Business

Kinston Plant to Expand Years After Explosion

Posted October 26, 2007 12:05 p.m. EDT
Updated October 26, 2007 6:23 p.m. EDT

— West Pharmaceuticals (NYSE: WST) will expand its production plant in Kinston, the first growth at a facility destroyed by fire in 2003 and rebuilt the following year.

In an announcement made Friday, West Pharmaceuticals Chairman and Chief Executive Donald Morel said the firm would invest $18.7 in the plant over the next three years.

The state will provide the company with a $300,000 grant from the One North Carolina Fund, an economic development fund that requires local matching money.

West Pharmaceuticals will also donate a 29-acre parcel to the Global Transpark in Kinston, a company spokeswoman told WRAL.com. The plant is located in a business park near the facility.

"Today's groundbreaking marks an important milestone for West and symbolizes our appreciation for the support of the city of Kinston, Lenoir County and the state of North Carolina,” Morel said in a statement.

“Our decision to expand in Kinston recognizes the value of our Kinston work force and the positive economic climate created by Gov. (Mike) Easley and his team in North Carolina,” he said. “We thank our current employees for their support and dedication and are confidant that the additions to the Kinston workforce over the next three years will be an equally valuable resource for the company."

Average wages for the new jobs is $665 plus benefits, the governor’s office said. The average weekly wage in Lenoir County is $506 plus benefits.

"We've lost a lot of jobs, so we appreciate any jobs that come here," Kinston City Manager Scott Stevens said. "We have a pretty diverse manufacturing base, West being one of those unique things in our manufacturing community. They're a good water, sewer and electric customer, so that's good for us as a city. But they're a good employer in our community, so that really is important to us."

The Kinston plant was destroyed in a Jan. 29, 2003, explosion that killed six workers and injured more than 40. Investigators determined that combustible dust inside the plant ignited, causing the fire.

The state Department of Labor fined West Pharmaceuticals $400,000 after the explosion, citing deficiencies in the plant design, two electrical systems and employee training.

The company rebuilt the plant and reopened in early 2004.

Based in Lionville, Pa., West Pharmaceuticals manufactures components and systems for injectable drug delivery and for blood collection. The company operates plants in North and South America, Europe, Mexico, Japan, Asia and Australia.