Governor Roy Cooper was in Asheville the morning of March 1, appearing at the Chamber of Commerce for a major economic development announcement. He joined Mayor Esther Manheimer and Buncombe County Board of Commissioners Chairman Brownie Newman at the hour-long event for which GE Aviation officially detailed the company’s plans to invest $105 million (machinery, equipment, new technology) in its Asheville operations. GE estimated the expansion would generate 131 new jobs (currently GE employs 425 employees), and the wages for these position will reportedly average nearly 30% above the Buncombe County average.
GE had previously invested $126 million in state-of-the-art production facilities in Sweeten Creek Industrial Park, which became the company’s first site to mass produce Ceramic Matrix Composite components for jet engines, so this new expansion will significantly increase production capacity.
GE Aviation’s expansion should ultimately result in $12.8 million in annual labor income from new direct, indirect, and induced jobs; simultaneously, $7.5 million will be generated in new annual federal, state, and local taxes.
Following announcements from Chamber president Kit Cramer and opening remarks from Asheville-Buncombe Economic Development Coalition chairperson Janice Brumit (who acknowledged the numerous area luminaries in the audience, among then NC General Assembly members Rep. John Ager, Rep. Brian Turner, Rep. Susan Fisher, and Sen. Terry Van Duyn), Governor Cooper was introduced. He talked enthusiastically at length about the quality of life and the deep workforce pool that marks the Western North Carolina region, additionally touting his NC Job Ready initiative for preparing and training the state’s workforce for future jobs, noting that 85% of the types of jobs that 2030 will bring haven’t even been conceived or created yet. (Cooper would expand upon some of his remarks afterward while being interviewed by local television and radio reporters.)
Cooper then introduced Michael Meguiar, GE Aviation Executive Plant Manager, thanking him and presenting him with a commemorative North Carolina plate. Meguiar talked about his company’s history and why it had selected Asheville for a site location in the first place, and provided details surrounding the $105 million expansion.
Asheville mayor Esther Manheimer, following Meguiar, underscored his comments, predicting that the expansion “will have a far-reaching impact” well into the future.
After additional remarks from County Board Chairman Newman and Sam Yearick, County Manager for Ashe County (where another large GE Aviation facility is located, in West Jefferson; GE is planning a significant expansion there as well), Meguiar was presented with a gift from Manheimer, Newman, and Brumit. At the conclusion of the event, Governor Cooper greeted friends and well-wishers in the crowd (including the Capital at Play editor Fred Mills—a photo of Mills and the Governor was published at the Asheville Citizen-Times website).
At the event, it was noted that Aerospace Manufacturing remains one of the fastest growing manufacturing sectors not only in Asheville, but in the entire state of North Carolina; the sector continues to attract significant attention in the industry because of the confidence of GE Aviation. At present, there are over 1,000 companies in North Carolina in the Aerospace supply chain, so North Carolina remains the second fastest growing Aerospace Sector of any state in terms of job creation. (For information on GE Aviation and employment opportunities: www.geaviation.com.)
Photos of Chamber of Commerce event by Fred Mills