HAMLET — A Philadelphia-based construction firm is aiming to make Richmond County a hub for modular home manufacturing.
Volumetric Building Companies announced Monday that it would be bringing an additional 130 jobs to the now-former Ritz-Craft facility and investing more than $12 million in the area over the next three years.
The announcement was made at the site in the Richmond County Industrial Park, with company, state and county leaders, as well as many of the 70 current employees, who were wearing gray VBC T-shirts.
Vaughn Buckley, president of VBC, said the location was chosen because of the existing facility which allows for the potential of a higher volume of product than almost any other plant on the East Coast. He also cited the existing workforce as one of the reasons for coming to Hamlet.
“It has amazing potential,” he said. “It was built for what we do.”
Operations Manager Dale Dixon said the facility, which has been “a part of the community” since 2005 has become a second home.
The Richmond County native, who oversaw the construction of the facility as well as the office, said watching it go up “was very exciting.”
“But I’m very excited about the future and what’s going to take place here and what we’re going to be able to accomplish here,” he said. “Being part of something bigger than yourself … helps us grow and makes it so much more than a job to each one of us.
“We’ve seen our struggles … over the years, but that’s in the past. Today, we’re joining a team that is progressively pushing towards a future in innovation in multi-family housing,” Dixon continued. “This is a major change from the prior years, but a change that we’re eager to take on, a change we’ll embrace, and a change we’ll implement and look back on in victory in years to come.”
Buckley, 31, started his construction company a decade ago after being involved in real estate.
“I was paying others to general contract for me and I just realized how inefficient construction is and we looked for a better way,” he said. “Eventually I found modular and realized there’s a lot of people that have the skill to do the trades but don’t have the skill to run a business, so I tried to supplement them — bring on the people that know how to build things and I’ll help run the business.”
Buckley said the company was building one house per year when it started and is now building 1,000 units per year.
By integrating the manufacturing facility, the company now has its own supply chain.
When it comes to supplying the workforce, Richmond Community College President Dr. Dale McInnis and state Sen. Tom McInnis hope to help.
“We are very excited about your vision,” Dale McInnis said, turning around to Buckley.
“Things are going to happen here,” he added, for the first time in Richmond County, the state, and in some cases, the nation. “Your vision … proves you’re the right man with the right idea in the right place at the right time — and I’m glad to say you’ve got the right people here working with you.
“It’s the people that are the greatest asset any company’s got,” he continued. “And our college is poised and prepared to help prepare them with the skills and the knowledge they’re going to need to make your vision come true.”
Likewise, the legislator wants to help prepare the workforce — by starting the training before potential employees even get to college.
“Without a workforce, we will not be successful,” he said.
Sen. McInnis is hoping a bill that will enable tradesmen without bachelor’s degrees, but who have the appropriate experience and licenses, to teach vocational subjects — including for electrician, heating and air conditioning, plumbing, masonry and construction — at high schools will pass the General Assembly later this week.
“We are very excited to welcome Vaughan Buckley Construction to the community,” said Kenneth Robinette, chairman of the Richmond County Board of Commissioners. “As one of America’s fastest-growing companies, we are honored that Vaughan Buckley has chosen Hamlet as an area to expand, and are very excited for the new jobs that it will create in the community.”
The average salary at the plant will be $39,200 per year, which is more than the local average, according to Kenny Flowers, assistant secretary for Rural Economic Development at the North Carolina Department of Commerce.
Flowers, an Anson County native, said the announcement was not just good news for Richmond County, but the entire state.
The project will be facilitated by a Job Development Investment Grant from the state, which will reimburse the company up to $2,179,000 over the next 12 years, according to Gov. Roy Cooper’s office. However, those payments are dependent on the company meeting job creation and investment targets.
In those 12 years, the state is expecting an economic impact of $252 million from VBC Manufacturing-Hamlet.
North Carolina is the No. 1 state in the Southeast for manufacturing, Flowers said.
“Growing businesses know they can rely on North Carolina’s excellent workforce to ensure they have the right workers for the job,” Cooper said in a statement. “Today’s announcement helps North Carolina’s reputation as a leader in modern manufacturing.”
Kenny Flowers, assistant secretary for Rural Economic Development at the North Carolina Department of Commerce, presents VBC President Vaughn Buckley with a gift from the state.
The senator and Economic Developer Martie Butler, who served as emcee, gave kudos to the commissioners for taking “a bold chance” to purchase the property for the industrial park.
“We remember the naysayers, ‘Oh, it’s not gonna work, it’s not gonna happen, it’s a crazy thing to do,’” McInnis said. “Well, you had the vision, you had the foresight and we reap the fruits of your labor here today.”
Earlier this year, Impact Plastics announced that it would be adding 30 jobs over the next five years at its facility north of Hamlet.
Commissioner Rick Watkins said the latest announcement shows that Richmond County is “headed in the right direction.”
“And companies like VBC,” he said, “are making are making the difference for us as we look ahead to the future.”