June 21, 2017 (Wilmington, N.C.) - Mojotone LLC will assume occupancy of a 40,000-square-foot shell building in Burgaw in order to accommodate an expanded product line. The company, which makes amplifiers, sound system cabinetry and components for electric guitars, will vacate space it has held since arriving in Pender County in 2005.
"We currently occupy about 35,000 square feet of space across three buildings," says Michael McWhorter, the company's co-owner. The move facilitates Mojotone's consolidation into a single building that can accommodate future growth. The speculative building at Pender Progress Industrial Park can be doubled in size. "Our current three buildings are also limited in ceiling height," McWhorter says. Its new building's 28-foot ceilings will enable the company to grow its inventory of speaker cabinets and other products that are shipped to buyers worldwide.
Mojotone was founded in 2000 in Winston-Salem. The company grew its product line from vintage amplifiers to concert-scale sound components and electric guitar pick-ups. "We build cabinets for 100 different amp companies in the U.S. and Europe," says McWhorter. "We sell to manufacturers, retail music stores and directly to consumers." The company's marketplace is worldwide and it utilizes the Port of Wilmington for much of its shipping. Mojotone's customers have included Rush, Eric Clapton, ZZ Top and John Mayer. Since arriving in Burgaw in 2005, the company has grown its annual sales from $2.5 million to $5.5 million today.
"We'll be expanding our workforce, too," says McWhorter. The company currently employs 48 people in positions ranging from electronics technicians and woodworkers to sales staff and warehouse personnel.
"Mojo and Michael have an excellent reputation in Burgaw," says Pender County Commissioner David Williams, a board member at Wilmington Business Development (WBD). The company is active in the Burgaw Area Chamber of Commerce, the Boy Scouts of America, the Burgaw Rotary Club and other groups. "They're very engaged," Williams says. In 2008, the Chamber named Mojotone Entrepreneur of the Year. "It's growing and getting larger, but they wanted to stay in Pender County," he says.
County and municipal officials worked with WBD to support Mojotone's move to the shell building. The structure was completed in 2011 by Pender Progress Corporation, a non-profit group founded in 1979. The shell building sits on 6.3 acres at Pender Progress Industrial Park, which is convenient to I-40, Wilmington International Airport, the Port of Wilmington and other amenities. "Pender Progress Corporation is proud to have been a part of the construction and sale of the shell building in the industrial park," says Hugh Highsmith, chairman of Pender Progress Corporation. "By purchasing the building, a local business can expand production and add employees."
Also key was the role of Four County Electric Membership Corporation, which is tapping a $1 million loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help Mojotone finish the building's interior and ready it for occupancy. The funding is being provided through the Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant ("REDLG") program, under which USDA provides zero-interest loans to local electric cooperatives that then support job-creation and retention efforts in rural communities. Since 2009, USDA has invested more than $330 million nationally in loans and grants through the REDLG program.
"We can turn around and loan the money to the county, which will then loan it to Mojotone," explains Mitchell Keel, president and CEO of Four County EMC, which is headquartered in Burgaw. The co-op also provided a loan to Pender Progress that supported the shell building's initial construction. "We certainly want to keep good jobs into Pender County and keep a thriving business," Keel says. "That takes capital, and we are able to access the capital to make it happen."
Elected officials are proud to see a company like Mojo expand and succeed in Pender County. "We've very excited about this announcement," says George Brown, chairman of the Pender County Board of Commissioners. "Though it's always nice to bring new industry into the area, there's something very special about keeping an existing company here and watching them grow," he adds. "The benefit is there for all of us."
Burgaw Town Manager Chad McEwen says Mojotone's expansion is evidence of the town's appeal as a business destination. "It's a good sign for our local economy and industrial base that a company like Mojo can grow here so much that it needs to add space," McEwen says. In addition to providing water and wastewater services to Pender Progress Industrial Park, the town is working with Mojotone on addressing other needs associated with its expansion.
McEwen believes leadership from Wilmington Business Development was critical to bringing government and private leaders together to offer Mojotone the technical and financial assistance necessary to keep the business in Pender County. "Without their assistance, I don't know that this would be happening," he says. "WBD has spent a significant amount of time with the company in bringing all this together," adds McEwen. "The result is certainly a win-win for everybody involved."
Founded in 1956, Wilmington Business Development oversees business recruitment and industrial retention for the City of Wilmington, New Hanover County and Pender County. A private, non-profit organization, WBD supports members, partners and allies through an array of technical expertise, leadership resources and value-added business services