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REGIONALREPORT Eastern

Trimming turkeys

Though Tar Heel turkey production isn’t going cold, closing House of Raeford Farms Inc.’s processing plant in Raeford and hatchery in Rose Hill will hurt one of the state’s most valuable agricultural commodities. Only Minnesota produced more turkeys in 2011 than North Carolina, which had cash receipts of nearly $772.6 million. “We could drop to three [behind] Arkansas,” says Jesse Grimes, an N.C. State University poultry-science professor and turkey specialist. Two plants will remain in the state, Garner-based Butterball LLC’s in Mount Olive and St. Pauls-based Prestage Foods Inc.’s in its hometown. But the decision, announced in March, will have significant impact in and around Raeford — the 950 jobs lost equal 4.2% of Hoke County’s workforce. Across the region, 140 turkey farmers will lose contracts.

House of Raeford will still employ 400 workers at a different plant in Raeford and about 2,300 total in North Carolina. Several companies are looking to move into the county’s industrial park; most of the proposed projects would be good fits for the soon-to-be displaced workers, says Don Porter, executive director for the Raeford-Hoke Economic Development Commission. House of Raeford, the nation’s ninth-largest turkey producer in 2011, according to Watt Poultry USA magazine, cited rising corn prices and flat consumption for its decision. It will focus on expanding its chicken production as well as its cooked chicken and turkey products. “Those higher feed prices are definitely having an effect,” Grimes says. “At some point the higher cost of production has to be passed on to the consumer or the company has to get more efficient. We see that already with food costs going up.”

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29.9%
— 
Population the Wilmington metropolitan statistical area lost after the U.S. Office of Management and Budget moved Brunswick County to the Myrtle Beach, S.C., metro. The move became official in February.

Briefs

GREENVILLEEast Carolina University will be a full member of the Big East Conference in July 2014. The school had accepted an invitation last year for its football team to join the league but will move all 19 of its sports programs from Conference USA.

FAYETTEVILLE — German auto-parts supplier Mann+Hummel Group acquired Purolator Filters for an undisclosed amount. It had shared ownership with Robert Bosch, another German auto-parts supplier. The maker of automotive oil and air filters, which employs 1,000, will be renamed Mann+Hummel Purolator Filters.

ATLANTIC BEACH — The former Sheraton Hotel will reopen this summer as DoubleTree by Hilton Oceanfront. The hotel, which Augusta, Ga.-based Newport Group bought last year in a foreclosure auction for more than $4.5 million, was damaged in 2011 by Hurricane Irene and is being renovated.

WELDON Meherrin River Forest Products will open a plant here, investing $1.8 million and creating 40 jobs within three years. The Alberta, Va.-based company processes hardwood lumber.