July 20After months of quietly courting medical-device maker Becton, Dickinson, state and local officials announced Monday that the company will open a massive distribution center in the Johnston County town of Four Oaks.
The New Jersey company, which has strong ties to Eastern North Carolina, plans to begin hiring next year and create 187 jobs by 2014. BD, as the company brands itself, will receive state and local incentives worth up to $2.3 million if it meets its hiring and investment goals.
The jobs will pay average annual salaries of $28,771. That's below the Johnston County average of $31,408.
"Just because they're slightly below the county average does not mean it's not a good job," said Deborah Barnes, an N.C. Department of Commerce spokeswoman. "It's certainly not a minimum wage job."
The company also was considering sites in South Carolina and Virginia, Barnes added. While critics attack incentives-for-jobs deals as corporate handouts, North Carolina officials are eager to lure new business, especially to rural parts of the state hit hard by the economic downturn.
"These jobs are critically important to change the fabric of lives in Eastern North Carolina," Gov. Bev Perdue told reporters after a ceremony at Four Oaks Elementary School to announce BD's plans.
BD will be the first tenant at a nearly 400-acre industrial park being built on farmland off Interstate 95, just north of the intersection with I-40. Officials hope that BD will help them attract other businesses to the long-delayed park.
"This is going to be a boon for Eastern North Carolina," said Four Oaks Mayor Linwood Parker, who estimates that other manufacturing and distribution facilities at the park eventually will employ 3,500 people.
BD will become Four Oaks' largest employer, and the new jobs will have a big effect on the town, Parker said.
"I think you're going to see retail growth and housing growth," he added. "As the park grows, the number of people living here will grow along with it."
The Keith Corp. of Charlotte, which began working with Four Oaks to market, develop and manage the park in 2007, will build the 700,000-square-foot warehouse and distribution center and lease it back to BD.
The companies have signed a long-term lease, said Keith Corp. spokesman R. Alan Lewis, who declined to provide further details. Keith Corp. plans to break ground on the building in September and finish it by next summer.
BD saw the location as a central spot to serve customers up and down the East Coast, said Charles Goldstein, the vice president of research, who has lived in Chapel Hill since 1998. The area's strong, spirited work force was another plus, he added.
"North Carolina is an attractive place for growing research companies like BD," Goldstein told the crowd of about 200 people who gathered in the elementary school cafeteria.
BD traces its roots to North Carolina, home to its two founders, Maxwell W. Becton of Kinston and Fairleigh S. Dickinson of Beaufort. The two started the company in 1897 in New York. BD opened a facility in Research Triangle Park in 1972 and now employs about 900 people at operations in RTP, Durham, Mebane and Burlington, out of 29,000 worldwide.
The company also is building a manufacturing facility in Wilson that's expected to employ 90 people. In 2008, the N.C. Department of Commerce awarded BD a three-year grant worth up to $3.4 million to build the Wilson plant and to expand facilities in RTP and Durham. The company planned to create 274 jobs and continues to hire.
The Four Oaks facility will store and distribute a wide range of BD's products and supplies, including syringes, pipettes, tests to detect cervical cancer and more.
"It's truly a momentous day for Four Oaks and Johnston County," said county commissioners Chairman Wade Stewart, who grew up in the town.
Staff writers Colin Campbell and David Bracken contributed to this report.
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