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Cardinal Foods to double workforce in Pender County

Cardinal Foods LLC, a Burgaw agribusiness company that provides products and services across the eastern U.S., will create 48 new jobs as it launches a $15.5 million expansion at its Pender County operations, Governor Roy Cooper announced Wednesday. The project doubles the company’s current 48-person workforce.

“The significant expansion of Cardinal Foods is good for farmers and workers in Pender and other eastern North Carolina counties. Companies that expand here in this way highlight our state’s ability to compete in the global economy,” said Cooper.

Founded in Burgaw in 2017, Cardinal Foods processes blueberries, sweet potatoes and butternut squash harvested primarily by North Carolina farmers. The company also provides product development, marketing and distribution services. Its foods are sold to both national consumer brands and leading grocery retailers.

“We are excited about the opportunity the future holds for Cardinal Foods and the region’s agriculture community,” said Corey Barnhill, Cardinal Foods president and CEO. “This expansion will close the gap in offering North Carolina growers a viable solution for processing their crops and open up global markets that were limited previously.”

Cardinal Foods’ current expansion involves the production of sweet potato French fries to fill growing market demand in the U.S. and abroad. The company will rely on raw materials supplied by farmers in North Carolina, which has led the nation in sweet potato production since 1971, according to the governor’s office. In 2019, the state produced two billion pounds of sweet potatoes – about 61 percent of total U.S. production, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“Cardinal Foods is a home-grown company connecting North Carolina farmers to quality-minded consumers around the world,” said North Carolina Commerce Secretary Machelle Sanders. “The company’s success demonstrates how our state’s productive soils and productive people create a global competitive edge for value-added agribusiness operations.”

Among the positions Cardinal Foods will create in Burgaw are operators, supervisors and production managers. The new positions come with annual salaries that will average $38,458, creating a payroll impact of more than $1.8 million per year for the local economy, stated the press release from the governor’s office. The current average annual wage in Pender County is $33,987.

A performance-based grant of $50,000 from the One North Carolina Fund will help facilitate Cardinal Foods’ expansion in Pender County. The One N.C. Fund provides financial assistance to local governments to help attract economic investment and to create jobs. Companies receive no money upfront and must meet job creation and capital investment targets to qualify for payment. All One N.C. grants require a matching grant from local governments and any award is contingent upon that condition being met.

“Burgaw offers a logistical advantage with its proximity to both major interstates I-40 & I-95 as well as the Port of Wilmington,” said Pender County Commission Chairman George Brown. “We welcome Cardinal Foods’ continued investment in Pender County, further capitalizing on the opportunities available to our region on the agribusiness import and export side.”

“Given the challenges related to the pandemic, to have a project of this magnitude coming to fruition in Burgaw says all the right things about establishing and growing a business here,” said Burgaw Mayor Pete Cowan.

The N.C. Department of Commerce worked closely with the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina (EDPNC) to lead a collaborative effort to support Cardinal Foods’ choice of Pender County for this expansion. Other key partners in the project include the North Carolina General Assembly, the North Carolina Community College System, Pender County, the Town of Burgaw and Wilmington Business Development (WBD).

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