By: Emily M. Williams - Bladen Journal
TAR HEEL — Move over Santa’s workshop because Smithfield’s new distribution center is a bit of Erector set efficiency and state of the art technology.
With everything from conveyors to automated equipment to deep freezers cold enough to make ice crystals in your nose, the entire building is quite impressive.
Friday morning invited guests gathered in the new section of the distribution center, along with corporate staff and dignitaries, and officially opened the plant with a ribbon cutting.
“It’s a great day to be here celebrating the opening of this new distribution center,” said state Sen. Bill Rabon. “This facility marks a significant economic contribution to the pork industry…. Smithfield is an important contributor here in Bladen County and across North Carolina.”
The center has created more than 250 jobs in the more than 500,000-square foot facility with cost of over $100 million. The plan is to have it completely up and running by early next year, but shipments are already being moved. With a focus on innovation, the new facility, which is larger than eight football fields, is optimizing their distribution footprint, providing “nearly 50,000 pallet positions and an annual capacity of more than 1 billion pounds.”
“It’s a huge impact here in southeastern North Carolina,” Rabon said. “We all know how important that is.”
The new jobs created are high-quality positions, he said, adding that they help “our neighbors and our lives and our families.”
More than 5,000 people are employed at Smithfield Foods.
“This project is a shared celebration of commitment to … our community,” he said. “….I applaud all that Smithfield does to support job growth and economic development but also that active role you are playing in our local community from charitable giving and employee donors here.”
Kenneth Sullivan, president and chief executive officer for Smithfield Foods, thanked all the representatives that came to the opening.
“Smithfield has a very big presence in North Carolina,” he said. “I know that you all understand the importance of agriculture and the food industry in North Carolina…. Thank you for making that a reality.”
Sullivan stressed growing the industry and making North Carolina more sustainable for a long time.
“Speaking of sustainability,” he said, “one of the goals we have had of this facility was to improve our sustainability and our environmental footprint…. This distribution center will help us optimize our footprint in the United States.”
The facility will remove transportation costs and also result in faster delivery times.
“I applaud Smithfield for their continued support of North Carolina’s leading industry — agriculture,” said Commissioner Steve Troxler of the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs in the post-ceremony press release. “With this new facility, Smithfield will strengthen the role North Carolina farmers play in feeding our country and the world.
“Value added processing is one of the things we are focusing on to grow North Carolina’s economy.”
Guests were allowed to tour the distribution center after the ceremony, and everything from the cafe style breakroom to the fresh paint smell showed that the new center is ready for 2019.