s headquarters. Their other facility is located in the Dominican Republic.

Governor Roy Cooper announced the move in 2019, saying it would bring 299 new jobs and invest $37.6 million in the state.

“Pacon Manufacturing chose North Carolina because of our strong workforce, infrastructure and community support, and they are committed to working with us as we rebuild,” Cooper said in a press release at the time, six months after Hurricane Florence.

As much as anybody loves community, Early is willing to admit that the move likely had something to do with the $1.3 million in incentive grants that were offered and eventually awarded to the company.

Brunswick County and the N.C. Department of Commerce authorized a One NC Grant that gave $300,000 in state funding and $300,000 more in local funding. This agreement hasn’t required an extension; it gave Pacon five years to create 269 full-time positions with an average annual wage of about $32,000.

The other grant was a $700,000 Rural Development Reuse Grant from the NC Department of Commerce for Pacon to renovate a long-vacant building once used by the U.S. Marines. This agreement also required Pacon to employ 238 people full time by 2021. Pacon continues to submit reports every six months, detailing their progress.

These agreements were agreed upon by the commissioners as a sort of package in the later months of 2019. The deadline to create 238 jobs was set to April 2021 for the $700,000 grant.

Then a one-year extension pushed the deadline to April 2022; Pacon wasn’t able to start manufacturing at the site until May 2020, and officials were willing to give them more time, since the renovations caused the delay in the first place. The renovations and site work cost Pacon $3 million, some of which is offset by the grant. But from there, Pacon has largely seen success.

The company had been making cleaning wipes for years, but the COVID-19 pandemic drove up demand even further. Production lines increased from nine in June 2021 to 20 in June 2022. This latest report indicates that 100 percent of the facility space is being used, and that Pacon has spent a further $2.1 million in improvements for the facility.

“We did request an extension to actually give them a full two years of operation. And then COVID has hit, and COVID has been very good for their business, but it has made it more challenging on actually finding the right employees,” said Early.

Just last year, Pacon Manufacturing purchased a 106,500 square-foot space in the Port Logistics Center in Wilmington for offsite warehousing. Pacon told Wilmington Biz that the expansion would allow for five to eight jobs on the Wilmington site and approximately 160 jobs in Navassa.

But the company still has some work to do. There are currently 219 employees that are considered full-time by the agreement, having been at the company six months prior to the latest report. Another 100 employees are temp workers who can be hired full time if they meet Pacon’s requirements.

Early is optimistic. Given the rapid growth in the number of production lines, he believes Pacon will likely far surpass the 238-job requirement by the end of the year when more of the temp workers are converted to full time. And if enough of those workers become full time, Pacon will meet the 269 job requirement from the One NC Grant.

“We have now seen that they have grown or will grow beyond, I believe, their initial projections… I see very positive things in the future for Pacon in Brunswick County,” said Early.

Given this success, the county is applying for another one-year extension to make sure Pacon keeps that grant funding.

You can find Brunswick County’s June 2022 report to the N.C. Department of Commerce on the agreement below.