KINSTON, NC--MasterBrand Cabinets Inc., a national manufacturer of kitchen and bath cabinetry for the remodeling and new construction markets, will expand in Lenoir County, NC. The unit of Fortune Brands plans to create 334 jobs and invest more than $3.75 million during the next three years at its Kinston, NC, plant. The operation currently employs 200.

MasterBrand Cabinets Inc. headquartered in Jasper, IN, will reconfigure the Kinston facility as it more than doubles the workforce to produce a new kitchen and bath product line. New positions will pay an average annual wage of $25,787, not including benefits, according the State of North Carolina.

Last week Fortune Brands CEO Bruce Carbonari told an investment analyst group that while the economy faces "headwinds," as recovery unfolds it is important to keep marketing new cabinet lines and remodeling services to consumers.

Carbonari said that MasterCraft Cabinets had simplified its supply chain, so cabinet components are shipped from the factory to assembly plants closer to retailers like Home Depot. He also said there is pent up consumer demand that will increase sales in home remodeling projects as the economy recovers.

“I can’t emphasize enough how important it is during one of these downturns to keep the consumer excited,” Carbonari said. He said the remodeling market ranges over 3 to 5% of existing housing stock, and for new housing construction starts "the new normal will be 1.4 million starts," though the pace of home building now is running at about 670,000 units.

“If you look at a market like the cabinet market, which was $11 to $12 billion at its high point, it is still today an $8 billion market," Carbonari said, describing it as "extremely fragmented." He predicted "there are still a lot of consumers out there who want to change and improve their kitchen. We want to absolutely fulfill that dream. And we want to keep them excited through innovation.”

Fortune Brands cabinet lines will be "offering cabinets at new price points and with new finishes," and will provide new tools for designers, and new organization storage solutions, including Fortune Brands Waterloo garage organization system.  “The home market is a market we believe will have a road to recovery,” Carbonari concluded. "Recovery is still a question mark: how fast and how quick. I think we continue to have headwinds," citing challenges in foreclosures and credit markets."

“This is a market that needs 1.4 million housing starts and has very aged housing stock right now that needs to be refurbished So that demand will be there; the question is when.”

Last year, Fortune Brands' Aristokraft cabinetry generated $300 million in revenue; its Kitchen Craft and and Waterloo lines generated $200 million each; and its HomeCrest line generated $100 million.

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