If you ask someone to name something that’s made in North Carolina — especially someone who isn’t from the Tarheel State — you’ll probably get a shortlist of answers that include tobacco, furniture, and famous food brands like Bojangles, Cheerwine, Mt. Olive, and Krispy Kreme.
Those products are all important and make up part of the state’s diverse economy and $500 billion-plus GDP. But North Carolina’s economy also thrives thanks to product manufacturing and services in the life sciences, healthcare, technology, transportation, and retail sectors.
Here’s a closer look at 10 interesting things that are currently made in North Carolina:
If you listened to any music today, there’s a chance you may have heard Ludwig drums.
Some current, well-known artists who use Ludwig include Ringo Starr of the Beatles, Alex Van Halen, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson of The Roots (and The Tonight Show), and Chris Maas of Mumford and Sons.
Ludwig drums are popular across genres and generations. Do you like air drumming on "Stairway to Heaven" or "Kashmir"? The late, great Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham played Ludwig drums when he made music with Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, and Robert Plant.
Like jazz? Another legendary drummer, Buddy Rich, also played Ludwig drums for part of his lengthy career.
Ludwig has been in business for more than 100 years. Many of the company’s instruments are considered industry standards — you’ll find them in recording studios worldwide. The company moved to Monroe, in the Charlotte area, in 1984. Ludwig’s high-end, professional drum kits, like the Classic Maple, can top out at over $4,000 dollars.
The company’s Neusonic line is another American-made line of musical instruments. Ludwig’s higher-end drums are made of North American-sourced hardwoods, like maple, cherry, and oak. Then they’re assembled and hand-finished in North Carolina. The company’s move from Chicago, to Monroe, near Charlotte, was partly due to the availability of a skilled labor force with experience in woodworking.
Based in Angier, about 20 miles south of Raleigh, Bulldog Hose Company’s products help keep people and property safe. The company describes itself as “the preferred hose supplier” for fire departments and other industrial and agricultural customers throughout North America.
Bulldog also makes hoses for other industries, including irrigation and fuel. Bulldog Hose Co. bought the assets of the Angier-based Angus Fire manufacturing plant, equipment, and product lines in 2017.
The company employs about 100 people who have manufacturing, sales, and service experience. Many of the people who work in Angier have years or even decades of product experience. They produce products such as the Firepower II firefighting hose. It’s a double jacketed hose made with a nylon-polyester blend outer jacket. This hose comes in several sizes and is rated to 500 psi of service pressure.
This Durham-based company’s silicon carbide chips support electric vehicles, fast charging technologies, renewable energy, aerospace, defense, and communications. Silicon carbide chips also have applications for the aerospace, defense, and communications industries.
CEO Greg Lowe said in a news release that “the next generation in power semiconductors will be driven by Silicon Carbide technology, with superior performance that unleashes new possibilities and positive changes to the way we live.”
Wolfspeed said it was the first company to successfully commercialize silicon carbide. Their focus is on designing and supplying materials and devices for high-power applications.
Wolfspeed employs about 3,400 people and posted revenue of $526 million in 2021. Late last year, the company rebranded itself from Cree Inc. to Woflspeed Inc. The name change is intended to reflect two core aspects. The first is “the noble traits of the wolf – leadership, intelligence, and endurance.” The second is speed, which characterizes the company’s innovation and operation pace.
Do you need a tough computer? Teguar might make what you’re looking for.
Established in 2010, this Charlotte-based company builds specially designed computers that are designed to work reliably in healthcare and industrial situations. Its products include industrial panel PCs, fanless computers, and rugged tablets.
Most consumer-grade computers are made for light or medium-duty use in a home or office. Teguar Computers are custom-designed for tough environments. The company has the ability to custom manufacture computers that can withstand extreme temperatures, regular cleanings, and explosive environments, all while running 24/7.
CEO Jonathan Straub came to the US to serve as the president of operations for another computer company. He later decided to use his industry knowledge and relationships to form Teguar in North Carolina.
The company made the Inc. 5000 list five times in just about a decade, most recently in 2020 at No. 3,394. The list is a compilation of America’s 5,000 fastest-growing private companies.
Nearly 90 years ago, DF King Sr. and his family counted an antique store among their family businesses. King had a passion for gasoliers — chandeliers with gas burners — and enjoyed converting them to electric chandeliers. He decided to design his own from scratch.
Based in Eden, the company makes crystal chandeliers to order in North Carolina and ships them door to door.
Each component is inspected multiple times and matched by hand. King’s describes its products as “heirloom quality” pieces that will “be an important and impressive part of your home.”
