The home of Ava Gardner continues producing beauty.
In addition to their status as scenic sites for fishing, kayaking and bargain-hunting, the communities in North Carolina's Johnston County - Smithfield, Selma, Clayton, Benson, Cleveland, Four Oaks and Kenly - make up one of the fastest-growing areas in the state. Part of the reason is the easy access to the Research Triangle Region, located just 30 minutes away. Smithfield, right off Interstate 95, is home to the birthplace of Ava Gardner, in which a museum and yearly festival honor her. The county is also home to the Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site, the largest Civil War Battlefield in North Carolina, which was the last full-scale, tactical offensive in the largest battle fought in the state. The Neuse River winds through Johnston County, offering ample outdoor recreation, while the Carolina Premium Outlets provide a shopping experience for more indoorsy types.
The County's overall economy is diversified with a balance of industrial, expanding commercial, and agriculture enterprises. The production of pharmaceutical products, heavy equipment, electronic components and other products, along with durable goods assembly operations and distribution centers have provided relatively stable employment to County residents and have been the object of significant capital expenditures over the years.
But the real cornerstone for Johnston County's continued success is the appeal to firms in the life sciences industry. Three large biopharmaceutical companies - Talecris Biotherapeutics, Novo Nordisk and Hospira - employ over 2000 people near Clayton. The three companies take advantage of Johnston County's proximity to Raleigh-Durham International Airport and Research Triangle Park, as well as low operating costs and access to manufacturing-savvy workers.
Johnston County Community College's Workforce Development Center, located in Clayton, is home to a 30,000-square-foot state-of-the-art educational and technical skills training center with a focus on life sciences programming, business training, and workforce development in biotechnology and other sciences.
So students here can grow up to embrace even brighter futures. Even if they never marry Frank Sinatra.