South Carolina Corporate Moves

DuPont Dips $500 Million into Cooper River

In December, DuPont announced its Cooper River plant, located 30 miles north of Charleston, SC, will receive a $500 million investment to drastically expand production of high-performance Kevlar® para-aramid fiber for industrial and military uses. The multiyear, multiphase expansion will increase the global production capacity for Kevlar by more than 25%, making it the single largest investment in the fiber since it was introduced in 1965.

Construction to expand the existing facility began in January and required 400 contractor jobs at the project’s peak. Scheduled for start-up in 2010, the plant will bring 100 permanent jobs to the Cooper River factory, which opened in 1973. The plant currently has 60 employees and primarily produces Hytrel® thermoplastic polyester elastomer for the automotive industry.

“I can’t say enough about what [DuPont] brings to our entire region,” says Dan Davis, supervisor of Berkeley County, where the Cooper River plant is located. “Not only do they provide excellent jobs for our citizens, they are also stellar corporate citizens. This is definitely a win-win announcement for us all.”

The new facility will allow DuPont to further refine Kevlar to improve its ballistic performance, providing lighter-weight protective apparel for law enforcement and military personnel. Among various other enhancements, it will also produce gloves with higher dexterity to allow more freedom of movement while still protecting hands from cuts.

“The new plant at Cooper River, together with our other global assets, will help DuPont meet strong and growing global demand for Kevlar,” says Thomas G. Powell, vice president and general manager of DuPont Advanced Fiber Systems. Between 2000 and 2006, DuPont successfully completed four Kevlar fiber expansion projects at its Richmond, VA and Maydown, Northern Ireland facilities. DuPont also operates manufacturing plants in Japan and Spain.

Kraft Creates 1,000 New Jobs in Newberry

In December, Kraft Foods announced that it will expand its Louis Rich plant’s manufacturing space in Newberry, SC by 75,000 square feet. The growth will also create 1,000 new jobs. Kraft currently has about 1,700 employees at its Newberry facility, up from 1,260 at the start of 2007.

The anticipated job surge will support the increased volume of new products. The Louis Rich plant currently produces Oscar Mayer sliced luncheon meats, turkey bacon, deli-shaved meats, chicken breast strips and cuts, and ground turkey. These goods are distributed throughout the country or shipped for further processing to other Kraft plants.

Lyle Olson, Kraft plant manager, says the expansion project “demonstrates the company’s confidence in our team of employees and in the Newberry community as a place for our business to grow and thrive.”

Kraft has worked with the Newberry Adult Education Center and the Employment Security Commission on a work certification course for its employees. The Newberry plant is well-regarded within the company for transferring talented employees to other Kraft sites for advancement opportunities.

“This investment will have a tremendous impact on the local economy, bringing immediate employment opportunities and further solidifying the company’s commitment to Newberry County,” says Joe Taylor, South Carolina Secretary of Commerce.

FRS Picks Pickens, Bids Adieu to Québec

Automotive supplier Fluid Routing Solutions (FRS), Inc. recently announced plans to keep 450 jobs in Pickens County, SC and move 115 jobs from Québec, Canada to Pickens in an effort to consolidate its power steering operations.

After months of negotiations, FRS decided to move capital equipment from Québec and combine it with the company’s existing power steering operations in Pickens. In the next 18 to 24 months, FRS officials will decide whether to add onto the plant or build a 150,000-square-foot facility in the Pickens County Commerce Park.

The move from Québec to South Carolina nearly went in the other direction. “FRS made it clear to us this summer that they were going to close this plant and move these jobs to Canada,” says Ray Farley, executive director of Alliance Pickens, the county’s economic development agency. “Fortunately they gave us an opportunity to convince them to stay. And not only have they chosen to stay, they are investing more than $10.5 million and creating 115 new jobs.”

FRS also has operations in Florida, Michigan, and Tennessee.

South Carolina: The Germans Are Coming!

Two German automotive suppliers recently announced plans for new facilities in South Carolina. Last month, Berlin-based Koerber LLC said it would locate its first production facility outside of Germany in Laurens County, SC. The company, which manufactures complex, machined aluminum parts, will occupy a 50,000-square-foot facility in Hunter Industrial Park, becoming the fourth international company to locate there. Koerber officials said recent requests from existing customers to expand to North America influenced their decision, which had been a consideration for many years.

“We anticipate Koerber to invest approximately $10 million and create an estimated 70 positions as a result of the investment,” says Marvin Moss, executive director of Laurens County Development Corporation. “This is great news for Laurens County.”

In January, Richard Fritz, Inc. announced that it will invest $6 million at a new facility in Duncan, SC in Spartanburg County. The company will bring 63 new jobs to the area and will use the facility to produce encapsulated automotive glass. Richard Fritz, established in Stuttgart, Germany, is a supplier to many carmakers including Porsche, Audi, Lamborghini, Mercedes, and Saab.

Fritz has two facilities in Germany and operations in Slovakia, Hungary, Spain, and France. “The company’s decision to locate in South Carolina speaks to the strength of our state’s automotive sector, business climate, and workforce,” says Joe Taylor, South Carolina Secretary of Commerce.

Lowcountry: It Saves to Pave in Georgetown

In January, Lowcountry Paver, LLC announced plans to open a manufacturing facility in Georgetown, SC. The $5 million investment will create 20 new jobs initially, with 20 more planned for the future. The manufacturer of concrete paving stones and retaining walls will locate its 30-acre, 40,000-square-foot facility in the Georgetown County Commerce Park and will be serviced by Santee Electric Cooperative.

“When we first realized that we needed to expand, we had the option of going south towards Florida or north towards Charleston and Myrtle Beach,” says Thomas M. Curry, president of Lowcountry Paver. “Geographically, Georgetown seems perfect. Our products are very heavy and expensive to ship. Locating in Georgetown will allow us to service the coastal areas from Charleston to Myrtle Beach much more affordably.”

Sel Hemingway, chairman of Georgetown County Council, adds, “Specialty manufacturing of this type reinforces this area’s attractiveness to entrepreneurial, growing companies that add high paying jobs for local residents.”