HAMLET — Sand flew through the air at the Richmond County Industrial Park Tuesday morning, ceremoniously breaking ground on an upcoming manufacturing plant what county leaders call “a big deal.”
RSI Home Products, a California-based cabinet maker, plans to open its new facility beside Big Rock Sports on Sept. 30, Chief Operating Officer Jeff Hoeft told the small crowd of dignitaries.
Hoeft said his company vetted several communities across the state when looking to expand its operations, quoting the Keith Corp.’s Alan Lewis prior statement that North Carolina is “a great place to do business.”
He also lauded Richmond Community College, saying, “We were blown away,” when RSI representatives visited the campus and saw how the institution caters to the needs of the local manufacturing community.
“We want this country to continue to grow manufacturing,” he said.
RSI currently has a 1 million square-foot facility in Lincoln County which employees nearly 1,000 people. It also has operations in California and Texas.
Lewis, a partner with the Charlotte-based real estate developer, said out of projects in 20 counties, “This has been the most welcoming community we’ve developed in.”
“This community has been so refreshing to deal with,” he said. “Richmond County tries to make it simple, and that’s the way it ought to be.”
A reoccurring theme throughout the congratulatory statements — including from U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson, R-Concord — was the vision of county commissioners to purchase the land for the industrial park 15 years ago through a $3 million bond initiative.
“A lot of people probably thought we were crazy,” said Kenneth Robinette, chairman of the Richmond County Board of Commissioners. “But we wouldn’t be out here today if we didn’t have this property.”
In the crowd were commissioners John Garner, Jimmy Capps, Ben Moss, Don Bryant and Thad Ussery, state Sen. Tom McInnis, state Rep. Ken Goodman and city leaders from both Rockingham and Hamlet.
Dr. Pat Mitchell, assistant secretary of the rural division of the N.C. Department of Commerce, read a letter from Gov. Pat McCrory, who was not able to attend due to the groundbreaking for a new Herbert C. Bonner Bridge along the Outer Banks. However, she said the governor does plan on making it to the grand opening of the facility later this year.
In the letter, McCrory reiterated a previous statement that manufacturing companies are turning toward North Carolina because of the workforce.
State and local leaders announced last week that RSI would be hiring 175 workers — with earnings averaging $31,187 per year — for its 300,000 square foot Richmond County manufacturing and distribution plant and investing $18.3 million.
It was the sixth economic development announcement made within the past 18 months, bringing a total of 351 jobs. Four of those were from the expansion of existing companies, something Robinette hopes RSI will do in the future.
“This is just the beginning,” he said. “This is just a start.”
Reach reporter William R. Toler at 910-817-2675 and follow him on Twitter @William_r_toler.