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When Wisconsin-based Greenheck Group was considering a 400-job expansion in 2019, its priorities included creating a campus-style design at a location with a solid workforce pipeline, good access to Eastern U.S. customers and strong support from local and state officials.
The manufacturer of industrial and commercial ventilation systems was very interested in expanding its existing operations in Shelby, North Carolina. But growing at its brand-new campus in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was also an option.
So local and state partners including the EDPNC mobilized to present the best case for Shelby, which ultimately won the nearly $59-million project.
The expansion not only marks rural Cleveland County’s largest in over a decade, it will more than double Greenheck employment across its three plants in the county, including two in Kings Mountain.
“We knew the Tulsa campus was both competitor and model for the Shelby expansion,” said Melanie O’Connell Underwood, the EDPNC regional manager who supported the project. “The new Shelby campus will be similar — with sidewalks and greenspace and possible employee amenities such as a health clinic and a wellness center.”
The timing and type of such amenities will be shaped by the needs of the growing Shelby workforce, Greenheck President Dave Kallstrom said.
— Greenheck President Dave Kallstrom
Kristin Reese, executive director of the Cleveland County Economic Development Partnership, contacted Underwood after Greenheck first inquired about expanding locally. Underwood helped Greenheck navigate the state incentives process and supported Reese as she led the local effort to win the expansion. “Melanie is a seasoned pro, and we were certainly tied at the hip throughout this entire project,” Reese said.
The expansion hinged significantly on Greenheck being able to buy and renovate the former Schletter building — located near Greenheck’s existing facility inside Foothills Commerce Park — for the first phase. Schletter, a solar panel hardware manufacturer that once employed 120 in Shelby, closed its local plant in 2018.
Greenheck also needed undeveloped land for future phases of growth. The county and city’s gift of 44 acres in the park was a significant part of local incentives. North Carolina provided a Job Development Investment Grant of up to $3.278 million, as well as a state building reuse grant and community college training funds.
“Having the Schletter building and undeveloped land available in a Class A business park was important,” Reese said. “But Greenheck’s first and top priority was knowing the workforce could sustain such a large expansion.”
“For months our discussions centered around talent and labor availability and defining the commuting patterns in the county and region to reflect the in-migration of workers to Shelby,” Reese said. “We showed Greenheck our workforce development and community college programs. And they were very impressed that Cleveland County had already launched a full-scale talent-attraction campaign.”
The Charlotte’s Backyard NC campaign focuses on attracting younger manufacturing talent to Cleveland County, stressing the county’s affordability, lifestyle and proximity to Charlotte.
Reese wants to see more manufacturers like Greenheck grow in Cleveland County. “Greenheck truly cares about its people and is planning for the future by building that corporate culture that will attract and retain people,” she said. “That signifies so much to us in terms of who they are as a company.”