A wide variety of metals and nonmetallic minerals occur in North Carolina, but in most instances they are produced on only a small scale. By value, the leading mineral products in the late 1990s were stone (mostly granite), phosphate rock, and sand and gravel. One of the largest known deposits of phosphate rock in the United States is located in Beaufort County. In the late 1990s the state ranked first in the nation in the production of feldspar, lithium ores, and mica, and third in phosphate rock.
North Carolina is the second largest industrial state in the South, behind only Texas, and one of the more important manufacturing states in the nation.
About 856,000 workers were employed in industry in 1996. North Carolina produces more than two-fifths of the nation’s tobacco products and one-quarter of its textile manufactures. The world’s largest furniture mart, at High Point, attracts buyers from all over the United States. These traditional industries of the state have been joined by the manufacturing of chemicals, industrial machinery, and electrical equipment.
Textile manufacturing is the leading source of industrial jobs and wages. The state’s textile industry underwent a contraction in the 1980s, however, because of competition from new plants in foreign countries. From 1980 to 1986 some 43,000 textile manufacturing jobs in North Carolina disappeared. Important textile centers are Burlington, Charlotte, Durham, Gastonia, High Point, Kannapolis, and Winston-Salem.
The decline of the textile industry has lifted the chemical industry to first place in terms of total income generated, but this sector provides far fewer jobs than textile production. Leading employers are firms making pharmaceuticals, organic fibers, cleansers, toilet articles, and plastics and resins.
Industries centered on tobacco rank second behind chemicals in production value. Cigarettes are the main product. Pipe tobacco, cigars, and snuff are also manufactured. The entire tobacco products industry is located in the Piedmont, although most of the bright leaf cigarette tobacco is grown in the Atlantic Coastal Plain. Four regions, Durham, Greensboro, Reidsville, and Winston-Salem, are the centers of production. Also important for the state are firms making electronic and electrical equipment, such as telephones, electric housewares, and industrial controls. Another large contributor to the state’s economy is the manufacture of industrial
machinery, such as computers, power hand tools, machinery for the textile industry, engines, construction equipment, turbines, and pumps. North Carolina has a large and diversified food processing industry. The biggest source of employment in this sector is the processing of poultry and eggs, much of it done in small factory operations.
Furniture manufacturing once ranked second, behind textile manufacturing, as a source of jobs, but since has declined in relative position. Many leading furniture firms have factories in the state, and they make all grades and kinds of wooden household furniture, as well as a relatively wide variety of office furniture. The furniture plants are widely distributed. Towns with large factories include High Point, Lenoir, Lexington, Hickory, Mount Airy, Statesville, and Thomasville, home of one of the world’s leading chair manufacturers.
Lumber and paper industries have developed as a result of North Carolina’s rich forest resources. Nearly 200 firms making pulp, paper, and paper products operate in the state. Large paper mills in the Coastal Plain are located in Plymouth, Roanoke Rapids, and Reigelwood. In the mountains, at Canton, a large mill makes paper from pines and other softwoods. Another large mill, located at Brevard, makes most of the state’s cigarette paper. There are plywood and veneer mills in the Piedmont. The red clay soils of the Piedmont region provide an excellent raw material for the manufacture of bricks. Much of the brickmaking industry is located around Sanford.
North Carolina’s progress in manufacturing since the beginning of World War II (1939-1945) has been rapid. Geographically, the expansion has been most marked in the central Piedmont. Raleigh, Durham, Burlington, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, High Point, Charlotte, and many smaller manufacturing towns lie in a crescent-shaped region, covering roughly 12 counties in the central Piedmont, and usually called the Piedmont Crescent. "North Carolina" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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