The Manufacturing Industry: Building Back Fast

Despite turbulence caused by labor and supply chain challenges, the manufacturing industry is experiencing a positive trajectory as it recovers from the pandemic.


Once powered by historic trades like textiles and tobacco, Nash County, NC has evolved into a hub for advanced manufacturing with industry names like Pfizer, Cummins and Honeywell Aerospace, calling Nash County home.

For many companies, Nash County’s strategic location is too good to pass up. The county is located on I-95 and less than one hour away from the Raleigh-Durham International Airport and the Research Triangle. In addition to the county’s strategic location, the county boasts over 500 acres of industrial land within minutes of the new CSX Carolina Connector intermodal rail terminal.

Nash County, NC
Whitaker Business and Industry Center, Nash County, NC (Photo: Nash County, NC)

Nash County is excited that one of the most anticipated infrastructure projects in eastern North Carolina is now open for business. The $160 million Carolina Connector consists of three remote-operated cranes that switch shipping containers between trains and trucks. The facility can move up to 110,000 units annually. NCDOT projects the intermodal will bring $400 million and 1,500 new jobs to the state.

For big-name companies like Cummins, Nash County’s convenient location was a key selling point.

“The fact that we have I-95 and U.S. Highway 64 running straight through the county was really important,” said John Judd, plant manager at Cummins. “I think Nash County has done a really good job at providing easy access to facilities like Cummins and it’s helped us develop a larger footprint today.”

In April, Cummins, Inc. announced a multimillion-dollar investment totaling $42 million in technological and environmental improvements at the Nash County plant. The mid-range gas engine and natural gas plant produces engines for more than 500 customers and is a major employer in Nash County with more than 1,800 people employed at the location.

As Cummins continues to grow, Judd estimates that the company will add 400 to 700 new jobs over the next eight to 10 years.

Cummins, along with many other manufacturers, get to take advantage of Nash Community College’s state-of-the-art advanced manufacturing program. This strong partnership has allow the county to become a hotspot for the advanced manufacturing industry.

“Nash County realizes workforce development is important for a company to be able to focus on refining its employee’s tools and skillsets. In doing so, companies help individuals become more productive and knowledgeable, which stimulates not only the company itself but also the local economy as a whole,” said Andy Hagy, Nash County Economic Development Director.

Nash Community College partners with companies to provide customized training and workforce development. Through working with the Nash County economic development team, NCC is able to identify new and existing industry opportunities, and customize its offering of programs to suit each industry. For Judd, that is possible thanks to the efforts of local leaders and the overall appeal of the area itself. He hopes that both of those factors, in combination with a quickly growing reputation, will allow the county to continue growing its manufacturing footprint, adding local jobs and an economic boost.

“Because our skill levels are improving, we’re starting to draw people in from other locations, and we’re also able to bring in more industry because of that,” said Judd. “The county’s done a really good job evolving with the times—better and more affordable housing, more restaurants, more hotels, more recreation—so the whole evolution over the last three or four decades has been good planning from our forefathers from years ago to where it is today.”

Another successful advanced manufacturer located in Nash County is Honeywell Aerospace, which employs 360 people, and is one of the state’s industry leaders. The Nash County site produces fuel controls for commercial and military aircraft. “These controls created at the Nash County site indicate the amount of fuel flow to the engine for an efficient burn,” said Stephanie Lewis, plant director for Honeywell Aerospace. “These fuel controls are used for a wide variety of aircraft and helicopters—business jets, commercial jets, military jets, puddle jumpers and crop dusters.” These parts are vital to the aerospace sector and Honeywell’s presence reflects the development and overall growth across several industries in Nash County. The international company, which generates $10 billion in annual revenue, chose Nash County due to its growth potential and ideal location.

Over the past year, Nash County experienced much success with the announcements of three new national and international companies and existing companies multimillion-dollar expansions. “Based on our current business recruitment and expansion activity, Nash County is on course to experience another successful year in 2022. We are very excited about the county’s success and want to continue to highlight our excellent location between North Carolina’s Research Triangle and I-95, and reiterate that Nash County is Open for Business,” said Hagy.