The Lockwood Greene Master Economic Development Plan for Henderson County was completed in 2002, providing guidance to the organization and a plan for public and private partners. As previously reported, the plan included a labor study, marketing plan, target industry analysis and competitive assessment. The target market analysis identified business sectors likely to flourish in our community, and examined why some sectors are or are not an ideal fit with existing assets. The report identified 8 primary and 4 secondary clusters including plastics, automotive components, medical products, recreational sporting goods, and machinery manufacturing. The Partnership has focused on these targets from an external marketing effort, as well as supporting core programs of work designed to enhance and facilitate networking opportunities among existing manufacturing operations.
One of the largest and most substantial manufacturing clusters in Henderson County is the automotive sector. Existing companies such as API South, Blue Ridge Metals, BorgWarner, Continental, Elkamet, KLB Racing, Kyocera, Meritor, Ohlins, Prince Manufacturing, Selee, and Skyline Plastics serve as a strong reminders of how Henderson County companies contribute to the global automotive industry while concurrently supporting local employment opportunities. Together, companies in Henderson County involved in the automotive sector account for over 1,600 jobs, or nearly 28% of the community’s manufacturing labor force.
Through the years, the Partnership has maintained marketing attention on the automotive industry. In August, Josh Hallingse, Director of Industry Relations traveled to Detroit, MI to meet with automotive component executives. This trip allowed the Partnership to maintain and build ongoing relationships with Henderson County automotive companies headquartered in the Midwest, while simultaneously reaching out to companies that have expressed an interest in expanding their manufacturing presence to North Carolina.
Henderson County’s location is one key factor in attracting automotive companies. Henderson County provides ease of access to I-26, I-40, I-85, I-81 and I-77 allowing most major markets to be reached in one day. Sitting just over the state line from major auto makers such as BMW and Volkswagen, allows for companies to actively engage with major companies as well as work with contributing suppliers. North Carolina is a top rated manufacturing state as well as a right-to-work state creating a favorable business climate for companies looking to do business with auto makers in the southeast. In addition to access advantages, companies considering WNC are also met with numerous manufacturing training assets, many of which have a focus on needs specific to the automotive sector. Assets include Western Carolina University’s Center for Rapid Product Realization, the Clemson University ICAR Campus and Blue Ridge Community College.
In addition to marketing trips, the Partnership has an active campaign calendar to reach out to targeted industry sectors. In the process, HCPED keeps an eye on major manufacturers and their suppliers. By creatively introducing targeted companies to the manufacturing potential and access of Henderson County, the goal is to attract more automotive component companies and facilitate the creation of quality job opportunities for our citizens.