Local News

Wilson County Plant To Stay Open; New Owner To Expand Work Force

Posted October 30, 2006 8:26 a.m. EST

— Wilson County and this small community of fewer than 1,500 people received a double dose of good economic news on Monday when a Minnesota firm announced it was buying a facility used for direct mail.

The Valpak plant, which employs 440 people, was scheduled to be closed by its parent company, Cox Target Media.

Instead, IWCO Direct will keep the plant open, retain most of the current work force, invest $18.9 million in upgrades and even add another 98 jobs over the next three years.

IWCO, Cox Target Media, state and local officials gathered in Elm City on Monday for the announcement.

The news is most welcome for Wilson County, which has been hard hit by manufacturing jobs losses and has one of the state’s highest unemployment rates – 6.8 percent.

Valpak announced in 2004 that the plant would be closed because Cox Target is building a new, $200 million production facility in St. Petersburg, Fla. However, the plant’s owners actively sought a buyer for the facility and also offered workers a chance to transfer to the Florida plant when it opens next year.

IWCO received a $375,000 One North Carolina Fund grant and a matching grant from Wilson County as economic incentives. IWCO, which is privately held, did not disclose financial details about the plant acquisition.

Debora Haskel, a spokesperson for IWCO, told WRAL.com that the acquisition made sense for the company in two areas.

“From our perspective in terms of position in the marketplace, it helps us with freight logistics and a better place to enter mail into the U.S. Postal Service,” Haskel said. “Second, the work force here understands direct mail, and that is extremely appealing to us.

“They know how to operate the machines,” she explained about the workers. “They understand the complexity of targeted marketing, and they understand the need for accuracy, quality, and meeting deadlines.”

Haskel said wages paid by IWCO would be similar to those paid by Valpak. “Our plan is to retain the vast majority of employees,” she added.

IWCO, which has 1,650 employees, already operates facilities in Minnesota and New York. The company was founded in 1969.

The Elm City plant will stay open as ownership and operations transition to IWCO from Valpak, she added.

“We are very pleased to be able to bring this skilled work force and desirable plant location into the IWCO Direct family,” said Jim Andersen, IWCO’s chief executive officer. “With such close proximity to East Coast population centers, our customers will enjoy many benefits from our entry into North Carolina, including expanded capacity for high-volume mail, enhanced postal optimization, reduced cycle times and fully integrated marketing and manufacturing solutions.”