Area Development
{{RELATEDLINKS}}The U.S. auto industry is the world’s third-largest, trailing only powerhouses China and Japan. Since the industry’s collapse in 2008, the U.S. economy has struggled; however, recent industry trends seem to indicate the $34 billion cash infusion of 2008 to two of the Big 3 industry players (GM and Chrysler) is beginning to have a broad and positive impact on the U.S. economy.

Gains in the industry are occurring in places like North Carolina, which ranks 10th among all states in total automotive cluster employment, even though it doesn’t have a single auto assembly plant: 34 of the top 150 North American OEM parts suppliers have a facility in the state. Its prime East Coast location, a nationally-acclaimed STEM education initiative, engineering programs at two universities, a nearby independent auto test track, and an available mega-site are a few reasons why nearly two dozen automotive suppliers call eastern North Carolina home, and several have announced plans to expand over the past few years.

Expanding OEMs
Among these, Keihin Carolina System Technology (KCST) of Tarboro expanded in 2011, creating 50 new jobs and investing more than $13 million to expand its 370-employee facility that manufactures engine control units and electronic assemblies for Honda, Honda Power Sports, and Acura.

In nearby Goldsboro, Cooper Standard, a leading supplier of body sealing, fuel, brake and emissions, thermal management, and antivibration systems expanded its body and chassis facility to accommodate new products and programs. The $17.9 million expansion created 137 new jobs.

Carolina Technical Plastics (CTP), a plastic injection molding plant in New Bern, N.C., added 25 employees in 2011 and made substantial investments into its plant, ensuring its ability to meet growing consumer demand. Due to its strict quality standards and superior technical abilities, CTP has been awarded the opportunity to manufacturer 18 new products for The Brose Group, production that had been housed in Mexico. And just last year, ASMO, a Japanese-owned manufacturer of front wiper motor linkages, arms, and blades as well as radiator fan motors announced plans to create 200 new jobs and invest at least $100 million at its Greenville, N.C., facility by the end of 2016.

If short-term lessons from major auto manufacturers and a diverse range of suppliers, like those in eastern North Carolina, are any indication of the future, the U.S. automotive industry and the U.S. economy have a genuine basis for confidence.