Columbus Jobs Foundation President Rick Edwards, left, and President Wes Carter of Atlantic Packaging. Atlantic employs more than 300 in Tabor City.
The grandson of the founder of a company that had humble beginnings in Columbus County but which has grown to a national and international presence was the keynote speaker for Thursday’s annual meeting of the Columbus Jobs Foundation at Vineland Station.
Wes Carter, president of Atlantic Packaging and grandson of company founder W. Horace Carter, told members of the Jobs Foundation how a company with humble Tabor City beginnings that now is headquartered in Wilmington but also still maintains a strong presence in Tabor City has become a major supplier to brand names and labels recognized around the world.
Carter, who was introduced by Jobs Foundation President Rick Edwards, presented a slide show depicting how Columbus County has been an important part of Atlantic Packaging even as it has grown, “not only what we do in Tabor City, but also around the country and internationally.”
Today, the company has nationwide logistics and international customers. With more than 1,000 employees, the company had more than $530 million in sales last year.
The company’s Tabor City operation primarily serves the air filtration industry. “We convert filter frames, and that requires a lot of folks to make it work. Right now, more than 70 percent of the air filters manufactured in the United States have components made in Tabor City. If you put air filters in your house, they probably were manufactured right here in Tabor City,” Carter said.
Tabor City also is a hub for Atlantic’s printing department, creating high-end labels, folding cartons and films. “A lot of recognizable brands come right out of Tabor City,” he said, such as labels for Proctor and Gamble and Trader Joe’s.
“Our roots are important to us,” Carter said. “We talk about acting big, but thinking small. It’s hard to retain a family atmosphere and culture, but our roots in Tabor City kept that culture going.” He mentioned Linda Jacobs, a long-time employee who recently retired from the firm with 47 years of service. “We have great employee tenure. Columbus County is a great hub for that, and we continue to invest here.”
Carter said Atlantic has invested over $14 million in Columbus County. The company has more than 500,000 sq. ft. of operating space here, 140,000 sq.ft. of that added in the last year. “We have over 300 employees in Columbus County,” he said.
“We are committed to this area and we want to continue to grow jobs here,” Carter said. “We’re really excited about our relationship with Southeastern Community College. We’re awfully proud to be a member of this community, and we will continue to invest and be a part of it.”
Before Carter’s speech, Columbus County Economic Developer Gary Lanier reported on recent economic growth involving Radix Bay, Project Black, Project Bridal and Project Medical, which is expected to involve new jobs in the Chadbourn area. He also introduced Jay Menule of Project Agri-Blend, which has just leased the greenhouse at the old Columbus County landfill.
Before Carter’s speech, Henry Edmund and Les High of the Jobs Foundation board gave positive financial and membership reports on the organization.