Lenovo has created some 115 jobs to manufacture PCs and other devices in the U.S. Now it is bringing 100 jobs – with more probably to follow – to North Carolina from India as part of an effort to improve customer support.

Responding to customer demand, the world’s No. 2 PC manufacturer is working with its manpower ally ACS to fill the jobs, Lenovo North American President Jay Parker disclosed Wednesday. The positions were added in Morrisville in May 15, but Lenovo said nothing about the move as it focused for the formal dedication of a media- and politico-packed “ribbon cutting” at its massive distribution center in Whitsett.

In an interview, Parker said Lenovo was responding to customer requests, and he noted that more jobs are expected to be moved to U.S. operations since the initial move has worked so well. Earlier during the ceremony Parker pointed out that support had already improved “25 percent.”

“It’s 100 jobs for now,” Parker told WRALTechWire. “these jobs were in Bangalore. Customer requests was the main driver.”

Parker, who grew up in Wilmington and attended Wake Forest University, sees the move as another boost for North Carolina’s economy and for Lenovo on numerous fronts. He says bringing the jobs to Morrisville “is another way of differentiating our brand. Not only do we offer better products but better support. And it’s paying off so far.”

Following a riveting rendering of the National Anthem by Lenovo sales representative Kimbrely Barrett and amid red, white and blue balloons with plenty of “Assembled in the USA” and “Assembled in N.C.,” Lenovo played host to Gov. Pat McCrory and scores of other guests for the PC assembly line debut. While the line occupies only a small part of Lenovo’s 240,000 square foot North American distribution center, it represents a significant move by the company to gain sales in the U.S.

(Note: Be sure to view the slide show with this post that offers a visual tour of the facility.)

With many of the recently hired workers looking on during as line stoppage for the ceremony, Parker and other Lenovo executives hailed the company’s decision to create manufacturing jobs in North Carolina, where Lenovo operates an executive headquarters in Morrisville and the huge distribution center. Not counting contractors, Lenovo now employs some 2,500 people in the state with 300 of those in Whitsett. The moving of jobs from India also helps offset a “small number” of layoffs Lenovo recently made in Morrisville. 

“A Catalyst”

“Lenovo wants to be a catalyst for bringing manufacturing jobs back to the U.S.,” Tom Looney, vice president for North America, told the crowd.

A veteran IBMer a long-time North Carolina resident who joined Lenovo when Big Blue sold its largely Raleigh-based PC division to Lenovo in 2005, Looney championed the move to bring PC manufacturing to the U.S. The move is part of Lenovo’s strategy to be “closer” to customers for faster delivery of devices, services and accessories. By adding a manufacturing capability, Lenovo can assembly a customer order to specific request within a matter of hours, he and other executives noted.

Lenovo also stands to benefit from contracts such as with government agencies that stipulate a certain percentage of device assembly and services take place in the U.S.

At Looney’s urging, all devices assembled in Whitsett, where Lenovo has operated the distribution center since 2008, will be shipped in boxes bearing a North Carolina map decal. “There is North Carolina pride on every box,” Looney said, drawing applause from the crowd.

Lenovo executives wouldn’t discuss the capacity of the assembly line but noted that there are already two shifts and a third could be added, based on demand. Parker did say “thousands” of machines would be shipped annually.

However, Lenovo already has plans to add more devices to the assembly line’s capability. A mix of seven laptops and desktops are available now, including one with a detachable screen to serve as a tablet. More tablets and servers will be added before year’s end, executives noted.

A “Pleasant Surprise”

Just three years ago, Dell abandoned an even larger facility in Winston-Salem that focused on PC and server manufacturing and employed far more people – some 1,400 at its peak. Those jobs were moved to Mexico.

IBM, meanwhile, had stopped PC manufacturing in the U.S. several years before selling the business to Lenovo.

Asked if he thought he would ever see PCs made again in the U.S., Lenovo media executive Ray Gorman who was a long-time IBMer, paused before answering.

“This is a pleasant surprise,” Gorman said. “However, it’s also part of the evolution of the company to get closer to its customers.”

Lenovo’s open house managed to stay focused on PCs even though international speculation runs rampant that the company is either going to buy all or part of IBM’s server business or strike a joint venture with another company as it seeks to expand smartphone sales worldwide. Servers and smartphones are all part of Lenovo’s “PC Plus” strategy as company Chairman and CEO Yang Yuanqing calls it. 

Parker had nothing new to report on the rumor front Wednesday.

For the moment, PCs were center stage – and now a lot of Lenovo customers will be ordering machines assembled in Whitsett.

[LENOVO ARCHIVE: Check out eight years of Lenovo stories as reported in WRALTechWire.]