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Protocase Selects Wilmington For Its First US Expansion

By Emma Dill, posted Jun 12, 2024
The expansion of Protocase into Wilmington is expected to support several subsidiary divisions, including open-source data storage company 45Drives. (Photo of 45Drives facility in Canada courtesy of Protocase)
A Canadian company has chosen Wilmington for its first expansion into the U.S. 

Protocase, a rapid manufacturing and prototyping firm serving the aerospace and defense industries, plans to set up an office in downtown Wilmington this summer, according to a news release on Wednesday. Within five years, the company plans to establish a manufacturing facility that could employ around 400 people.

Pending approval from the Wilmington City Council, the company plans to establish its offices this summer in the city-owned Skyline Center on the north end of downtown.

“The City of Wilmington is proud to welcome Protocase to the region as its newest corporate resident,” Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo stated in the release. “We are excited about this fast-growing company’s new presence downtown as well as its strategic vision to eventually bring a significant number of manufacturing and other quality jobs to greater Wilmington.”

A future manufacturing facility would support Protocase and its subsidiary divisions, ProtoSpace Mfg, Protomentum and open-source data storage company 45Drives, officials said. All of the company’s business operations are currently based in Sydney, Nova Scotia. Operations at the Canadian facility are expected to continue as usual during the firm’s expansion into Wilmington. 

The “strategic” expansion will allow the company to better serve its American customers by providing more localized support, according to the release. The U.S. location will also make it easier for the firm to work in certain industries, officials said.

“The Wilmington office will feature an American-born service team, capable of securing clearances to work with aerospace and defense industries, which are key focus areas for Protocase and its subsidiaries,” the release states.

Doug Milburn, the company’s co-founder, vice president and chairman of the Protocase board, told the Business Journal on Tuesday that the company, founded in 2001, has been eyeing an expansion into the U.S. for roughly the past 10 years.

He said Tuesday that company leaders considered an array of locations nationwide before landing on Wilmington. They were drawn to Wilmington because of its “business-friendly environment,” its coastal location, and its proximity to Cape Fear Community College, the University of North Carolina Wilmington, and military bases.

“We’re thrilled to finally be making the leap south of our border,” Milburn stated in the release.  “Upon completion of our thorough due diligence, we feel very enthusiastic about Wilmington in virtually every way. There is a palpable synergy in culture, work ethic, and coastal mindset with the city and its people, and we’re excited to plug in and add value to an already wonderful business community.”

Wilmington Business Development, North Carolina’s Southeast and the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina worked to help locate the company. 

Michael Best & Friedrich LLP and The Cress Group at Sun Coast Partners were among the local private entities providing Protocase with technical expertise and business services to support the project, and conversations with educational institutions, including UNCW and CFCC also played a role in the company’s search.

“Protocase is another exciting foreign direct investment story for greater Wilmington,” Scott Satterfield, CEO of Wilmington Business Development, stated in the release. “Global companies continue to be drawn to our strategic geography, growing workforce, modern infrastructure and pro-business leadership. We are excited about our partnership with Protocase and look forward to supporting the success of this impressive company.”
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