Aussie firm eyes plant in region


By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Thursday, August 2, 2018

An Australian company whose product is designed to extend the life of lead batteries has established an office in Edenton and has hopes of eventually constructing a manufacturing facility in the region, local officials learned Wednesday.   

Megapulse, a company based in Australia that manufactures a device that enables lead batteries to last longer rather than going to the landfill, is interested in expanding into the North American market, according to John D. Chaffee, executive director of the Greenville-based NC East Alliance.

Chaffee said in a talk before the Elizabeth City Area Committee of 100 that the company is small but presents a good opportunity for growth. The firm currently has two employees based in Edenton but eventually plans to have manufacturing operations in the region, Chaffee said.

Megapulse officials initially thought they would house their North American operations in a U.S. metropolitan center, but they have since rethought that and concluded eastern North Carolina is a good fit for them, Chaffee said.

The company right now is operating out of NC East Alliance office space in the Albemarle Bank building in Edenton, Chaffee said. He said Albemarle Bank has made the space available as a kind of business incubator.

Megapulse, which was founded in 1995, is especially interested in companies that operate fleets of trucks, Chaffee said in an interview after the Committee of 100 meeting.

“Every Volvo truck in Europe has one of their devices on the truck,” Chaffee said.

During his presentation to the Committee of 100, Chaffee said NC East’s marketing efforts are targeted at small and medium-sized enterprises. The nonprofit is especially focused on closing the skills gap for businesses by strengthening the region’s educational opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

A STEM network already is in place to serve 11 counties in the southern part of NC East’s 28-county service area, Chaffee said. Within the next year, the alliance plans to hire a STEM coordinator for northeastern counties, he said.

“We’re moving forward to do the same thing in northeastern North Carolina,” Chaffee said of plans for the Northeast STEM initiative.

NC East is still raising the funds to pay for the Northeast STEM coordinator position, Chaffee said.

There are companies across the region with job openings, but they’re struggling to fill them because the positions require specific skills, according to Chaffee.

“One of your challenges is getting qualified people to fill these jobs,” he said.

There aren’t a lot of working-age people moving into the area, so NC East is focused on strengthening the homegrown workforce, Chaffee said.

The skills gap is not just a challenge in northeastern North Carolina but also nationally and even globally, he said. In fact, the global skills gap is starting to bring manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. because of the technological skills needed in manufacturing today, Chaffee said.