Improving Business in the Wilmington Region

GE Aviation Expansion at Castle Hayne Brings $63 Million in Economic Investment, 35 New Jobs

Wilmington, N.C. – GE Aviation, a longtime industrial resident of Greater Wilmington, will launch a major expansion at its New Hanover County facility as part of a $195 million commitment the company is making at four of its sites in North Carolina. For Greater Wilmington, GE Aviation’s move brings at least $63 million in new capital investment over the next five years and the creation of 35 high-paying jobs.

Governor Pat McCrory joined GE executives and other state officials in making the announcement today in Raleigh. “Part of our state’s economic recovery not only relies on creating new jobs here, but also on retaining great companies like GE,” Governor McCrory said. “You get a bigger bang for your economic development buck when you convince existing businesses to grow.”

GE Aviation, a global leader in jet engine and aircraft system production, assembles components for top-of-the-line engine systems such as GE90-94B, CF6-80C2, F110 and others at its plant on Castle Hayne Road, which currently employs about 600 workers. Its latest investment in North Carolina centers on the production of engine components made of advanced ceramic matrix composite (CMC) materials, an innovation that enhances performance and improves durability of engines, resulting in lower fuel and maintenance costs for the company’s customers. GE Aviation sites in Buncombe, Durham and Ashe counties are also expanding under the company’s plan.

“This is a big bet that GE is making,” said Colleen Athans, vice president and general manager of supply-chain at GE Aviation. “It’s one of the most important bets we’re making this decade.” Ms. Athans commended Wilmington Business Development and other state and local economic development organizations that assisted the company in its location search. “I can’t thank these localities enough for helping us make this announcement possible,” she said.

The project showcases the value existing industries bring to Greater Wilmington’s economic development strategy and highlights aviation and aerospace as a lucrative growth opportunity for the region. “When you consider the new jobs and investment that have really moved the needle for us in recent years, they’ve come from existing companies like GE who already understand and appreciate the value our region adds to a global business strategy,” said Scott Satterfield, CEO of Wilmington Business Development. GE Aviation maintains production sites in nine states and provinces in the U.S. and Canada. “There were any number of locations under consideration for this investment,” Mr. Satterfield said. “The fact that GE chose Greater Wilmington as part of this move says only positive things about our region’s ability to compete and succeed at the global level.”

GE’s presence in Castle Hayne dates to 1968. Its campus there includes the large and growing headquarters of GE Nuclear Energy, which relocated from California in 2006. The global industrial legend was founded in 1890 as part of Thomas Edison’s efforts to consolidate his various electronics businesses. Its Aviation division was created in 1917 as a response to the U.S. military’s interest in deploying aircraft during World War I. Today, GE Aviation’s products are found in a wide range of military, corporate and commercial aircraft around the world.

GE Aviation’s growth in Greater Wilmington represents an important point in the development of the region’s aerospace and aviation industry “cluster,” according to Mr. Satterfield. “Even though our region’s economic history is based on sea-based trade and transportation, future prosperity here may be linked closely to the skies,” he said. Wilmington’s container port, a ready-to-build industrial park at Wilmington International Airport, and proximity to Fort Bragg and Camp Lejeune are assets that have drawn attention from aerospace industry leaders. A major new Boeing Corp. plant in Charleston, S.C., and Spirit AeroSystems’ recently opened manufacturing site at the North Carolina Global TransPark in Kinston put Greater Wilmington on the short list for aviation suppliers, which can conveniently serve either plant from here. “Aerospace is a high priority for North Carolina and for our region,” Mr. Satterfield added. “It’s a high-growth, high-wage sector that we anticipate being a player in.”

News of GE Aviation’s expansion in New Hanover County comes just four months after another fast-growing company revealed major job-creation plans. In March, Castle Branch, Inc., announced it would triple its 200-person corporate headquarters here under a nearly $10 million investment initiative.

“If the first six months of the year is any indication, 2013 is turning out to be a winner for us,” said Woody White, chairman of the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners. In the case of GE Aviation and Castle Branch, the quality of the region’s business climate was measured against that of other leading U.S. destinations and emerged the top choice. “We’re in competition not just to bring new jobs to the county, but to defend the ones that are already here,” Chairman White said. “These announcements are evidence that our community is competitive and our economic development strategy is sound.”

In June, New Hanover County Commissioners unanimously approved a performance-based incentive grant to GE valued at $875,000 over five years to support the company’s $63 million investment here. Newly created tax-based under GE’s expansion will return the value of the grant back to the county in five years and double the amount by the end of 10 years. The project will spur additional economic impact through increased payroll: average annual wages of new jobs at GE Aviation’s Castle Hayne Plant will approach $60,000.

The State of North Carolina is participating in the project through financial commitments it is making through its Job Development and Investment Grant (JDIG) program and the One North Carolina Fund. The North Carolina Community College System will provide customized workforce training to GE at no cost to the company. Chairman White commended WBD leaders for their work alongside state partners, local allies and economic development counterparts in other North Carolina communities participating in GE’s expansion plans. “This project shows that when partners come together and work together in common cause, it’s a win-win for everyone,” Chairman White said.

Additional information about GE Aviation can be found at the company’s website:

Since it’s founding in 1956 as the Wilmington Committee of 100, Wilmington Business Development has overseen business recruitment and industrial retention for the City of Wilmington, New Hanover County and Pender County. A private, nonprofit organization [501(c)(6)], WBD also provides small-business financing to firms in the region through its U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) 504 lending program. For additional information, visit