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Kinston Free Press: Hagan visits Lenox

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

WNCT reported on Senator Hagan as she toured the Kinston plant of Lenox China, the number one tabletop manufacturing company in the United States.
David Anderson

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., was not only a visitor at Lenox China's Kinston plant Monday, she was briefly a worker.

Hagan had the opportunity to learn how to paint a line on a salad plate, and later place a decal on a dinner plate - it can take from six months to a year to typically train a person for those jobs.

"She did really well for her first time," said Deco - short for decoration - Supervisor Ann Whitfield, who coached Hagan through the painstaking process. "It normally takes a long period of training until you're ready to put a line on."

Dottie Hargett, a decaler, also helped Hagan lay a decal sheet on a plate, then pull up the backing so the decal would sit on the plate properly.

"I've been here going on 20 years," Hargett said. "She did well, real well."

The decorative aspects of making bone China plates, bowls, cups and more were one of the final stops on a guided tour through Lenox's massive 240,000 square-foot plant, where 285 people work.

The tour wound through the entire process of making the China, some of which has been on the tables of the White House - Lenox has manufactured China for a number of U.S. presidents at its various plants in the past century, starting with Woodrow Wilson in 1918.

The most recent set, for President George W. Bush, was manufactured in Kinston in 2009.

" ‘Made in North Carolina,' my four favorite words, and it's all done right here in Kinston," Hagan said after the tour.

The plant has been in Kinston since 1989, and is currently the only place in America where "fine bone China" is made.

Lenox was founded in New Jersey in 1889, and has seen its other plants in the U.S. close over the years.

"I think it really does show the quality and the craftsmanship that we have in North Carolina," Hagan said of the Kinston plant.

Paul Leichtnam, vice president of manufacturing and Hagan's guide, told the senator the Kinston plant was established because of the area's community colleges, Kinston's airport, and the "work ethic" of local residents.

"We're certainly thrilled to have you here," he told Hagan.

Hagan and her staff saw every step of the manufacturing process, from mixing the various types of clay, to pouring into molds, to breaking the molds, to firing the clay and then decorating.

The senator told local media - including The Free Press - she was committed to promoting jobs in North Carolina, and noted the state has struggled to recover from the national recession because of the deep cuts Tar Heel in manufacturing that preceded the recession.

"Every day when I wake up it's, ‘What we can do about jobs, jobs, jobs,' " she said.

Hagan also talked about the recent eleventh-hour deal by Congress to avert the "fiscal cliff" of extreme tax hikes and deep spending cuts which would have hit by the end of 2012 had lawmakers not reached an agreement on spending and taxes.

Hagan and her fellow N.C. senator, Republican Richard Burr, voted for the Senate's plan, which helped 98 percent of North Carolina families avoid tax increases. The Senate passed the bill shortly after Americans rang in 2013 on Jan. 1, and the House voted to pass the agreement later that day.

The senator said Monday the situation left her "unbelievably frustrated" that it took Congress so long to come to an agreement.

Major budget and spending issues are looming before lawmakers in the coming months as they must vote on whether or not to raise the nation's debt ceiling, and the current spending resolution - a complete federal budget has yet to be passed - ends in late March.

Hagan said she wanted to see greater action to reduce the nation's deficit.

"It's not something that any manufacturer and small business, large business should go through," she said of the turmoil in Washington.


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