In addition to chandeliers, King’s also offers chandelier and lamp parts and makes wall sconces. They’ve been in the same location on Van Buren Road in Eden since the 1970s. The company invites customers to call, email, or visit in person for an opportunity to create a custom piece.
One of America’s most recognizable soft drinks was born in North Carolina.
Pepsi is still made here today. Pharmacist Caleb Bradham of New Bern developed Pepsi. The sweetened, carbonated drink’s original formation included sugar, water, kola nuts, the digestive enzyme pepsin, and lemon oil. Back then, soft drinks were new. They were often marketed as health supplements. Originally, Bradham gave his concoction a semi-eponymous name — Brad’s Drink. Bradham would later give his product a more compelling name that has stood the test of time — Pepsi-Cola.
Incorporated in North Carolina, Pepsi grew quickly. Within 10 years, 300 companies were bottling the beverage in 24 states. Bradham’s company later became part of PepsiCo in 1965. That company includes nearly two dozen global food and beverage brands.
Raleigh-based Pepsi Bottling Ventures is North America’s largest privately-held bottler of Pepsi-Cola products. The company operates 18 bottling and distribution facilities serving millions of people in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware. Its facilities in North Carolina include a nearly 300,000 square foot production facility in Southeast Raleigh.
The Pepsi plant is capable of producing more than 1 billion containers of soft drinks per year. The facility can also produce and package Aquafina bottled water.
Budsin has built electric-powered boats in North Carolina since 1987. Based in Marshallberg, about 60 miles east of Jacksonville, the company’s products include 15, 19, and 22-foot boats.
The company says its designs are inspired by vessels built in the early 1900s, and that they reflect an era when life moved at a slower pace. Each boat is bespoke, built to order for each customer. The handcrafted boats are made of cedar, mahogany, and other woods on request.
Those woods are used to make boats that an operator can control with a single lever. The use of an electric powertrain means the boat is quiet and doesn’t emit exhaust. That makes the boat ideal for social fun on the water. The company’s larger vessels can accommodate nine people.
Budsin describes itself as a relatively small shop with dedicated and skilled staff. “The aim of our labors,” Budsin continues, “is to create beautifully simple, well-made vessels which provide our customers with the perfect way to unwind on the water.”
As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Pfizer became an even more familiar household name, thanks to the company’s Comiarty vaccine to prevent COVID-19.
The New York City-based company operates two manufacturing facilities in North Carolina. Pfizer’s Rocky Mount location has more than 1.4 million square feet of manufacturing space. According to the company, it makes nearly 25% of all sterile injectable products for US hospitals in Rocky Mount.
Some of these products include anesthesia, therapeutic medicines, and neuromuscular blockers. These products are available in small containers like vials and syringes, and large containers, like IV bags and bottles. More than 400 million product units are produced annually in Rocky Mount.
In Sanford, Pfizer’s facility has flexible, multi-product manufacturing capabilities. The facility can also conduct large-scale microbial fermentation, purification, conjugation, cell banking, and cell culture, purification, and drug product formulation. In 2019, Pfizer said it planned to invest $500 million to expand its manufacturing facilities on the site for the production of gene therapies.
Rite Lite began in 1988. Founders David and Tasha Catchpole started the business one year after they got married. Their skills and entrepreneurship were soon put to the test when Hurricane Hugo hit the area in 1989. They replaced countless storm-damaged storefront signs while operating from their garage in Kannapolis. After multiple moves around Mecklenburg and Cabarrus counties, the company opened at its current location in Concord in 2004.
Rite Lite Signs also offers neon sign service and repair for old or damaged neon signage. The company can also retrofit older signs with more energy-efficient LED lights to keep the lights on.
Customers who’d like an alternative to neon can also choose an LED sign. They’re encased in plastic, making them more durable than glass-based neon signs. LED-based neon-style signs are also more energy efficient.
The company employs a team of skilled artists who work closely with each customer. They use the latest technologies to create signs and architectural features. In addition to neon signs, the company creates all types of signs — rooftop, wayfinding, wall, lighted, metal, and channel letter signs.
Founded in 1991, this Cary-based company operates one of the largest digital gaming brands, Fortnite. The company says the online video game has more than 350 million accounts and more than 2.5 billion friend connections.
In 2021, Epic said it had over 194 million Games Store PC users. Players spent about $840 million through the store in 2021, up 20% from 2020. If you played something from the Epic Games Store in 2021, the company says you were part of a community that spent 6.2 billion hours in-game.
Epic also developed the Unreal Engine, which powers many of the world’s leading games. Unreal Engine is also used in film and television, architecture, automotive, manufacturing, and simulation. Through this 3D graphics engine, Epic says it provides an end-to-end digital ecosystem for developers and creators to build, distribute, and operate games and digitally-based content.