Chinese manufacturer to open $31.6 million Cleveland County plant

Gov. Pat McCrory and Benny Deng, Uniquetex’s chief executive officer and president
Gov. Pat McCrory and Benny Deng, Uniquetex’s chief executive officer and president Courtesy of the office of Gov. Pat McCrory

In the latest instance of textiles returning to the Carolinas, fabric maker Uniquetex said Thursday it is spending $31.6 million to build a production facility in Cleveland County, a move that will bring 150 jobs to the area.

The facility in Grover will be the first in the U.S. for Uniquetex, which is a joint venture of two Chinese manufacturers.

Also on Thursday, German auto component manufacturer KSM Castings USA said it is spending $80 million to expand its facility in Shelby and will create 80 new jobs over the next five years.

Uniquetex will hire 150 people over the next five years, according to a memo from Gov. Pat McCrory Thursday. Positions will include machine operators, technicians, customer service representatives and others. Salaries vary by position but will average $36,313 a year, higher than Cleveland County’s overall average wage of $35,885.

Uniquetex is getting a performance-based incentive of $800,000 from the One North Carolina Fund for the project. To qualify for grant funds, companies must meet certain job-creation and investment performance standards. They receive no money up front.

KSM is getting $320,000 from the One North Carolina Fund.

“The combination of a skilled workforce, access for quality transportation infrastructure and the pro-business attitude of the community is what attracted us here,” said Benny Deng, Uniquetex’s chief executive officer and president.

Uniquetex manufactures non-woven fabrics for medical and healthcare providers and other users.

The manufacturer’s move to North Carolina is part of a larger trend.

The Carolinas were once a hotbed of the American textile industry but starting in the late 1990s mills closed and thousands of jobs went overseas where labor and materials were cheaper. Now, attracted by lower costs of energy, cotton and land, and wary of rising labor costs in China, Chinese manufacturers are setting their eyes on the U.S.

Chinese textile manufacturer Keer, for example, said in 2014 it would build a yarn-making facility in Indian Land, across the South Carolina border.

Katherine Peralta: 704-358-5079, @katieperalta