LUMBER BRIDGE — The county’s largest private-sector employer is expected to add 90 jobs to its workforce.
Mountaire Farms of North Carolina Inc., located at 17269 N.C. 71 North in Lumber Bridge, is in the process of adding $5 million in new equipment and machinery to its existing plant, according to Mike Tirell, vice president of the company’s Human Resources department. The average wage for plant employees is $12.30 an hour.
Tirell said the expansion will help the plant meet production needs. The plant is where chickens are processed then sold retail or wholesale.
“We’re expanding our products,” Tirell said, “so more production of fresh chicken and frozen chicken to be distributed around the world — fresh chicken for distribution in the United States.”
The Robeson County Board of Commissioners in February offered the company an incentives package called Project 77. The incentives, based on the number of jobs, wage rate and investments a company creates, will provide the company with tax breaks for four years.
Tirell said that the expansion of the facility is expected to contribute $2 million a year into the economy. That calculation is made using the spending power that the new wages will provide.
Greg Cummings, the county’s economic development director, said that the company’s investment “plays a major role in the economy of Robeson County,” and is “good news for the county, especially for the Lumber Bridge area.” Cummings said Mountaire is the largest private employer in the county, with about 2,600 employees currently.
“It’s coming at a time where we’ve had layoffs in this county and surrounding counties,” Cummings said. “This is the opportunity for 90 people to be able to go back to work. ”
Mountaire Farms has had four major expansions at the Lumber Bridge plant since it opened in 1996, according to Cummings. He said the plant’s success is because of its “location to its customer base,” and that he foresees a bright future for the agricultural industry in Robeson County.
“I think once you’ve seen both parties start working together, I think you’ll see manufacturing industries start growing,” he said. “Once they get together on one accord, you’re going to see an increase in activity in the manufacturing sector — we’re seeing it now.”