Leader Optimistic on Local Economy
UNCP student Nick
Arena took the campus to school during a speaking engagement Wednesday.
No ordinary student,
Mr. Arena is vice president and general manager of Acme Electric's manufacturing
plant in Lumberton and a candidate for the Master's of Business Administration
at the UNCP School of Business.
Although he said
the views expressed in UNCP's Business Executive Series lectures were
his own, Mr. Arena drew extensively from his business experiences with
the power distribution systems manufacturer. Acme came to Lumberton
in 1968 and employs about 300 workers.
"Acme is an
unusual business in that it started small, stayed small and remained
independent for so long," he said of the company, which was recently
purchased by Key Components Company of Tarrytown, N.Y. "We have
a high-skilled labor force in Lumberton with a great work ethic and
Like many manufacturers
since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Acme has a manufacturing
plant in Mexico.
"We had to
do something to compete with low cost producers, so we moved our high-volume,
low-skilled product manufacturing to Mexico," Mr. Arena said. "We
have good competitive reasons for staying in Lumberton."
Products made in
Mexico are shipped to the Lumberton distribution facility, and Lumberton's
highly skilled workers produce high-end products. Besides cheaper labor,
Monterrey, Mexico presents many business advantages, including convenient
suppliers of raw materials and strong engineering programs at nearby
On the negative
side, overhead costs are high in Mexico. However, Mr. Arena said NAFTA
has been a good thing for Acme because it has opened new markets as
well as helped the company compete with much larger companies.
to Mexico is the same migration that took place 30 years ago when Acme
move production from New York to Lumberton," he said.
Local workers here
are very productive and dedicated, Mr. Arena said.
"I'd put our
Lumberton plant up against any of our competitors for productivity and
quality," he said. "Our productivity here is twice that in
Mr. Arena is optimistic
about the economic transformation of the local economy.
"I see some
good, proactive steps taking place here," he said. "Change
isn't easy, and we have some work to do, especially in education. On
the other hand, we have some really good assets."
The region must
turn to the high technology sector in the future. He praised the COMtech
project, which combines the educational assets of UNCP, Robeson Community
College and the Public Schools of Robeson County with a high-technology
(COMtech CEO) is a can-do guy, and it sounds like a good idea,"
he said. "Overall, we are an attractive investment opportunity
Mr. Arena's lectures
cover issues of business communications, employee motivation, marketing
research and "Managing a Low-Tech company in the High Tech Boom
The Business Lecture
Series at UNCP is sponsored by Students in Free Enterprise and the School
to University Newswire