East: Teeing up jobs

 In March 2016, NC Trend

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Salt Life decals, stuck on everything from rusty pickups to shiny sports cars, evoke a certain image and it’s probably not the muddy Cape Fear River flowing through Fayetteville. Yet Salt Life’s national distribution center recently moved almost within casting range of the freshwater banks, adding roughly 50 new jobs to a Fayetteville campus that is already home to apparel maker M.J. Soffe. More could be coming as Salt Life’s brand proliferates.

Four Florida surfing buddies launched the line of beachy T-shirts and board shorts in 2003. The company is now sharing space with a Fayetteville-grown purveyor of casual and athletic wear founded in 1946 by the late M.J. Soffe, an Army vet who peddled apparel to post exchanges. Greenville, S.C.-based Delta Apparel acquired Soffe in 2003 and Salt Life in 2013. Salt Life initially was distributed with another Delta brand — Phenix City, Ala.-based The Game, which Delta sold last year. Distribution moved from Alabama to Fayetteville, where some Salt Life screen printing had already begun.

There was room to do the work in Fayetteville: About 100 people lost jobs in Cumberland County in 2009 when Delta ended Soffe’s local textile operations and opened a facility in Honduras. About 450 sewing and screen-printing employees work in Fayetteville, with the new Salt Life distribution jobs pushing totals to about 500.

Delta Apparel CEO Bob Humphreys has high hopes for Salt Life, which has seen sales increase nearly fivefold over the last four years, to $27 million. The brand could reach $200 million by 2019, according to a Delta presentation in December. Salt Life, still based in Florida, has expanded to California and Hawaii, and national retailers, including Academy Sports, are selling its products.

Though water-focused businesses no longer have the corner on Salt Life, “I feel like we have to carry it because we still get calls about it,” says Jim Edwards, co-owner of AK McCallum, a Fayetteville boat dealer.“But it’s everywhere now. You name a store, and you can walk in and buy it.”


Tarboro –Hillshire Brands will add 98 jobs and invest $28.4 million over three years in an expansion of its Sara Lee bakery operations. The subsidiary of Springdale, Ark.-based Tyson Foods employs 687 people here.

New Bern – BSH will invest nearly $80.7 million at its manufacturing site here, adding 460 jobs to its 1,000 in North Carolina over five years. The Munich, Germany-based company makes dishwashers, ovens, ranges and cooktops under brands including Bosch and Thermador.

Wilson – Nashville, Tenn.-based Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations will invest $164 million in its 42-year-old tire manufacturing plant. The expansion will add 167,000 square feet of space that will increase tire production by 3,000 tires per day to 35,000 by 2018. The company is Wilson’s largest industrial employer with 2,100 workers.

Wilmington – TV shows Good Behavior and Six, both filming their first seasons here, were awarded state film grants totaling $13.8 million. Good Behavior, a TNT thriller based on a book series by Blake Crouch, will receive up to $6.6 million. Six, a military drama that will air on A&E Television Networks’ History channel, will receive up to $7.2 million.

Wilmington – Next Glass acquired Untappd, a beer ratings app based in Los Angeles. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Next Glass is a software company founded here in 2012 that provides beer and wine recommendations.


Profile

Live Oak Bancshares named Greg Thompson chief operating officer, a new position. Thompson, 52, was executive vice president of shared services at Durham-based Square 1 Bank until it was acquired in October by Los Angeles-based PacWest Bancorp in an $815 million deal. He previously worked for Wells Fargo and First Union National Bank. Live Oak, the nation’s No. 2 SBA lender, reported a 37% increase
in loan originations in 2015 to $1.16 billion.

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