PAS expansion brings jobs

Published 12:00 pm Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Staff Writer

Appliance panel maker PAS USA will hire 239 people to work in its Washington plant as part of an expansion.
The expansion will be powered partly by state funds.
Local, state and regional officials joined Gov. Beverly Perdue and state Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco for this economic-development announcement Tuesday afternoon.
“You are a major job provider for North Carolina,” Perdue told some of the privately held German company’s officials, who were on hand for the announcement at the Washington Civic Center.
PAS plans to invest $3.2 million here over the next five years, reads a news release from the governor’s office.
The state funds spurring the hiring will come in the form of an $800,000 grant from the One North Carolina Fund administered by the N.C. Department of Commerce.
Funded by the N.C. General Assembly, One N.C. “provides financial assistance to those businesses or industries deemed vital to a healthy economy that are making significant investments in North Carolina,” according to the Commerce Department’s website.
Other funds will come from the Golden LEAF, a nonprofit corporation that was created in 1999 by court order in the consent decree resolving tobacco litigation initiated by the N.C. Department of Justice.
Among Golden LEAF’s goals is receiving and distributing money for economic-impact assistance.
Golden LEAF will grant $750,000 to the nonprofit Beaufort County Committee of 100 to purchase the new equipment PAS will need to build panels for its clients, said Dan Gerlach, president of the foundation.
PAS will lease the equipment from the Committee of 100, and the lease proceeds will be used to further other economic-development projects, Gerlach told the Daily News.
“This is the type of employment for people most affected by the economic challenges we face,” he commented.
PAS, with plants in five countries, is considering expanding into more nations, Stefan Kaiser, chief executive officer, told the Daily News.
The company averages around 2,500 employees worldwide, Kaiser said.
Asked why PAS wanted to add jobs here, Kaiser responded by saying that when the company came to the area in 2003 its one customer was appliance manufacturer Bosch and Siemens, which has a plant in New Bern.
“Bosch-Siemens is our biggest customer, and that’s how we founded all or almost all our facilities, close to the customer,” Kaiser related.
PAS has added Whirlpool to its client list, and it hopes to add more customers soon, he pointed out.
“We’re talking to several,” Kaiser said. “I don’t want to say the names, but we’re talking to several.”
Tom Thompson, Beaufort County’s chief economic developer, said the job-creation move grew out of a public-private partnership and a series of meetings with PAS, local and state officials over several months.
The company will accept applications at its plant, located off 15th Street. Accepted applicants will benefit from a career-readiness program organized through Beaufort County Community College, according to Thompson.
After training, workers will be offered permanent jobs, and their pay will increase as they progress through multiple stages of proficiency, he said.
This was the second economic-development announcement to be made in Beaufort County since late November.
Last month, Crisco and other officials revealed four boat-making operations would combine on Fountain Powerboats’ campus, a move that could bring 411 jobs to the community during the next five years.
The combination of four boat lines at that location was said to represent a future investment of $5.1 million.
Fountain received a $150,000 One N.C. grant to jump-start the project.
In her remarks to the crowd gathered at the Civic Center, Perdue referenced outgoing state Rep. Arthur Williams, D-Beaufort, and other officials for aiding efforts to obtain the PAS-related funds.
The Democratic governor also mentioned state Rep.-elect Bill Cook, a Republican who will replace Williams in the House.
“Arthur Williams brought me to this company and we spent an hour or so, maybe a little bit more, taking the tour,” Perdue said, referring a tour she, Williams and others took of PAS in August.
“I want to ask all of you to thank Arthur for his work on this, and his work for eastern North Carolina,” she continued.
Next, Perdue welcomed Cook and said she looks forward to working with him.
“I hope that you’ll say yes every time I need help,” she added to laughter from members of her audience.
Perdue issued what could be interpreted as an indirect challenge to the now-GOP-dominated Legislature.
Perdue said “a lot of people, Rep. Cook, will go to Raleigh and whine and moan and jump up and down and say incentives are evil,” adding she’ll continue to advocate for incentives because governors in competing states are using those tools to lure jobs that might have gone to North Carolina.
“You remind members of the General Assembly that incentives are important,” she said.