BSH Home Appliances, New Bern
Call it the HGTV effect, or maybe it’s the improved housing market that is prompting a flurry of kitchen renovations. Either way, demand for high-end appliances is fueling economic growth in Craven County, with BSH Home Appliances announcing in December an $80.7 million expansion of its local operations that will add 460 jobs over five years.
The company, a subsidiary of Munich, Germany-based BSH Hausgeräte, makes sleek appliances with brands including Bosch and Thermador. Europe’s largest home-appliance manufacturer reported an 11% increase in revenue to $14.2 billion in 2015, including 26% growth in North America due to robust sales of its premium products. (Some models of its Thermador ranges retail for more than $10,000.)
That growth is likely to continue, with annual spending for home remodeling and repairs in the U.S. projected to reach $323.3 billion in 2017, up from $237.5 billion in 2013, according to the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University.
About 1,000 employees at the New Bern plant produce cooktops, ranges and an estimated 1 million dishwashers a year. BSH has shown consistent growth since the plant opened in 1980, says Timothy Downs, director of economic development for Craven County. A major expansion in 2005 added a distribution center just outside the city limits on U.S. 70.
The latest expansion will add 380,000 square feet to the distribution center, giving BSH a manufacturing footprint of about 1.9 million square feet. Other companies that serve BSH have sprung up around it, including one that produces plastic liners for its dishwashers and another that makes dishwasher racks.
Craven County seems to be an exception to the notion that less-populous areas aren’t able to attract and maintain good, stable jobs. Ohio-based Moen produces faucets and other fixtures at a local assembly plant and in May completed an $11.5 million expansion that added 100 jobs to its existing 700.
While the wages — $42,188 is the average annual salary for the new BSH jobs — pale when compared with the salaries of Triangle tech workers or Charlotte bankers, 460 jobs has a big impact in 300-year-old New Bern, which has about 30,000 residents.
“We’re sort of the anomaly when it comes to eastern N.C.,” Downs says. The area is unique because of such a strong manufacturing presence in such a small town, says Downs, an N.C. State graduate who moved with his family from Dayton, Ohio, almost three years ago to be near the North Carolina coast.
BSH considered sites in South Carolina and Tennessee, where it has an existing manufacturing plant in La Follette, for the expansion. “BSH’s success in North America is, in large part, due to the hard work and incredible people of Craven County,” company spokeswoman Lore McKenna said in an email.
When Downs arrived in New Bern, there was no existing economic-development office, website or marketing program. “I saw potential and opportunity here,” he says. “We’ve redefined ourselves when it comes to economic development.”