Spirit of Rowan: Who’s the biggest of them all?

Published 12:02 pm Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Largest employers include Food Lion and Freightliner

By Elizabeth Cook


When forecasters called for snow across the region back in January, one of Rowan County’s biggest employers was directly impacted.

Food Lion store managers knew they would be swamped with shoppers eager to stock up on milk, bread and other storm essentials. It was all hands on deck.

And Food Lion has a lot of hands.

All told,  the supermarket chain includes 1,100 stores in 10 Southeastern and Mid-Atlantic states and employs more than 66,000 people.

In Rowan, birthplace of the chain, some 3,200 people work for Food Lion and parent division Delhaize America, both headquartered here.

They include 1,800 employees in corporate offices on Executive Drive, 775 in its massive distribution center on Harrison Road and 625 in stores sprinkled across the county. 

“We have had great success being able to attract talent,” says Tracy Stone, Food Lion’s vice president of talent, diversity and organizational development. “I think the power of the brand attracts talent. … We’re really deeply rooted in the Salisbury community.”

That puts Food Lion in the top tier of Rowan employers, along with the Rowan-Salisbury School System, Daimler Trucks-Freightliner and the Hefner V.A. Medical Center, all of whom have more than 1,600 employees.

Freightliner announced temporary layoffs totaling 1,500 workers in earlier this year, bringing its workforce at the Cleveland plant down to 1,600, but the heavy truck manufacturer remains a major driver of the local economy.

Meanwhile, several local industries are in a growth mode, according to Robert Van Geons, executive director of RowanWorks economic development.

Gildan Activewear recently opened its second yarn-spinning plant in Rowan.  A company spokesman said the two Rowan plants now employ more than 400 people.

Textiles no longer dominate the local economy, but they still matter quite a bit. Other textile companies operating in Rowan include Parkdale Mills and Tuscarora Yarns.

In 2014, Continental Structural Plastics, or CSP, bought the Magna Composites plant on U.S. 70, which  continues to be a major employer.  Universal Forest Products completed its second Rowan County facility a year or two ago.

“One of the county’s newest companies is Agility Fuel Systems, which is up to 100 employees as of my last conversation with them,” Van Geons says. “Also, last year, we helped locally grown, Custom Plastics/ Custom Golf Cart move to the former Mi Windows building on Heilig Road.  They’ve quietly grown into a substantial manufacturing employer.”

Based on data collected by RowanWorks and updated information from some companies, Rowan County’s Top 10 employers are a mix of industry and government:

Number of Employees

Type of Business/Product
1. Food Lion 3,200 HQ/ Call Center/ Distribution/ Retail
2. Rowan Salisbury Schools 2,847 Education
3. W.G. (Bill) Hefner VA Medical Center 2,100 Health Services
4. Daimler Trucks North America – Freightliner 1,600 Truck manufacturing
5. Novant Health Rowan Regional and clinics 1,449 Medical Services
6. Rowan Cabarrus Community College 768 Community College
7. Rowan County 761 Municipality
8.Continental Structural Plastics 544 Manufacturing
9. Piedmont Correctional Institute 450 Correctional Facility
10. City of Salisbury 464 Municipality

The two local hospitals alone — Novant Health Rowan Medical Center and the Hefner VA Medical Center — employ more than 3,500 people in Rowan. Carolina HealthCare also has a presence in Rowan with 57 full-time employees in Rowan clinics and practices.  Add home health care and assisted living, and it’s clear health care is a hefty part of the local economy.

Education is a big sector, too, between the public schools’ more than 2,800 employees (as well as 377 substitute teachers), RCCC’s 768 employees, plus people working at private schools, Catawba and Livingstone colleges, Hood Theological Seminary

Government is a larger sector still, as it is in most communities. Public schools, the community college, veterans’ care, Salisbury and Rowan governments and a state prison employ some 7,600 people. Hundreds more work for the county’s nine other municipalities. When you take those jobs out of the equation, the county’s top private employers are these:

Top 10 corporate employers

1. Delhaize Food Lion 3,200

2. Daimler Trucks North America – Freightliner  1,600

3. Novant Health Rowan Medical Center and clinics  1,449

4. Continental Structural Plastics  544

5. Walmart  428

6. Gildan  385

7. DuraFiber Technologies 316

8. Universal Forest Products  285

9 Parkdale Mills 222

10. Ei Pharmaceutical Solutions 210