LUMBERTON — For St. Pauls Mayor Gordon Westbrook, Thursday was a “great day for Robeson County and St. Pauls.”
Johnson Brothers Utility & Paving Company, of Lillington, announced that it will expand its asphalt manufacturing and paving business to St. Pauls, making the company the first to locate in the St. Pauls Industrial Park. The company hopes to be up and running by June 1, according to David Johnson, the company’s vice president and CEO.
“We are going to be working with them to help get them up and running,” Westbrook said. “We’re proud to have them. Hopefully they will help draw other businesses to the park.”
The announcement was made at the Robeson County Administration Building on Elm Street before about 50 public officials, county employees, and county and regional business and economic development leaders.
“We are looking forward to the positive growth of our company and expect to create at least 25 new employment opportunities in Robeson County,” Johnson said.
Johnson Brothers Utility and Paving Company began in Harnett County in the 1960s and has been at its current location in Lillington since 1975. The family owned and operated company provides asphalt for area contractors, as well as carrying out its own paving and resurfacing projects.
According to Veronica Johnson, the company’s administrative manager, applications will soon be accepted for jobs with the company. That will be done through the state Employment Security Commission in Lumberton.
“It has been our tradition to hire and purchase within the area where we serve and we look forward to a long relationship with the citizens and businesses of Robeson County,” she said.
Greg Cummings, Robeson County’s economic developer, said that he has been working with the Johnson family and others concerned with the project for the past 16 months. The Johnsons had looked at several locations in North Carolina, especially counties near Robeson, before selecting St. Pauls for the establishment of its second plant.
David Johnson said that the decision was made to locate in Robeson County after he talked with Cummings and others in Robeson County about his company’s plans and needs for expansion.
“Greg and everyone were so gracious; we were taken in just like family,” he said.
Between 30 and 35 permanent semi-skilled and skilled jobs will be created during the project’s Phase One development, and the average salaries will be about $30,000 a year, Cummings said. Phase One just means that there is room for the company to expand at the site in the future, Cummings said.
Cummings said that the company plans to invest about $5 million during its first phase of development. That would mean the business would pay the county, which has a property tax rate of 77 cents, about $38,500 a year.
“This will definitely help strengthen Robeson County’s tax base,” Cummings said.
Johnson Brothers Utility & Paving Company is the first company to locate in the St. Pauls Industrial Park.
“This is a 600-acre certified park that has all infrastructure — water, sewer and natural gas — already in place,” Cummings said. “Hopefully Johnson Brothers will serve as a catalyst to bring other businesses into the park.”
Noah Woods, chairman of the Robeson County Board of Commissioners, said that the arrival of Johnson Brothers to Robeson County is a boom for the local economy.
“Anytime you can get a new industry that is creating new jobs it’s good news for those who need work to support their families,” he said.
Woods said that it takes the hard work of many individuals and organizations working together to bring new businesses into the county.
“With one finger you can pick up a little, but look what you can pick up with five fingers,” Woods said.
In addition to Cummings and other members of the county’s industrial development team, others cited for assisting Johnson Brothers with its expansion plans include the North Carolina Department of Commerce; Robeson County Committee of 100; town of St. Pauls; Robeson Community College; and the county’s Workforce Development organization.