Saturday, August 13, 2022

NC 100: Atlantic notion

By Jane Duckwall


Earning the title of a future leader is an ironic twist for the third-generation member of a 70-year-old family business. Wes Carter, 37, became president in May on Atlantic Corp.’s anniversary. He took the reins from his father, Rusty, who remains CEO.

Atlantic Packaging, as it is usually called, is a $500 million company with roots in the newspaper industry. Carter’s grandfather, W. Horace Carter, started The Tabor City Tribune in 1946 after accepting a job as industrial recruiter for the Columbus County town 70 miles east of Wilmington. Six years later, the paper won a Pulitzer Prize, the industry’s highest honor, for a campaign against the Ku Klux Klan that culminated in the conviction of more than 100 Klansmen. Horace Carter helped attract industry to the area and expanded beyond publishing into printing, paper converting and distributing office products.

Wilmington-based Atlantic now provides packaging, printing and other services for more than a dozen industries, including textiles, beverages, furniture, agriculture and pharmaceuticals. It employs about 740 workers in 16 U.S. locations and has another 105 employees working at facilities in Honduras and the Dominican Republic.

The company has doubled its sales volume over the last decade, Carter says. New branches in the Northeast and Midwest, combined with more products and services, position Atlantic to become a leading national supplier to major manufacturers, he says. The company aims to double revenue to $1 billion over the next decade.

“One of my primary goals is to continue to add to the team of people we have representing Atlantic,” Carter says. “Our success is based on people. My father taught me that.”

Wes Carter began working at Atlantic when he was 14, sweeping the floor of the Wilmington warehouse. His father taught him that working hard would allow the company’s staff to see him “every bit as committed to the business as they were.” After following his father and grandfather by earning a journalism degree at UNC Chapel Hill, he joined Atlantic in 2002, working in warehousing, sales and other roles. His younger brother, Scott, is manager of the company’s Greenville, S.C., branch.

As for the family newspaper, it is now called the Tabor-Loris Tribune, referring to the South Carolina town 7 miles south. It calls itself “the first Pulitzer Prize-winning weekly newspaper in the United States.” With a circulation of 1,200, it brings in one-tenth of 1% of the company’s revenue. But it remains an important part of the community, Carter says, and publishing it is “a public service as much as anything.”


Atlantic Corp., Wilmington

Packaging and printing



NOTABLE: Carter’s goal is to double sales to $1 billion in a decade

For the NC 100 list

For the first time, companies nominated individuals in six areas: Click below to read each profile.

Dealmaker: Eric Pike

Chief financial officer: Julie Richter

Innovator: Brendan Morrissey

Cultural leader: Paul Thompson

Technologist: Charles Kauffman

For 40 years, sharing the stories of North Carolina's dynamic business community.

Related Articles