November 22, 2005

DuPont Plans to Reopen Kinston, N.C.-Area Plant, Add Jobs

By Frank Norton, The News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.

Nov. 22--DuPont wants to resurrect a mostly defunct Lenoir County plant to boost production of its new textile.

The chemical maker will invest $24 million to expand the Kinston-area plant and add 66 workers by 2008, Gov. Mike Easley announced Monday. DuPont eventually expects to invest $55 million at the facility.

In return, DuPont will receive more than $3.2 million in incentives from state and local governments and economic developers.

"Our business-friendly climate and low tax burden are helping existing industries, such as DuPont, succeed and grow in our state," Easley said. The investment will help North Carolina become a world leader in nonwoven textile production, he said.

DuPont will manufacture a type of corn-derived polymer that requires 30 percent to 40 percent less energy to produce than competing materials. DuPont Sorona polymer is used in clothing, carpeting, upholstery, plastics and other items.

The Fortune 100 company has operated at the site since 1953, and became one of the largest employers in Eastern North Carolina before several rounds of layoffs, including about 1,200 workers in 2000 and 2001.

DuPont employs just 33 workers at the site; they produce an older version of Sorona. The company will modernize that operation and add the workers within three years to meet rising demand for lower-cost fabrics, company spokeswoman Michelle Reardon said.

The expansion brings much-needed jobs to Lenoir County, which has lost thousands of jobs in the past five years as the state's textile industry has declined.

Lenoir's jobless rate averaged 6.3 percent this year, compared with 5.4 percent statewide, according to the N.C. Employment Security Commission.

The plant now has fewer than 200 workers between DuPont and other manufacturers. It supported 3,900 in its heyday.

The new jobs will be primarily skilled manufacturing positions that pay an average of $680 a week -- $35,360 annually -- plus benefits. The average pay in Lenoir County is $495 a week, not including benefits.

DuPont created the formula for Sorona at the Lenoir plant and began selling it in polymer chips to textile producers in 2001. The DuPont plant will manufacture chips that textile makers process into fiber.

In return for DuPont's investment, state officials have agreed to provide $862,000 in cash and other incentives. The One North Carolina Fund, created by the state to offer incentives to expanding businesses and industries, will provide $200,000 of that money.

Golden LEAF Foundation, which manages North Carolina's share of the tobacco settlement money, will contribute $1.15 million. Lenoir County will give $1.25 million.

DuPont also will be eligible for tax credits from the N.C. Department of Revenue under the William S. Lee Act.

"It's only 66 jobs, but it's still a great start for Kinston and Lenoir County," said Kinston Mayor Johnnie Mosley, who worked at the DuPont plant for 30 years. "It's great to have an old plant that is now producing a new product."


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