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Pennsylvania company says it will invest $10.9 million in North Carolina fiber factory

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A Pennsylvania company said it plans to invest $10.9 million in a new hemp fiber processing facility in North Carolina.

BIOPHIL Natural Fibers, Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, said the facility, to be located in Lumberton, North Carolina, will turn out hurd and fiber for a wide range of applications. Plans include the installation of processing lines that will clean, refine and cut hurd and bast fiber to client specifications, the company said. 

“North Carolina is the perfect place for BIOPHIL as our economy is deeply rooted in agriculture and manufacturing,” Governor Roy Cooper said. “With their commitment to sustainability and renewables, we believe this company will find great success in Robeson County.”

Jobs at $40,000

The factory is expected to employ 41 workers in production, administrative and managerial positions at an average annual salary of $40,122, according to BIOPHIL, with the potential to create an annual payroll of more than $1.6 million.

Research on mycelium (mushroom-based organic matter) is also planned for the North Carolina factory, where developer Okom Wrks Labs, Solana Beach, California, will study load-bearing structural composites, according to a press release from the North Carolina Governor’s office.

BIOPHIL currently operates a hemp processing line comprising repurposed textile equipment and decortication technology at its flagship factory near Philadelphia. 

Current N.C. yields

North Carolina was the sixth biggest hemp producer in the U.S. last year when the state’s farmers harvested 1,850 acres after planting 2,150, according to the first-ever report on the crop from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), released in February. Fiber hemp accounted for 1,550 acres while North Carolina farmers grew just 77 acres of hemp for CBD in 2021, NASS reported.

State interests have pushed hemp as a rotation crop, and as a replacement for declining tobacco fields.

BIOPHIL is eligible for a performance-based grant of $125,000 from the state’s One North Carolina Fund, which provides financial assistance to local governments to help attract economic investment and create jobs. Companies receive no money upfront and must meet job creation and capital investment targets to qualify for the funding, which also requires matching participation from local governments.

Partners

The North Carolina Department of Commerce led a team of partners in supporting BIOPHIL’s North Carolina startup. They are the North Carolina General Assembly, North Carolina Community College System, Robeson Community College, Robeson County, North Carolina’s Southeast, Robeson County Committee of 100, Robeson County Office of Economic Development, and the City of Lumberton.

North Carolina chose not to organize a program for hemp production after a state pilot, allowable under the 2014 Farm Bill, came to an end. The state’s growers therefore started operating directly under the USDA beginning this year.

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